Review & Interview: Things I Can’t Explain by Mitchell Kriegman


About Things I Can’t Explain

She was a smart, snappy, light-hearted girl who knew it all at fourteen. Now a woman in her late twenties, her searching blue eyes are more serious, but mostly amused by the people around her. The gap-toothed smile that made her seem younger than she really was is gone, but she still lightens up the room. Her unpredictable wardrobe rocks just like when she was a kid, but her fashion sense has evolved and it makes men and women turn their heads.

After leaving high school early, Clarissa interned at the Daily Post while attending night school. At the ripe old age of twenty- two she had it made – her own journalism beat (fashion, gender politics and crime), an affordable apartment in FiDi and a livable wage. She was so totally ahead of the game. Ah, those were the days! All three of them. Remember the Stock Market Crash of 08? Remember when people actually bought newspapers?

All of Clarissa’s charming obsessions, charts, graphs, and superstitions have survived into adulthood, but they’ve evolved into an ever-greater need to claw the world back under control. Her mid-twenties crisis has left her with a whole set of things she can’t explain: an ex-boyfriend turned stalker, her parents’ divorce, a micro relationship with the cute coffee guy, java addiction, “To-Flue Glue,” and then there’s Sam. Where’s Sam anyway?

Things I Can’t Explain is about knowing it all in your teens and then feeling like you know nothing in your twenties.

My Review

My niece was a huge fan of Clarissa Explains it All, and of course we would watch the show together. This book allows fans to catch up and discover what this opinionated, intelligent and pretentious twenty-something year old is doing, thanks to Kriegman we are given a generous opportunity.

Clarissa is a likable young lady, most relate to, dealing with issues the best she can. In other words – she’s like you and me, causing appeal. Clarissa is all grown up, facing adult issues, her life is far from perfect but she keeps on and carries herself with grace, self-assured, poised. She struggles with career, family and romantic issues, everyday life. Kriegman does a wonderful job translating the television version of Clarissa to a realistic paper version of this quirky girl without missing a beat. Mature, determined and possessing even more savvy fashion style than before, fans will enjoy catching up with this humorous, adorable, happy gal as she stumbles with success in NYC.

I’m assuming there will be a sequel. Kriegman left loose ends with Clarissa and Sam, just enough to do another check in and see what direction Clarissa’s love life headed.

Great book leaving you laughing and in total understanding of what plausible scenarios Clarissa deals with along with trying to make heads or tails of, fan or not, you will be after reading this glimpse into charming Clarissa’s life.

Interview with Mitchell Kriegman

A Tattered Copy extends a warm welcome to Mitchell Kriegman, author of
Things I Can’t Explain. Thank you for joining A Tattered Copy

Thanks for having me. I have a few tattered copies of my own.

For Starters tell us a bit about Things I Can’t Explain.

Well, it’s about Clarissa. You know her, right? The girl from Clarissa Explains it All. I know that was a long time ago in fact she’s in her late twenties now. And things aren’t so easy to explain. But she has the same style and spirit, but life is way harder than it was when she was a tweenager. so this is Clarissa living in the world today doing all the things she couldn’t do when she was a kid and trying to make sense of —falling in love, stalker ex boyfriends, the unemployment line and entrpreneurial moms. And then there’s Sam. Damn, what happened to Sam? You know when you have a soulmate…and they’ve gone?

When did you first, without hesitation, call yourself a writer?

Either a) I called myself a writer from the age of two or b) I’m still not sure. My definition of being a writer is that “a writer is someone for whom writing is difficult” so if that’s the definition we’re working with I’ve been a writer for a long time.

What’s the earliest memory you have of writing a story?

When every night I’d sit in my bed and plot how I’d run away from home after midnight, through the side door, through the yard, over the cinderblock wall, walking until dawn and I reached a gas station and then I’d try to get a job there. Eventually I’d sleep in a little room above the shop, take care of the German shepherd, pump gas and get paid a little until I learned how to repair cars. I put myself to sleep going through that story over and over until I could fall asleep.

What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

I like beginning and ending. I don’t like the middle so much.

How do you work with an editor without the pride thing getting in the way?

Is it pride? Or is it a sense of rejection? Being misunderstood? No one understanding you? The way I deal with it is that I’ve learned not to react right away. Sometimes I even get someone else to read the notes first and tell me about them. Then I try to address in the manuscript everything they say and decide if I like it or not. But I try to put it in first. First time I had a story in The New Yorker, Veronica Geng, who was amazing – she discovered Phillip Roth – had a bunch of notes on my story and I was like “who does she think she is? If my story is good enough to publish than it’s good enough to leave alone.” Then slowly I realized “Oh she’s making my story better. Maybe even good. Maybe even a lot better than it was. She’s helping me write a story.” Then I shut up.

What technology do you use for writing?

Any I can find. I am hoping to get an anti-matter word processor I hear it’s the latest thing.

Describe your writing style in ten words or less.

Jeez, I don’t think I know – a journey with words?

When you hear from your readers, what do they say?

So far so good. A lot are surprised that the story turns and gets serious. And I’m pleased with that because they were surprised and went somewhere deeper.

How do you use social media to promote your writing?

Desperately. Anyway I can. Embrace it, don’t take it too seriously. Try everything and try not to waste too much time.

How is this world a better place because of your books?

There’s a Patty Griffin song, “One More Girl.” There are both too many books and not enough. I’m “one more girl with a book” trying to communicate my experience even though it’s through the eyes of Clarissa or Lisbeth. It’s a self Pygmalion thing. How to creatively transform who you are into who you want to be. It’s also about that discrepancy between what you have inside and how the world sees you. That discrepancy is devastating.

About Mitchell KriegmanMitchell_Kriegman_headshot_medium

Mitchell Kriegman is the author of Being Audrey Hepburn, and an upcoming novel due out in late 2015 called Things I Can’t Explain — a modern day sequel to his groundbreaking cult classic 90s Nickelodeon show, Clarissa Explains it All.

Mitchell was also the executive story editor of the original Ren and Stimpy. Rugrats, Doug and Rocko’s Modern Life. He created and won four Emmy’s for his work on other childrens’ classics such as Bear in the Big Blue House, Book of Pooh and It’s a Big Big World. Besides writing original screenplays for Rogue, Universal, Disney, Columbia Pictures and others, his short stories have been published in The New Yorker, the National Lampoon, Glamour, New York Press and Harper’s Bazaar.

Before joining the team of SNL as a filmmaker, performer and writer, Mitchell began his career performing “An Evening of Stories and Tricks You Won’t See Anywhere” and other original performance art at the New York Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, Franklin Furnace and more. His video works are part of The Museum of Broadcasting, Whitney Museum, and London Institute among others.

Connect with Mitchell  Website | Twitter | Facebook

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