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St. Louisan, bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld discusses book of short stories, TV series

St. Louis author Curtis Sittenfeld was a guest on St. Louis on the Air Monday. | May 14, 2018
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A few years ago as a guest on St. Louis on the Airauthor Benjamin Percy described Curtis Sittenfeld as “St. Louis’ literary warlord.”

Though she doesn’t proclaim command over the St. Louis region’s nearly 3 million residents or the authors who call it home, Sittenfeld’s residence here is a point of pride as is her authority over the English language in writing compelling stories. The bestselling author of five novels including “Prep,” “American Wife” and “Sisterland” has just released yet another book of fiction – and this one is a collection of short stories.

In “You Think It, I’ll Say It,” Sittenfeld shares the kinds of stories that people might sometimes think but never say.

One of the short stories is called “The World Has Many Butterflies.”

“In it, there’s a man and a woman married to other people but when they see each other they play this game that she thinks of as ‘I’ll think it, you say it,’ where she sort of makes judgmental comments about people they mutually know as if she’s speaking on behalf of both of them. But whether that’s true gets called into question as the story unfolds,” Sittenfeld explained to host Don Marsh on Monday. “In a larger sense, my hope is that I’m saying some of the unspeakable things that readers might think, that people might think when they’re walking around in daily life.

“So [the title] is sort of supposed to be a comment on the stories themselves, all the stories, and not just one specific story.”

Many of the stories involve scenes that Marsh described as “saucy.”

“Saucy is subjective,” Sittenfeld replied. “But it’s true there are scenes that are sort of sexual scenes, scenes that include bodily functions, scenes that people make cringe-inducing confessions.

“It is a little mysterious to me even why I choose to write about these subjects, why I embrace embarrassingness and awkwardness.”

Yet the sex scenes aren’t gratuitous in that they advance the storytelling, as Sittenfeld explained, to move it forward, to make it something that keeps her writing going and readers reading.

“My favorite themes actually are homosexuality, infidelity and physical appearance,” she joked. “I’ve been waiting for someone to point that out publicly.”

“I think something that I’m interested in is the discrepancy between our lives as we privately or personally experience them or the way we present ourselves publicly whether in real life or on social media and how there can be a discrepancy between the two,” Sittenfeld said. “There can be this huge gulf between how we’re acting and how we feel emotionally or, you know, how we behave with a person and what we really think of them.”

An adaptation of “You Think It, I’ll Say It” will make its way to the small screen.

A company that includes actress Reese Witherspoon as executive producer optioned Sittenfeld’s work, and it’s set to star Kristen Wiig in a 10-episode comedy series for Apple TV.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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