Gladfest: Interview with Katherine Angel | Gladstone's Library

Gladfest: Interview with Katherine Angel

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Katherine AngelAs part of our Fifty Days of Gladfest, we caught up with Katherine Angel to discuss her event at Gladfest, Unmastered (which is now available to buy in paperback from our Reception), and her love of Lana del Rey...


GLADSTONE’S LIBRARY (GL): Can you sum up your book Unmastered in 50 words?

KATHERINE ANGEL (KA): It’s a literary non-fiction book, written in the first person, about agency and power in sex, in speech, and in life. It uses material from my own life to explore the importance and difficulties of speaking desire as a woman.

GL: What inspired you to write Unmastered?

KA: I wanted to create a space for exploring what pleasure and desire can feel like, in such a way that could be critical and joyful; curious and compassionate. I wanted to create a space, an object, that could contain contradiction and ambivalence. And I wanted to think about how we know whether our desires are our own – especially given that desire is always social.

GL: You’ll be joining us at Gladfest for a talk on Actress-Women, Presenters of Themselves; what will it be about?

KA: My talk will look at what we tend to think are the risks involved in writing from one’s own experience, particularly bodily experience. I’ll suggest that we tend to see such writing as involving an ‘exposure’ which potentially undermines one’s privacy, power, and dignity – and I’ll argue that that relies on misguided assumptions about what it is to have a body and to be a person, as well as about what non-fiction is.

GL: Who is your event for? Is it necessary to be an expert in feminism to enjoy it?

KA: It’s for anyone and everyone! No-one needs to be an expert in feminism or anything else. You just need to be interested in books, writing, literature, ideas…

GL: In 2013, you were part of a panel alongside Dr. Rowan Williams and Lord Victor Adebowale discussing ‘The Future Society & Human Relationships’. What was that like?

KA: It was fun. Rowan Pelling organised the panel. I’d not spoken alongside an ex-Archbishop before… I read a short essay on gender, writing and love. I seem to remember making a purely visual joke about marriage, based on Beyoncé’s Single Ladies….

GL: Aside from your own, which Gladfest writer’s talk are you hoping to crash?

KA: Richard Holloway’s, because he’s very interesting; Francesca Haig’s, because I think a lot about the relationship between poetry and prose; and Sarah Perry’s, because I loved her novel.

GL: As we know from your impromptu singing sessions in the Gladstone’s Room, you are a pretty brilliant singer! Which tune can you not get out of your head at the moment?

KA: Haha, well thank you! Well, I have been listening to Lana Del Rey’s new album quite obsessively, and the other morning T-Rex’s Cosmic Dancer came into my head and wouldn’t leave – and I’ve been listening to Morrissey’s beautiful live cover of it from 1991.

Katherine Angel's event, 'Actress-Women, Presenters of Themselves', will be on Saturday 6 September at 1pm, and tickets cost £6. Her book, Unmastered, is available to buy from the reception now.