The Paris Review

Real Space: An Interview with Patty Yumi Cottrell

I think writers attend M.F.A. programs to meet people like Patty Yumi Cottrell—or at least, I did. When we met in our first semester, she was a quietly focused and deeply intelligent student who sat back from the pack as we clamored for attention and support. Cottrell and I began sending each other work, and the constructions of the classroom soon felt secondary. Reading the forceful clarity of her sentences, how they openly wrestle with their influences while still feeling original—somehow both arch and sincere—I knew I was in on a secret that wouldn’t stay hidden for long.

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace announces Cottrell’s arrival. A manic detective story about a young woman seeking to understand the suicide of her adoptive brother, her debut novel is prickly, hilarious, and extremely sad. I interviewed Cottrell over the phone, and what was meant to be an hour-long conversation gave way easily to four (and more than 120 pages of transcription). Cottrell talks like she writes—with great authority and considerable anxiety—and I left our conversation as I left her book: feeling electrified and knowing I would have stuck with it for as long as it would have me. 

INTERVIEWER

I’ve been reading your work for something like six years now, and this book marks a departure for you. It’s more straightforward than your earlier

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