Exclusive: Wendy McClure on Poetry, Gruel, and the Art of a Good Sex Crime Recap


She’s a columnist for BUST magazine, the author of the memoir I’m Not the New Me and the humor book The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan, and the blogger behind Poundy.com — but we first found out about Wendy McClure because of her hilarious re-caps on Television Without Pity.

If you live in New York, catch her this Sunday night at the good words @ Good World reading series (“Jami Attenberg and I will be reading excerpts from bad Amazon reviews of our books,” promises Wendy. “We will give voice to their angry souls and everyone will feel better in the end.”); after the jump our interview with this incredibly funny Chicago-based talent.

Flavorwire: What was the hardest re-cap you ever had to tackle for Television Without Pity?

Wendy McClure: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I recapped about one-fourth of a season, I think. [Read them here.] It was hard to be snarky with a show like that. It turns out there’s only one thing that’s worse than trying to make fun of depressing sex crimes, and that’s finding out that you seem to have a knack for making fun of depressing sex crimes. I was glad when we decided to drop the show from our coverage, because it was getting so I’d watch and think things like, man, that guy’s the lamest hooker-killer ever! That was rough.

FW: What’s the biggest misconception about the people who read Bust?

WM: That we knit our own burlesque-show costumes. No, we do not.

FW: We were just reading something about the Oliver Twist diet. Would you rather be doing that or eating off of those vintage Weight Watchers cards?

WM: Wait, so the Oliver Twist diet is three pints of gruel a day, right? Okay, let me think. The thing is, I’ve tried only one of the 1974 Weight Watcher recipes, and that was the Slender Quencher, which is a drink made of water and beef boullion powder and sherry extract, and you know, I thought it would just be kind of like soup. And soup is good food! That’s totally the slogan of soup! Whereas I guess the slogan for gruel is “God Is Love,” if you think of the opening of the Oliver Twist movie as a great big gruel commercial, which it really sort of is, and while “God Is Love” has a nice ring to it, it doesn’t come out and say how gruel tastes. But maybe “God ls Love” is like one of those those things that don’t directly claim anything in relation to the product for legal reasons, like that “HeadOn—Apply Directly To Forehead” commercial. You’ve seen that commercial, right? I guess I can’t blame gruel for not being more “on message,” because I’ve heard it’s horrible. But you know what? The Slender Quencher was horrible, too. It tasted like salty beef mouthwash. It was like a boozy beef-jerky Snapple. It was not good food at all. And that’s why I’m never going to try gruel, because I would hate to find out that God is not love, if that were really the case, and I hope it’s not.

FW: What was it like studying poetry? Who is the one poet we haven’t heard of that we all need to know about?

WM: I guess for me it was like anything else when you study when you’re 22 years old and are really into it. Which is to say, I loved it and I didn’t understand it and I imitated many of the things I loved and didn’t understand. I supposed I learned from that, even if it was learning what my limitations are. The one poet nobody’s heard of that we all need to know about is all of them, because poetry is really shamefully undervalued. All of the poets! Plus Laura Jensen.

FW: Your Zulkey interview mentions Carolyn Knapp. Have you reading Drinking: A Love Story? We found it traumatizing.

WM: This is going to sound like a joke, but it’s not: I don’t remember anything about Drinking: A Love Story, except that it was really good — I mean, her writing was so clear and great — and that I tended to get a sympathetic headache from reading her descriptions of mornings after drinking. But I was reading it during a really stressful time in my life, when someone in my family was sick, so maybe that’s why I didn’t retain much of it. So wait, did something really traumatic happen in the book that I missed? Or was the traumatic thing that she was a high-functioning alcoholic? Or that reading it made you feel like you didn’t have your life together any more than she did? [Editor’s note: Probably that last one.]

FW: Finish this sentence: If I’m Not the New Me had a soundtrack it would include…

WM: …bonus instrumental tracks for your karaoke pleasure! So that you could make an ass of yourself singing “Let’s Go Crazy” and “I Want You to Want Me” the way I did in the book. Lyrics are in the enclosed booklet.