August 28, 2020
The author of The Girls talks about Weinstein, weathering a plagiarism allegation and her new short story collection, Daddy
In the many photos of Emma Cline that appeared in the media in 2016, when her hugely successful first book, The Girls, was published, she tended to look both severe and fragile, guarded yet also exposed. Not since the publication of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth in 2000 had a young woman made such a splash with a debut literary novel and, as with Smith, people were as fascinated by the author as they were with her book. Cline, then 27, was paid an almost unprecedented $2m advance, and the film rights sold before the book was even published. She was photographed in Vogue, interviewed by the New Yorker, feted everywhere. Yet she always looked like she was holding her breath, as if she was watching something terrible approach on the horizon. So I’m a little surprised to be greeted by a relaxed and smiling young woman on my computer screen when Cline, now 31, and I connect by Zoom.
“I’m editing a novel that I wrote last year, but only in fits and starts. I haven’t been working in a concentrated way, and I’m very jealous of people who have been. I just feel tremendously stupid, like I’ve lost all personality,” she laughs, when I ask how she’s been spending lockdown. “I was hoping to turn in a final draft by the end of the summer, but time has gone so sticky.”