Scaachi Koul is a senior writer at BuzzFeed whose work has appeared in publications ranging from The New Yorker to The Globe and Mail. Her debut collection of essays, One Day We'll Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, was recently published by Doubleday Canada.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
My brother once told me: "The thing about being mean is, I don't care." Politeness has never been my forte but it's an even bigger waste of my time the more I advance in my career. For women, politeness is usually more about holding someone back than keeping social order – men don't have to worry about being mean. I get in trouble alarmingly often for not adjusting my tone, for not being nice when people bare their teeth at me, because women can't be mean, can't be aggressive. (Women who aren't white, even more so, have to maintain grace in the face of literally anything.) I'm running out of time to care. I'll be nice when I'm dead.
Which historical period do you wish you'd lived through?
Who wrote these questions? This is a question for a white person. History has not been kind to brown women, there's no safe space for me to go without being murdered. Maybe I can go to space? Socially and politically, space seems like a safe bet. I would like to go to space, please.
What scares you as a writer?
The possibility that the work you're pulling out of yourself won't have value outside of yourself, that people won't be able to read it and find a version of themselves in it, that it's navel-gazing instead of forward-facing, that it creates isolation instead of providing comfort from crushing, inescapable loneliness and the thing you've tied to your self-worth is worthless and now everyone knows you're just some fraud who tricked a publisher into offering up a book deal. Also, apparently sitting in a chair for a long time gives you cancer or some garbage so that's another thing to think about.
Which books have you reread most in your life?
Everything by David Sedaris. I found him when I was on the cusp of teenagedom, at a Costco where my mom used to buy me books mostly to distract me from eating 15 Pizza Pocket samples. It was the first time I had read memoir, namely from a writer whose voice knocked around in your head for days, weeks after you read it. After reading Naked, I asked for the rest of his collection for my birthday and plowed through them, multiple times, memorizing lines and trying to get my friends to read them so we could talk about my favourite essays. (They did not; teenagers are dumb.) His writing is tragic and desperately funny and familiar and familial. Even now, when I'm looking for comfort, I reach for Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim or Me Talk Pretty One Day.
What's more important: The beginning of a book or the end?
The middle. The beginning only matters as a way to predict how the story might unfold. The end doesn't matter because then it's over. Live in the middle, where there's potential for something beautiful, where you've already started, where a likely disappointing end is still miles – or pages – away. (I'm really fun at parties, can you tell?)