Literary Hub

Mona Awad on the Creepiness of Cliques and College Towns

This week on So Many Damn Books, Mona Awad joins Christopher Hermelin and Drew Broussard to discuss her new novel, Bunny

On the disturbing nature of college towns

Mona Awad: I think my perspective of Providence was “holy shit, what did I step into? This is a very strange city that feels very corrupt and does everybody else not notice that it’s a really disturbing place to live, and that there are these very serious class divides going on?”

So I wanted to play with that. I wanted to question myself, I wanted to question my impression of Providence, and I wanted the freedom to make it as monstrous as possible. That was just so much fun. And Providence is not the only city like this, the only university town like this, but it’s dangerous.

A lot of university towns are dangerous. I heard this urban legend, it has to be an urban legend, that in New Haven there was a story about somebody getting decapitated and put in a locker. I heard that story when I was in Providence and they were like “you think Providence is bad, wait till you hear what’s going on in New Haven!” And I use that in Bunny!

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On the dangers of the clique, and of the close friendship

MA: I feel like the clique is very dangerous because you never know where you stand. You are not yourself, you are in a group. So you’re kind of operating as a group, thinking as a group, and so your thoughts are not quite your own—or are they? So there’s a real sense of disorientation there, and also the potential for a lot of strange power dynamics to start unfolding between people in a group.

All of that was really interesting to me and felt ripe again for horror. But the one-on-one friendship too, if you’re giving your soul to somebody, that’s a very vulnerable-making place and a lot can go wrong with that kind of relationship too. There’s a lot at stake there. So they’re both high-stakes kinds of relationships and I was interested in exploring both of them, and the impulse that makes us seek them out. They’re two very different impulses.

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On revisiting a book over and over again

Christopher Hermelin: What do you gain from reading it over and over every year? Is it just comfort food? It feels like kind of a strange comfort food.

MA: Books for me, they’re kind of like home. Certain books are like home, certain books are meant to be foreign territory and disorienting in a great way but there are certain books that are home and when I come back to them, I feel like I’m going to a kind of home that I created with this novel. I created the landscape in my head and I get to revisit it.

So with The Torn Skirt, it’s cherry blossom trees in May and running over the rooftops in Victoria BC and looking for this elusive girl who’s going to solve all your turmoil inside, and that seems like a dream I want to go back to. So every year in the spring, I usually go back to it, just so I can be in that place.

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This week’s themed drink recipe:

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