AUTHOR of thirteen books, a play, a libretto for a dance opera, and several cut-and-paste novels, Seattle-based Rebecca Brown has been dubbed “the greatest secret of American letters” by literary bad boy Dale Peck, while Sonic Youth singer-guitarist Thurston Moore calls her “America’s only real rock ’n’ roll schoolteacher” in a blurb on the back of Brown’s 2009 collection American Romances. Brown’s most famous work, the 1994 AIDS novel The Gifts of the Body, won the Lambda Literary Award. Her lesser known gems include the 1992 novel-in-stories The Terrible Girls, the prose poems from Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig (2005), and the fictionalized autobiography The End of Youth (2003).
I met Brown in her cozy blue house (decorated with paintings by fellow Seattleite Nancy Kiefer and Belle and Sebastian posters), where the author lives with her wife Chris and their two cats. Out in the backyard, in her writing studio, Brown works among statues and stained-glass images of saints, a Franz Kafka puppet, pictures of her family, heaps of CDs and sheets of paper, as well as many books. “It’s a pit,” Brown comments, “it’s packed with books, and vaguely I can get to them.”