Alice Carrière charts the loss and recovery of selfhood in a stunning debut memoir.
On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, Alice Carrière joins us to discuss Everything/Nothing/Someone (Spiegel & Grau, Aug. 29), a finely wrought memoir of mental illness that Kirkus calls “spellbinding.”
Debut author Carrière had a remarkable childhood: She grew up at 134 Charles Street in New York’s West Village, the humungous residence and studio of her famous mother, Jennifer Bartlett, an American artist known for paintings and installations that took up an uncommon amount of space. Her father, German actor and sex symbol Mathieu Carrière, was an intermittent presence whose behavior towards his child never conformed to traditional parental mores. The bulk of her care was managed by Nanny, a beloved British governess who attempted to shield her in a swirling world of art, money, power, and fame.
In adolescence, a dissociative disorder would erode Carrière’s sense of self until she could not recognize the face she saw in the mirror as her own. She was institutionalized and medicated to the point of complete collapse. But the ability to put words to her experience—and eventually, to write her own story—helped her reclaim her personhood and autonomy.
Here’s a bit from Kirkus’ starred review of Everything/Nothing/Someone: “Throughout this visceral text, the author propels readers forward with the gut-wrenching descriptions of her struggles and how they were exacerbated by the lack of a recognizable support system.…[Her] artistic prowess and determination to unearth and interpret the true narrative arc of her life and healing shine through. ‘Things only became real when they were turned into language,’ she writes, and ‘that language was often the only thing left when that reality fell apart.’ This book is the exemplification of that ideal, rendering real and poignant her experience—both material and interior—in stunning prose.”
Carrière introduces Everything/Nothing/Someone to listeners. Then she and host Megan Labrise discuss what it was like for her to grow up at 134 Charles Street; how nothing—including the decoration of her childhood bedroom—was under her control; the way the word maybe features in the opening of the book; how maybes seem to function as absolutes in Carrière’s early life; a definition of dissociative disorder; the book’s lovely language; how language helped her reclaim a sense of self; how she thought about point of view; recording the audiobook, and the significant role audiobooks played in her life; the way the word care features at the book’s end; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
Phoebe’s Diary by Phoebe Wahl (Little, Brown)
Mexikid by Pedro Martín (Dial Books)
Exit Interview: The Life and Death of My Ambitious Career by Kristi Coulter (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Fraud by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press)
Also mentioned on this episode:
Layers: A Memoir, written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Montana Kane
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
Thanks to our sponsors:
There Are No Answers Here, Only Questions: A Memoir by Charles Bruce McIntyre
Botheration (Part Three: Epiphany) by Vito DiBarone
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.