Category Archives: Olivia Laing

First person

OL To just do one very circumscribed art form—I would find that frustrating.

JK Yes, to me it doesn’t seem like you’re intentionally rebelling against criticism or biography. It just seems like you’re not confined; you’re including a lot that’s already there.

OL That’s why I find the first person really exciting. It lets you—without sounding hokey about it—report on consciousness, with all of these multiple layers you can shift into. You can have something very personal or intellectual, very abstract, sensual, but it feels like a free place to inhabit, and not necessarily much about the autobiographical self. Do you know what I mean?

JK I think so. Could you say more about that?

OL There’s an assumption when you’re writing in the first person that you’re writing about yourself.

JK That you want to talk about yourself.

OL Yeah, but yourself in quite a thin way, like a biographical thumbnail sketch walking through the world.

JK And in a way that has to do with ego.

OL Yeah, rather than just the self actually experiencing the world, which is so much more interesting and resistant to being put into language, and so the challenge of trying to capture it in language is much more exciting. 

— From a conversation between Joseph Keckler and Olivia Laing