Dear Molly: Perhaps There’s Another Way to See St. Vincent
As someone who read and appreciated the 7-page spread about St. Vincent in GQ, I have questions regarding your “Celebrity Postscript” (Update: Molly has since removed the article. Screenshots are below.)
Would you agree that conversations, like Art and life, are interpreted based on an individual’s unique perspective?
If someone is wearing sunglasses, can you be certain they’re not looking at you?
In the interviewer-interviewee relationship, whose responsibility is it to elicit the story?
Those are merely three questions, which arose in response to the first paragraph of your Postscript. I could continue to break it down line-by-line, but that’s not how I’d like to spend my time, and I trust you see where I’m headed.
I was not present when you interviewed Annie Clark and it’s not my intention to discount your feelings or experience. However, my understanding of Clark, and therefore my perspective of what you describe, differs considerably. Perhaps there’s another way to look at it?
As you detail in your Postscript, you were given not one – but two – opportunities to interview Clark — for the same story. That is a rare and fortunate circumstance. On the first occasion, if you were met with “1-4 word answers”, I’d inquire about the questions asked . . . or whether or not you connected with the publicist or Clark prior to the interview to discuss the story you were hoping to tell, to get aligned and determine the best path to accomplish that objective. Or, if the subject of the story has chosen not to engage, does that mean there’s no story?
Clark and her publicist graciously provided a second opportunity for the interview. This time, you were treated to the unique and coveted experience of joining Clark on a private tour of a notable art show, led by the artist. You’re welcome.
You stated, “Clark did that thing people do at parties where they physically box out undesired interlopers from joining a conversation…but my little Sony device captured the dialogue regardless.” Wouldn’t the ideal scenario have been for you to make yourself as-if invisible, so you could observe the experience and conversations as they truly unfolded, unencumbered by microphones or cameras? Or even, to have and enjoy your own experience of the show, which could have been a point of connection later? Perhaps Clark’s intention was to give you the better story by “boxing out” the witness so she could be herself and truly get lost in the moment, which is a human experience you may have felt and therefore captured far better than your Sony device.
Now, if your judgment about the diversity of an audience is based on “haircuts” and “beards”, that may be a view of people and life that limits your ability to appreciate or deeply connect with any human condition or experience.
After lamenting and hypothesizing about why you felt “hostility”, “scorn”, or “punished” by Clark, and stating that the two of you had “barely interacted,” you conclude your Postscript with this:
I walked home thinking about how unusual it is to experience sustained dislike as an adult. When you’re a kid and you have no control over your time, you’re constantly forced to be with people (kids, mainly) who find you lame and annoying, which is painful. The primary perk of being an adult is that you have the agency to avoid these situations. Until you don’t.
Don’t you? You are an adult. You could choose to do something else with your time. Perhaps when Clark asked, “Do you like doing this?” it’s because she sensed you don’t — or genuinely questioned whether you do. It’s a fair question. Journalism isn’t easy, you’re not always going to be given a perfectly packaged story or willing participant. Or, she may have simply been trying to connect, acknowledging the inherently awkward dynamic of a stranger requesting personal revelations from another stranger, beyond what one has chosen to share.
More important is the question you raised about “sustained dislike.” In the case of your encounters with Clark, and given you “barely interacted”, the good news is: it’s over. That could be said of any other person’s projection of you… except your own. Sustained dislike is often “sustained” because it’s internal. I hope that’s not the case, and that you are truly fulfilled and feel good about yourself and your work. Whatever challenges you felt during the process, I believe the article turned out well and has been well received.
My perception of Clark is that she is gracious, generous, warm, sharp, insightful, thoughtful, and knock-you-on-your-ass funny. However, I don’t need an interview to learn that. It doesn’t require imposing on anyone else’s time, which is life’s most precious commodity. If you weren’t able to connect with who Clark is in person, I recommend revisiting her art. Get to know St. Vincent.
St. Vincent: https://ilovestvincent.com/home/
GQ: Switching Lanes With St. Vincent by Molly Young: https://www.gq.com/story/st-vincent-and-art-of-never-being-boring
A CELEBRITY POSTSCRIPT by Molly Young: http://molly-young.com/stvincent.html Molly has since removed this story from her website. Screenshots of the original piece below: