2.27.2006

Kate Braverman

In an earlier post, I linked to an LA Times article about Kate Braverman. The article painted a picture of a writer who seemed seriously over the top about herself. I'd never heard of her or read her work, so I was rather amazed to hear she thinks of herself as in the canon. I thought maybe the article was a bit of a joke.

Well, no, it's not.

Turns out Kate Braverman has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder but doesn't take medication because it stifles her creativity. Ok, fair enough.

So, knowing that Kate Braverman is ill (and bi polar disorder is an illness as we all know) why would the LA Times print this? Did they want to make her look like an ego obsessed bitch?

Knowing she has this disorder makes asking her questions about her place in the canon akin to asking Grandmother Snark's opinion about Miss Snark ability as a literary agent and printing that she is the best agent the whole wide world, and most of the known universe-- it may in fact be true but the source is a tad unrealistic.

If Kate Braverman is in fact bipolar, she's not a reliable source of information about herself.

Taking advantage of a person who is ill seems pretty low to me.

I read the article once before I linked to it, and again, after the comments it generated. The information about her bipolar condition is buried deep in the article and never referenced again as the source of the grandiose statements. Bad bad writing, and worse, cruel.

53 comments:

dink said...

Yeah, that was my reaction as well.

I think what she says about herself may not be all that inaccurate just a little blown out of proportion. I think she's a pretty great writer (I liked the book I read), inspiring to her students and not as known as one would expect in her "home town". Her students sure seem to back her up.
This interview seems to be a case of her editor button being stuck in the off position ...she appears to be saying everything she thinks (and pretty theatrically) and the reporter sure took advantage of it.

fffffft

kaytie said...

I just read 72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell, a novel that explores what bipolarism does to family relationships, particularly mother-daughter. I recommend it, and I believe it's coming out in trade paperback in the next few months.

Lady M said...

BRAVA!!!

I couldn't agree more.

You're turning into a very likable person Miss Snark.

Beware... it's a scary world when you're liked...

Lady M

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

If she is bipolar, then shame on the reporter!

I suffer (emphasis on the word suffer) from a neurological disorder. I am unhappy that a reporter or anyone else would find a health condition fodder, entertainment, or funny.

She should take her medication. The creativity is there with or without the meds. Honest it is.

harridan said...

Oh my gosh, Kaytie,

Thanks for that heads up. I am def getting that book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Miss Snark, for realizing the tragedy in this and being wise enough to make this second post.

December Quinn said...

I thought the article made it seem like being bipolar was part of her image, like the addict thing. So I didn't take it very seriously at all.

Surely the reporter should have sensed what was real and what wasn't, and written accordingly?

(But she still looks like my mother in law. Really. It's a scary resemblance.)

M. G. Tarquini said...

The article says it all with that lead line:

Kate Braverman resents her hometown's refusal to recognize her greatness. Really.

The interviewer took advantage. The info about Ms. Braverman's mental illness isn't buried, though. It's just further down in the article. Lots of people may not read that far. The interviewer could have presented it all as cold hard facts, left out that lead line and included some explanation of what bipolar is and how it manifests.

The interviewer also might have asked kinder questions, questions that would have given Ms. Braverman a chance at redemption for the remarks and shown her as a more rounded individual. That's the interviewer's responsibility. She chose not to try and discover other aspects of Ms. Braverman's personality, instead honing in on what would be sensational or 'funny'.

Cautionary tale for all of us, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Just because someone's ill that doesn't dismiss them from everything on earth. You can be bipolar and be a nice person and you can be bipolar and be a bitch. Excuses abound, but ill or not people need to accept responsibility for themselves. Don't make the assumption that if she wasn't bipolar she wouldn't be a bitch. Or that if she took her meds she wouldn't be a bitch. Some people are just bitches period.

Anonymous said...

She's bipolar. Ayelet's bipolar. Is bipolar the new ex-crackhead?

Lizzy said...

Anon,

But the article wasn't depicting her as a B*; it was depicting her as someone with delusions of grandeur, which is one symptom of bipolar disorder.

Anonymous said...

Why are you saying she's a "bitch"? She was arrogant, but she wasn't mean or rude.

Besides, what allows us to behave in a civilized fashion is not merely our personalities. I don't know about you, but some of the nicest people I know can sure act like a**holes when they've had a bit too much to drink.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes

As a former reporter and editor, I can't resist weighing in here.

Even perfectly "normal" subjects of interviews don't always realize how what they said can be misconstrued. A person with mental illness, unmedicated? That's a very vulnerable subject.

Me? Had I been the reporter, I would have rescheduled. After all, with either a bi-polar person or a drug addict, you'll likely get a completely different personality on a different day. It's like interviewing someone three sheets to the wind ... not playing fair at all.

Sad to say, any interview can be made to look really bad, if the reporter wants to do so. It's not ethical journalism, mind you. But it happens with some members of the profession. I hate it. It puts a black eye on all reporters, just like bad agents put a black eye on all the other reputable agents.

To me, based on my experience, it seems that the reporter (a) didn't want to do the article in the first place, (b) had either a grudge or no experience with mental illness (c) had a grudge against "novelists" and other book authors.

Bad writing. Very bad writing. The slant came out in spades. A more positive interview would have been slanted: novelist overcomes great obstacles and returns home again ... that's probably what the publicist was hoping for.

But the person I really feel sorry for in all of this is the author's daughter ... having to deal with a parent's mental illness AND drug addiction would have to be tough.

domynoe said...

Crap like this really make me worry about my son, sometimes. He's autistic and, while he's high functioning, he's not very discerning. He could very easily be taken advantage of in this way. (Anyone doing so, however, better look out for one hell of a fight!)

Of course, while I may do well once the books get published, I doubt I'll ever be someone high profile, so I'm really hoping it won't ever become an issue.

Kalen said...

As someone who has been involved in the Bay Area's literary "scene" for 15+ years, I can tell you that that interview pretty much summed up what it's like dealing with Kate Braverman.

Just read her bio on her website. Same deal:

http://www.katebraverman.com/Bio.html

Frances said...

I know Kate Braverman and even though she says outrageous things, she is incredibly perceptive and intelligent. She is definitely kooky, but not off her rocker. She likes to be outrageous and sees it as part of her rebellion against the patriarchy. Don't feel sorry for her.

Anonymous said...

Most disturbing is that a legitimate agent has never heard of Kate Braverman. What?!? Braverman is incredibly well known and respected among the many published writers, critics and editors I know. Surely you were joking?

Lady M said...

An agent not know an author?

Surely you jest?

I couldn't list every author out in the world, no matter how famous they were and I have literally read thousands of books. (at least 3 thousand in my lifetime - and I can't even remember half their names!)

So what would make anyone think that agents were gods with memories better than yours or mine? Or that every novel has crossed their path?

That, my dear anon. is a bizarely slanted post that hopefully was sarcasm and an attempt at laughter instead of a slash attack attempt.



I'm a bookhound.

I.J.Parker said...

Never heard of her myself. Doesn't mean anything. But my reaction is that she's very lucky to get major mention in a paper like the L.A. Times. Furthermore, wasn't she aware that her comments would be published? I answer interview questions in writing, and I take my time, double-checking my responses. In her case, doing this when without medication and without having a friend advise her was incredibly foolhardy. Unless, of course, she wanted to say precisely what she said.

the green ray said...

I know Kate Braverman because I happened to be at one of her readings here in NYC. It was one of the more memorable ones I've attended. She arrived about a half hour late, making a grand entrance with sunglasses. She was definitely on something. She was really something to behold. But her writing was good. And I remember this reading perhaps more strongly than any I've attended, perhaps for the wrong reasons, but I remember it nonetheless.

Miss Snark said...

I've never heard of lots of really good writers, and even some "well known" ones. Like everyone I have specific reading tastes and most anything about drugs, alcohol and recovery t'aint it. I am the only person I know who couldn't stand Permanent Midnight by Jerry Stahl, and thought Malachy McCourt's A Monk Swimming was not funny in the least. Thus it is no surprise to me that a novelist writing in this area would hold zero interest for me and be totally off my radar screen, no matter how talented she may be.

Plus of course she's from LA, and we all know what a literary backwater that is.

(cue hyena laughter for those who are wondering if that last line was a sardonic jest)

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, is this your way of teaching us to forgive the delusional grandiosity of some writers because they must be mentally ill?

You are one classy snark!

Anonymous said...

There is an interview with Braverman at Bookslut. Here's the link:

http://www.bookslut.com/features/2006_02_007804.php

It is a much more sympathetic, complex, and layered interview than the other thing.

Lady M said...

anon - thank you for the link - I read this article... And surprisingly it gave some interesting insight into an interesting mind.

Elektra said...

The reporter was a jerk. But, I have to wonder why this woman would agree to an interview when she knows that she's ill and prone to such delusions of grandeur.

I refuse to take medication for severe ADD--which means that I have to accept the consequences of it. Some people may be jerks about it, but I knew that going in; it was one of the things I had to accept when I decided to stay unmedicated.

This woman was taken advantage of, but she's not a complete innocent.

Anonymous said...

Ok. Good Lord.

I went to her website and prowled around. Upon First Glimpse, how could you not know she's a little off? Man O Man. On the home page is a clip of her, talking. A little comical for some reason.

She gets credit for the following:
* Long list of writing success.
* Live message board she actually posts on and helps people with.

Two questions have popped into my non-bi-polar mind. It's been said that the greatest artist/visionary types are always off their rocker, maybe that's the case here? Also, thinking back to the stuff last summer about writing non fiction & your appearance counting, is it a good thing she writes poetry and fiction?

Oy Vey.
Anon

Anonymous said...

While many people have heard of Kate Braverman and her writing is well known, I venture to say hers is not a household name. Although I'm not a literary agent, and newly breaking into this industry, I'm reasonably well read and never heard of this author. My first impulse was to do a google search, which produced a ton of results and I quickly learned who she is.

However, I won't fault Miss Snark (and others) for not having done the same, but will instead add my appreciation for her being a mensch and publically retracting the first post.

Anonymous said...

I agree. One can be well-read and intelligent and still not have heard of many important writers. We all have gaps in our knowledge. Miss Snark is a mensch!

Amra Pajalic said...

My mother has bi-polar and while she's incredibly perceptive about her illness and is able to recognise when she's going on a high and gets to a doctor and an increase in meds, there have been many, many situations that she is just not able to evaluate herself objectively.

Anonymous-who says that ill or not she needs to take responsibility and Electra-who basically implies that she needs to take responsibility for the interview as she agreed to it.

People who are mentally ill by definition do not have the functioning capabilities most people do. Even people without a mental illness stuff up and misjudge their capabilities or the way that they are presenting themselves, but someone with a mental illness faces that problem three-fold.

Most people have that little voice sounding a warning before they do something because of society's expectations of behaviour and consequences. Mentally ill people are in most cases disadvantaged and lacking in this. Their inhibitions are to do what they feel.

So no, Kate Braverman is not responsible. The journalist purposely took advantage to write a sensationlist story. Whilst a journalist has every right to present the subject as they are, they also have the duty to present this in a context and this is what's lacking in this interview purporting to be journalism.

Thank you Cynthia Writes for your view from a ethical journalist perspective.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Actually, a reporter usually doesn't have the power to kill a story. That's up to the editor and well... if you've got a deadline looming and a newshole you don't want to fill up with wire copy, than sometimes you can with something less than pretty.

Besides, Braverman's on a book tour. If her agent, book editor and publicist thought it was ok to shove her out there, well, them's the breaks...

Anonymous said...

i don't know about you, but i'm getting tired of all this anonymous posting!! I say go back to the old way where everyone has to have a name--there is just too much confusion of identity this way--too tough to tell who is saying what--and then saying more.

lemme say it again: I do think the journalist took advantage of Braverman by not providing a better context and by looking for the sensationalistic angle.I've sent a letter to the editor stating such.

But if you listen to her video poetry performance, its pretty clear this woman is into theatrical presentation--and because of this, you need to leave plenty of room for Braverman knowing exactly what she is doing--even though her judgement sucks (i mean, believing she sits along side Kafka and Hemingway?) and is being affected by her manic high.

STOP ANONYMOUS POSTING!

susanna said...

My mother has bipolar, and when she suffers episodes of Mania she believes she's an artist - delusions of grandeur are one of the most common symptoms. However, if you are aware you have bipolar, it can be irresponsible to simply not take medication - in my mother's support group one woman was trying to poison her seven-year-old daughter, because the daughter was being bullied, and she believed that the girl would be better off sick at home - she really thought she was helping her.
People with bipolar disorder can sometimes be dangerous to temselves and others - another symptom is reckless disegard for safety (eg. thinking you can fly). So, honestly, with such an unpredictable illness (the symptoms of which can change dramatically without much warning) refusing to have treatment is not something I can brush off as 'oh, tat's fine, she's trying to "create"'

Anonymous said...

another anonymous said--

"i don't know about you, but i'm getting tired of all this anonymous posting!! I say go back to the old way where everyone has to have a name--there is just too much confusion of identity this way--too tough to tell who is saying what--and then saying more.

< snip >

STOP ANONYMOUS POSTING!

Oh the irony!

*giggle*

Anonymous said...

I'm not Anonymous, I'm Anon.

I'm also the - I heart Killer Yapp.

Anon

Amra Pajalic said...

Sorry, but there is quite a bit of irony in an anonymous poster complaining about people posting anonymously. Put your money where your mouth is!!!

While sometimes I am bothered by people posting anonymously as they are more able to be blunt without thinking about consequences, the bigger problem is who's saying what and who's responding to whom.

Maybe if people just put a little identifier this would ease the confusion.

kathie said...

WTF's a mench (or however you spell it)?

Anonymous said...

Mensch is literally a German word meaning man or person...but in colloquial English it means a big person, an all-around good guy. Implications of large humanity. Probably comes from Yiddish.

Bella Stander said...

It does.

Bella Stander said...

How is it taking advantage of Braverman's mental illness to report exactly what she says and does? It's not as though the reporter tracked her down in her secret lair to expose her innermost private being. Braverman's on a book tour, giving interviews, conducting a class, etc. If she's running around making grandiose statements (delusional or not), proclaiming her bipolarity & boasting of being unmedicated, she's fair game. Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs--hell, Augusten Burroughs--were little different. I'll bet she was pleased with that newspaper piece.

(Word verification is "pwsort." How perfect, as I used to sort--and write--for Publishers Weekly.)

M. G. Tarquini said...

Mensch IS a Yiddish word meaning an upright, honest, decent, admirable person. It's a good thing, a compliment, a very high compliment. It applies to both males and females.

Martin said...

The very fact that the reporter uses the outdated term "manic-depressive" reveals her woeful lack of knowledge right off the bat.

That said: I am myself bipolar. I have more than once screwed myself over royally when at one end or the other of the spectrum, despite the fact that my disease is more or less controlled by medication. I personally believe that I am responsible for these screwups. Just as we expect those intoxicated by alcohol to know better than to try and drive, I feel that if the mentally ill choose to be part of the neurotypical world (not that we have a better option) we must take the blame for our mistakes no matter their cause. If she alienates an entire city because of her statements, even if they were made under the influence of mania, then she will have to live with the consequences of that. They could be much, much worse.

Mind you, it is possible for people to take advantage of the mentally ill - it happens all the time. When someone is an altered state of mind, whether because of mental illness or intoxication, getting them to do something they would not normally do is unethical at best, criminal at worst. The reporter is culpable for printing the interview, as is her editor.

Braverman clearly needs to go on medication. If nothing else, the odds of her staying off drugs are much lower if her bipolar disorder isn't treated. But I can fully understand why she hasn't - bipolar disorder is probably the most seductive disease known to man. I hope she manages to escape the allure of mania, because I don't think she's doing herself any good with this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

When Kate Braverman says "she's in the canon" and she "sits between Bellow and Conrad..." She actually does. She means this literally. She is in the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction for a short story, Pagan Night (which I think I saw posted on her website, but didn't have a chance to read). She's also in the Scribner's Anthology of Short Fiction, the Vintage Book and the Columbia Book (that's all listed on the site too). I think she gets written off because she's eccentric. But she is a damn good writer.

Anonymous said...

The LA Times also reported that she was dead a few months ago, so many there is something strange between her and the Times.

Anonymous said...

This interview, while with a published writer, on a book tour, was tragic. Thank you Miss Snark for your sensitive treatment.

There is a new DSM IV designation, of "soft bi-polar" longer cycles, less severe, with which I was finally diagnosed a few years ago, after a frustrating twenty years in the psycho-pharmaceutical world, being mistakenly medicated for severe depression. Like Elektra, I too took myself off medication, and onto a regime of strict diet, sleep, vitamin supplements and no alcohol (alas the gin) or caffeine, to try to stay stable without the mentally clouding effects of medications.

Since these illnesses deal with complex cognition and viewpoint issues, it's often difficult to impossible for a bi-polar person to have the clarity to assess their own condition. While I take full responsibility for my actions, the many mistakes in assessment I have made have lead to a horrible sense of self-esteem and many enduring regrets.

I struggle with the shame of the illness, still, and the ignorance and insensitivity with which it is still dealth with, as evidenced by this reporter's treatment of the story, by the general public.

waywardclam said...

I just want to say that I have bipolar (maybe) and ADHD (maybe), decline to discuss the issue with doctors and pharmaceutical dispensers, yet despite that, I am still a reliable source of information about myself.

:P

Lupus Yonderboy said...

Why don't we accept the evidence that's right in front of our eyes. Both the interviewer who wrote this piece and the editor who let it run were clearly lusting to do a hatchet job on Kate. Why print an interview like this at all? I mean good lord Anne-Marie can't you answer Kate's claims with something more than snide asides? If Kate isn't a major literary figure, why all the ink? If she is, why not edit out some of Kate's opinions about herself and put in some thoughts of your own?

Anonymous said...

Just a thought,

If "mental illness" can be used as a criminal defence- suely it is an acceptable defence for bad publicity?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Lupus. Total hatchet job.

Anonymous said...

Please be aware that there is more than one type of bipolar disorder... Bipolar I, the most serious type, includes full blown mania-- with serious delusions, sometimes hallucinations, and often requiring hospitalization... and Bipolar II, which is the type Ayelet Waldman has I believe, manifests itself in much gentler mood swings from hypomania into depression.

I have Bipolar I and before I was properly diagnosed (most people with Bipolar are incorrectly diagnosed 3 times), I had a serious manic episode and had to be hospitalized. I have also had serious problems with mania even after diagnosis.

I have been attacked by those who do not understand my disorder or foolishly believe it is the same as Bipolar II, demanding that I "get a grip." I will say that I was not fully compliant with my medication until I dealt with my substance abuse issues. Now I am doing a lot better. however, not everyone reacts to medications the same way. While I have been greatly helped with minimal side effects, that is not true for everyone. So pointing fingers at Braverman just isn't fair.

My view is if you don't understand the disease, either through extensive reading or personal experience, then just SHUT UP.

I agree that the reporter was exploitative.

And "Pagan Night" is one hell of a story.

kate braverman said...

Hello everyone. Re the Kate Braverman LA Times interview. The one line of mention in my book about being bipolar is one line, period. Why it's been picked out as beyond me, there are so many other things I talk about in Frantic Transmissions. That article was done by a woman I was assured had read my work and who had in fact not done so. I was treated with complete disrespect by this reporter, that I was "product" to be processed through the Times machine, the interview was done as I got off a plane, not the way an interview with an author one thinks is important is done. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I AM IN THE CANON. That's not a joke. I am in the Norton Anthology of Contempory Fiction, the Scribner Book of Contemporary Fiction,
the Houghton Mifflin Art of the Short Story, the Columbia Companion, the Vintage Book of the Short Story, etc and these are college required text books.
The fact that this reporter doesn't know the difference between an airport bestseller and college required reading texts says it all as far as I'm concerned. NO, IT's NOT A JOKE. I am taught all over the country and it's impossible to get an MFA without reading me. That Los Angeles doesn't make this distinction between quality as decided by a critical apparatus of peers and quantity as in number of books sold says what's wrong with L.A. L.A. is so committed to psuedo intellectuals and the dispo book of the moment, that not even their "book" people bother to really read the 30 years of my work. Eventually, I will be known as the woman who invented L.A. writing. That's the simple fact of it. Like it or not. L.A. chooses to not have themselves represented in the canon. I choose to live elsewhere. Thanks for the time to even consider these matters. I'd also like to point out that the interview was condensending and my refusal to be treated as another product was offensive to the reporter. Is that how art works? I said repeatedly in that spliced together (from other interviews mostly) is that I'm an artist, not another product. Kate Braverman. www.katebraverman.com ps/ I would welcome the opportunity to address these issues in a Q and A for your blog..........

kate braverman said...

Hey, I've read these comments. I don't have delusions of grandeur re my writing. My short stories ARE required college reading. Is that too hard to take on board here? I'm telling the truth. If you find it too hard to believe that I could write in a city for 25 years and be in the textbooks and not have the city give a damn, that's about L.A., not about me. Why don't you check it out and find out who has delusions of grandeur and who didn't do even google homework. Look fw to hearing from you all. Best, kate braverman

louise said...

Two things: one, Kate Braverman is the quintessential, seminal, Los Angeles writer. Period. As someone that lived in this city for over 18 years and bizarrely, had to come to her work via her student Janet Fitch's book White Oleander (I had read that Fitch had studied with Braverman and thus wanted to check her out, because certain elements of the way Fitch wrote about Southern California fascinated me), when I read Lithium for Medea, I thought, okay, this IS the L.A. novel. And all these years I thought it didn't exist. But because these books are from small, literary presses, as opposed to big commercial presses, one tends to not just happen upon her. Those of you who haven't read her, or those of you who think there is "no there, there" when it comes to Los Angeles literature need to check it out. And shame on the LA Times for their weird, totally slanted, attention seeking article that has nothing to do with the work itself.

Erinia Jourdanski Semiotician to the Stars said...

I am really saddened to read about the character assasination that took place in the LA Times article. Many of our great writers have been difficult, chaotic and unrepentant people. I am an avid believer in keeping the writer separate from the work, even in an interview writers assume characters and persona that may or may not be "true." I wrote about Kate Braverman for Kitchen Sink Magazine and the article is up on my blog at www.eriniajourdanski.blogspot.com. No matter how Braverman acts, I will always remain a fan of her work and the intensity with which she writes.