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I call her in New York August 7, 2006.
Luke: "You do look like Monica [Lewinsky]. The full mouth."
Lauren: "Maybe I did. Once they started referring to her as chunky, I decided I didn't look a thing like her."
Luke: "Did you really have all that angst over it as you wrote in The Modern Jewish Girls Guide To Guilt or was that more of a construct?"
Lauren: "I felt embarrassed that she was Jewish.
"When I went to graduate school, I decided to forgive myself more. I couldn't control the political landscape."
Luke: "I don't understand what you were forgiving yourself for."
Lauren: "I wouldn't say I was forgiving myself for anything I had done."
She sighs. "I was letting myself off the hook for feeling weirdly implicated while I was in France for being a friendly Jewish-American woman who smiles a lot. The French tend to mock Americans for being puritanical and ridiculous."
Luke: "I've noticed that a lot of Jewish women say their biggest flaw is they give too much. I ask them about their moral struggles and they say, 'Oh, I give too much.'"
Lauren gives the laugh of recognition. "I think all women feel that way. We're raised to take care of other people."
Luke: "It seems delusional to think that 'my biggest moral struggle is that I give too much.'"
Lauren: "Can people identify their biggest moral struggles? I have no idea. I know I have several but it's hard to pin them down."
Luke: "With guys, you know the biggest moral struggle is not to screw around and not to beat people."
Lauren: "Really? To keep your pants zipped and your fists to yourself. Women also face that."
Luke: "To the same intensity men do?"
Lauren: "I have no idea."
Luke: "You [frequently] write the male perspective. I'm impressed with how well you understand the male psyche. It's basically blowjobs."
Lauren laughs. "And existential angst and the girl who got away.
"Men and women aren't that different from each other. When the character Grant Miller [in Reproduction] fell in love, I tried to make it how I felt when I fell in love. People say how well I got into the male character but all I tried to do was write about myself honestly."
Luke: "Did Blair [the girl who got away] and Stan [Grant's father] ever get it on?"
Lauren: "I don't think so. I could never decide for sure."
Luke: "Why did you tell this tale of despair?"
Lauren: "I thought it had a happy ending. The guy [Grant] decides he can be alone. I did get teary when I wrote about Stan's death."
Luke: "Almost all your stories tend to be bleak and depressing."
Lauren laughs. "Maybe that's true?"
Luke: "Is that a reflection of your psyche and your experience? I can't imagine a happy person writing a lot of bleak stories."
Lauren: "The stories aren't autobiographical aside from location. I'm a happy person who gets the sadness out in what I write. Never in my life have I thought of myself as a sad person.
"The stories are about people in their late teens and early twenties. I wrote one of them when I was 19 and the last one when I was 25. That's a terrible age. Those were not the best years of my life. I was uncertain. I never imagined these stories were going to get published.
"I tend to write about absent parents and both of my parents are alive and well. I tend to write about broken hearts and I've been with the same man for six years and we've been married for almost two."
Luke: "The emotional landscape is so bleak."
Lauren: "I thought it was funny."
Luke: "What happened to your blog?"
Lauren: "I felt extremely exposed. In fiction you get to hide behind your characters. I freaked out and stopped."
Luke: "Would you rather write a great novel or have a great marriage?"
Lauren: "Write a great novel. I don't think it's even a question. Luckily I'm married to the kind of guy who understands why I said that."
Luke: "How did the title - Reproduction is the Flaw of Love - help you tell your story?"
Lauren: "Here's the whole quote, from Baudelaire's La Fanfarlo: 'Although Samuel had a depraved imagination—perhaps even because of this—love, for him, was less a matter of the senses than of the intellect. It was, above all, admiration and appetite for beauty; he considered reproduction a flaw of love, and pregnancy a form of insanity.'
"The quote reminded me of the way Miller might try to justify his admiration for Lisa - as a matter of the intellect, perhaps, if not the senses. Also, in this novel, reproduction (or the possibility of it) is the thing that ends whatever form of love Lisa and Miller have managed to muster up."
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Lauren: "A writer."
Luke: "What crowd did you hang out with in highschool?"
Lauren: "I was pretty dorky. I hung out with the smart kids. When I was a junior, I scored myself a marginally more popular boyfriend, which made the rest of highschool a lot better."
Luke: "What's been your relationship with Judaism?"
Lauren: "I've become a better Jew since I married my husband who was not born Jewish but became interested in it after we met. We took courses together. We started going to a synagogue in our neighborhood, a progressive, socially-conscious place. We try to light candles on Friday night.
"I was raised in a culturally Jewish home but not religious."
Lauren is the eldest of three kids.
Luke: "How does your family feel about your writing?"
Lauren: "My father was very concerned about this choice. He's a physician... Now he's proud of me. He believes that all my sex scenes come from things I've seen in movies."
Luke: "There's a strong theme of blowjobs in your writing."
Lauren: "Fiction, fiction, fiction."