- Interview with Novelist Catie Disabato
Catie Disabato's second novel, U UP?, was published by Melville House Books in February 2021. Nicholas Lawrence interviewed Disabato about her (then forthcoming) book and many other matters, via Zoom on January 29, 2021.
I guess I would start by saying that, having read U UP?—I enjoyed it very much. It struck me that even though there's a galaxy of characters, interlinked and important, it really came down to four principals: Eve the narrator, Ezra, and Nozlee—and then of course the ghost of their friend Miggy who is dead. And the structure of the book then involves how they handle the anniversary of Miggy's suicide. Reading it I thought a lot about the narrator's growth as she grapples with jealousy, grief, anger, maybe even learning how to be a better friend. And I'm just wondering how you came to such a personal story—the characters and situations feel so real. Is there a biographical element to this or is it just an examination of friendship that you just decided to deep dive with?
So it's interesting all of the elements that you mentioned in that very accurate description of the book, which I think really gets the heart of the book. None of that is biographical. I don't—my fiction is like pretty far from auto fiction, I think. I would say that I'm obviously influenced by the things that happen in my life, the world I live in and the people in in my life, and the things I'm interested in and consume. But in terms of my understanding, auto fiction, writing from life is often really basing characters on people, basing events on events that have happened to you—and maybe changing them or elevating them—but a stronger connection to real life I think is required. So the short answer is that I don't write from life. The longer answer is that the things in my life influence my understanding of friendship dynamics. The things that … you know, the emotional reality of living—I was gonna say the emotional reality of living online—but what I actually mean is the emotional reality of a certain portion of our friendships, of each friendship that we have being conducted over the internet or over text. That obviously is true to my life and influences the work. [End Page 182]
That's great, I mean that your interest in friendship and the way it plays out over text and of course the unifying event of his suicide. I hadn't even planned to mention this but I guess I'm going to. I'm almost 50 years old I thought more than once about the movie The Big Chill when I was reading this book. I'm just wondering—Alex's suicide in that movie, and all his college friends get together as a result—if that's in conversation with your novel.
Right. Maybe. I don't know. I don't think that you're off base on that. It wasn't like a deliberate attempt to kind of build on that narrative but obviously there are similar kinds of cultural things that we're touching on so I kind of think it's more like, despite the difference in time period and the kind of time separation between those two pieces of work, I think those pieces of work are interested in the same things, that does that make sense absolutely.
I guess the big difference is that in The Big Chill those people, most of them hadn't seen each other since they were all in college together, whereas these people in U UP? are legit friends in real time and they're younger. This is still something they're feeling and it's only been a year since Miggy's suicide. But at least my interpretation is that the narrator deals with what a lot of family members and friends of suicides deal with: there is a great mix of anger and self-blame along the lines...