As a single mother, Merritt Tierce worked in a high-end steak house in Dallas. The Denton writer draws on her waitressing experience to create the character Marie, who lives in a numb world of sex and drugs in Tierce’s debut novel, Love Me Back. I spoke with Tierce about the bleak but beautifully written book. It was just published last week, but it’s already drawing praise from the literary world.
- WordSpace hosts a book launch for Meritt Tierce. She’ll sign and read from Love Me Back at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff.
- Listen to our conversation, which aired on KERA FM:
Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
On main character Marie’s motivation…I think it’s both [Marie trying to feel and keeping herself from feeling]. She is trying to just figure out who she is and how to be. It’s a really extreme version of pinching yourself…to make sure you’re there somewhere and that it’s all really happening. But then…she also is trying to punish herself very explicitly.
On the ambiguity of “The Restaurant” mentioned in her book…I tried out different aliases for a place that has a lot in common with the real place where I worked. And the restaurant was actually just a placeholder towards the end of my writing of the book. I realized that I liked that a lot because it pointed deliberately at the universality of this culture. And something that’s important to me to point out is that this is not a book that is about that one place where I worked. That culture is somehow really consistent across a certain price point in fine dining. It’s a really intense, dark culture. I think a lot is expected of the wait staff and there’s always a lot of drugs and general wantonness and sex and there’s an effort after hours to recoup whatever humanity is suppressed to get through your shift.
On the dark side of being a high-end waiter: It’s a stage, it’s a performance. You’re expected to provide a very specific experience for people who expect very specific things in their lives related to wealth. The more money you have, the easier it is to see people as tools. And you can create so much distance around yourself with your money that you forget that the people that are doing things for you are also people.
On the the idea of shame…I think that it is perhaps the most powerful emotional force out there. You could write any story or present any story in any form and posit that this character did this, whatever they did, because of shame and there’s really nothing I wouldn’t buy.