Guernica Magazine

Binnie Kirshenbaum: “If you think you shouldn’t say something, say it.”

Writer Binnie Kirshenbaum shares the drafts of her latest novel, Rabbits for Food, and talks to us about writing unreasonable characters.

Conceived by Mary Wang, Miscellaneous Files is a series of virtual studio visits that uses screenshots from writers’ digital devices to understand their practice.

Bunny, the writer at the center of Binnie Kirshenbaum’s latest novel, Rabbits For Food, is so singularly sharp, funny, and depressed that she’s best described through her own words.

The novel is a book-within-a-book that finds Bunny retracing, in third person, the steps that led to her breakdown. About her stalled career, she writes, “How can you expect anyone to take you seriously when, as one astute critic put it, your book jacket looks like an ad for a feminine hygiene product?” Observing her “delightful” friends, “Bunny wonders how much longer she can sit at a table with five people engaged in passionate discourse about balsamic vinegar, the answer to which turns out to be three seconds.” And finally, about her mental state: “Bunny does not want to kill herself. She does not want to die. It’s that she no longer wants to live. To not want to be alive is not the same thing as wanting to be dead. Bunny would prefer to die of natural causes, but she’s not sure she can wait it out.”

This all lands her in the psych ward of a New York hospital: a “loony bin” where the furniture is “larval,” the food “gloppy,” and the people, for lack of a better word, “crazy.” The novel is an intensive character study of a woman on the verge of a breakdown—written with distinctive relentlessness and the compassion that Kirshenbaum has cultivated for all her characters across six previous novels and a collection of short stories. It’s also something that Kirshenbaum tries to impart to her students in the creative writing MFA program at Columbia University, where she is a professor and the director of the fiction department.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from Guernica Magazine

Guernica Magazine20 min read
Carrot Legs
I brought my lips to my calf and licked. I thought, only for a second, that I could taste the faint bitterness of daikon radish. The post Carrot Legs appeared first on Guernica.
Guernica Magazine1 min read
My Turn
I seal myself in a coffin and pretend to be dead. That way death is a game of hide-and-seek and not a witness to the terror. The post My Turn appeared first on Guernica.
Guernica Magazine27 min read
Two Writers, Not Lovers, and Norwegian Butter
What was she doing here on this mountain with this man, this writer who last year had been given an award for having written the worst sex scene in a book? The post Two Writers, Not Lovers, and Norwegian Butter appeared first on Guernica.