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Robert Christgau

About Carola Dibbell

For the twenty-odd years I wrote rock criticism, I was always working on one piece of fiction or another, and there was leakage both ways. In the early years punk was my big interest and it sometimes got into my fiction as odd rhythms, a taste for DIY. I also learned things about narrative flow from hip-hop. I wouldn't love naturalist novelists like Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather and Christina Stead without their grip on facts, but what drew me to them was not unlike what draws me to Malian music, with its endless repetitions and vocal plateaus. I'm much less interested in stories about the world of rock and pop than prose or tone that embodies it--The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, with its nerd trash and subtitles. Junot Diaz wrote that book like a rock critic! That's a compliment!

All the tone mixing, vulgarity, earnestness, and hair-splitting that rock critics could get paid for back then helped me reconcile literary ambition with the awkward need to be myself. Taking pop music seriously led naturally to taking genre fiction seriously--Le Carré's density, Hammett's harsh clarity, the everyday rhythms of police procedurals, the odd mental spaces built by SF writers like Samuel Delany and Ursula LeGuin. And, though it took a while, over the past fifteen years, my own fiction finally turned speculative.

I started posting fiction here when it began to look like this website might be the only public life most of it would have--a novella, [Real Piece of Work]; a story, "Surviving Death"; and "Healing Grace," which had appeared in The New Yorker. (A long story, "A Misunderstanding," which The Paris Review published years ago, is incomplete here.) Then Fence excerpted the novella, I did some readings, and not long after finished The Only Ones, a near-future novel which is now being shopped by my energetic and simpatico young agent.

"Dear Ann and Evelyn" is an old statement of purpose about being a woman in the guyville of early rock criticism. "Inside Was Us: Women in American Punk," was included in Trouble Girls: The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. The rest of the music writing here appeared mainly in The Village Voice, as did the book reviews I wrote for VLS in the M. Mark years. "Thinking About the Inconceivable" was a personal piece about infertility in the guise of a book review, and many of its ideas appear in new guise in The Only Ones.

I live in an old East Village apartment with Robert Christgau, my husband since 1974, and our daughter, Nina Dibbell Christgau.