By Jason Kron, February 2021 Issue.
To put it bluntly, Carly Schorman has done an insane amount of really cool shit. Along with her husband, Mark Anderson, Carly has spent 12 years running YabYum, one of Arizona’s most renowned music blogs. She’s also created multiple podcasts, including the sci-fi serial Confessions from the Nocturne Nebula and the educationally death-centered The Mortician’s Daughter. If all of that weren’t enough, Schorman has also just released a neo-noir novel entitled The Saint of Lost Causes.
Without giving too much away, this mystery story focuses on child abductors seeking revenge against evil corporations, shadow forces insisting on media blackouts/misinformation, and six main characters who are trying to get to the bottom of this bullshit. Schorman’s prose exhibits a mastery of the written word rarely seen in someone’s first published book, as does how well she can balance multiple interpersonal storylines AND a powerful critique of Capitalism.
We caught up with Carly Schorman to discuss reading, writing and trying to stay creative in this terrifying garbage dump that is American pandemic life.
Can you give a list of books and/or authors that were most influential to you in writing this book?
When I was writing this, I read Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Graham Greene, Paul Auster’s City of Glass, and more commercial fiction, like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I’m a big fan of Raymond Chandler and J.G. Ballard. I have a whole shelf of those old pulp novels, and I was really interested in writing something that was more noir, had that darker sensibility, so I was reading more like that.
Media disinformation is a big theme in this book. You started writing it in 2015 before the topic of media disinformation rose to the forefront of societal consciousness (for better or worse). How do you feel about that?
I was trying to explore the ethics of subversive, revolutionary action, figuring out what viable responses are and how ethical they are. I wrote this right before there had been a lot of co-opting of the language of the radical left by the alt-right. When I was around 17, I started reading about stories that were blacklisted, like about the Shell Oil Massacre and how it wasn’t really covered here. Being part of the radical left, you were always talking about what wasn’t getting covered. Now we’re receiving this massive disinformation campaign that is taking that mentality and perverting it. When I first got the offer to publish this book, there were conversations with people close to me about how that information would appear, whether it would seem like I was promoting distrust in the media. I’m not a conspiracy person. A lot of these incidents of corporate malignance aren’t conspiracy, they’re facts. The Shell Oil Massacre happened. We know there are incidents of companies intentionally misrepresenting findings, but people have short attention spans.
How has life in a pandemic affected your creative process?
It’s been a rollercoaster. It started super productive, and I thought, “I’m free of all social obligations, and this is horrifying, but you know what? We’re going to roll through a pandemic and try to be as safe as we can.” And so that was great. We were supercharged and trying to get stuff done. And then it just kept going, and everything slowed. I got caught up in editing the novel, which was much more involved than I could’ve ever anticipated. The pandemic hasn’t been great for new creative projects, but I’ve been trying to give myself space to feel the lull and not feel like I have to be using that time effectively just because I have it. I could just be trying to take in this moment in history, acknowledge it for what it is, and I don’t have to come out of it with five new novels.
Society hates readers. To cite a couple of examples in entertainment: In one episode of Seinfeld, Elaine’s ‘bizarro’ friends were squares who would sit around and read for fun. In The Breakfast Club, Bender tears books apart as a fuck-you gesture to anyone who would want to consume this fodder for nerds. Why is this the case?
I think there’s always an aversion to the intelligentsia and everything it represents. And I think there’s a reasonable backlash to ivory tower institutionalized education, but it trickles down to having an aversion to smart kids. In this day and age, people will become distrustful of something just because it carries the weight of credentials or education or knowledge, and that’s so problematic. You don’t distrust a scientist just because he studied science; you actually want them to know something about the topic they’re speaking about! I think that’s the problem with such a deluge of information: that people don’t know where to begin seeking out the truth, so they’ll just go with what sounds true intuitively, which is just hippie bullshit to me.
What are your future creative endeavors?
I’m working on a sequel to this book, and I’m editing a book called The Girl Sunday, a dystopian novel set in the distant future. I finished writing a fiction podcast called The Finley File, which is about a divorced mother who moves with her two daughters into an old estate that she inherits, but then they can’t tell if it’s haunted or if they’re being tormented by townspeople. We were beginning production on that when we started hearing about this virus that was going around, then the next week we had to cancel recording, and now we’re still waiting.
I love how this book takes place in Phoenix, which is refreshing after a lifetime of being bombarded by art that’s just countless love letters to New York. It was mind-blowing to me to feel the warm feeling of reading scenes that took place on the 87 north of Fountain Hills heading southbound, or the hospital on Shea Boulevard, or being near the light rail on Central, or at Cactus Shadows High School, which some of my friends attended. There are plenty more little love notes to Maricopa County in the book, and they all made me feel pride. I wonder if that’s how New Yorkers feel all the time, or whether they take that for granted.
Phoenix is a huge city. It needs to be a metropolitan art area because I can’t leave; I have a wonderful life here. We have to boom it and make it weird and arty everywhere!