Meet Helen Ellis, author of American Housewife: Stories. “I think housewives are powerful and slightly deranged. But so am I,” she told Vogue, laughing. The stories in American Housewife beguile and entrance – and if they sometimes have an Alice in Wonderland quality, Ellis is the all-knowing Cheshire cat.
Check out these titles: “What I Do All Day,” “Southern Lady Code,” “Hello! Welcome to Book Club” and “How to be a Patron of the Arts.” Some of the stories are quite short – two or three pages – just like the best cocktail party chit chat. In one, the lovely housewife tells you how she gets ready for a party (“I pinwheel. I toothpick. I bacon.”). She makes a few observations during the party (“I study long-married couples and decide that wives are like bras: sometimes the most matronly are the most supportive.”) She concludes by seeing the guests out and fixing herself a hot chocolate “because it is a gateway drug to reading.”
Not all of the narrators are as guilelessly charming. One housewife plots the death of a neighbor in her co-op, and another runs an undercover operation out of her book club that’s almost as creepy as Sweeney Todd. But there won’t be any blood on the carpet! Never.
When you finish the book, you’ll be anxious for the next trip down the rabbit hole.
Ellis, clearly a rule-follower, answered the Author Questionnaire for Southern Festival of Books authors precisely: Five Questions, Fifteen Words or Less for each answer. Here they are:
What household chore do you enjoy?
Cleaning the toilet while listening to erotic audiobooks.
Did you ever read books you weren’t supposed to?
No, and that’s why as an adult I joined a Classic Trashy Book Club.
Tell us about your pet!
Tang Tang has 6 teeth and Big Boy weighs 25 pounds.
What can always be found in your refrigerator?
Mayonnaise. And backup mayonnaise.
Any game you especially love?
I play poker like a grown-ass lady.
Please join me to see Helen Ellis on Saturday October 15th at 2:00 at the Southern Festival of Books, Legislative Plaza, Room 31.
You might also want to check out this excellent profile in The New York Times, “The Real Housewife of New York (Who Happens to be a Poker Star).” One observation: “When you meet Helen, at first you think: president of a Southern college sorority,” said one of her bridge guests, Jean McKeever. “What you find is she’s this hilarious, twisted, many-layered person.”
There’s also a great feature on Ellis in Vogue: “In person, Ellis has the manic energy and petite good looks of Megan Mullally on Will & Grace. She’s a funny combination of gracious bearing, outspoken opinions, healthy appetite, and Southern reserve. And like her characters, Ellis’s own story gets more and more interesting the longer you listen.”
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Quick note, Bacon readers: I’ll have a post up every day this week featuring Southern Festival of Books authors coming to Nashville October 14-16th! I promise I’ll turn down the volume next week.