Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 57

Mary Dixie Carter, Novelist

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Show notes

Mary Dixie Carter, a journalist and author, talks about her journey after graduating from Harvard. She starts with her novel,  The Photographer. The novel focuses on Delta Dawn, a disturbed woman who is the subject of the novel. Mary explains that she got the idea for the book when she hired a photographer to take pictures of her kids. 

The photographer took photos of the children but the eyes in the photos were unnaturally bright blue. When questioned, the photographer said that there is no real color, which made Mary think about the photographer’s point of view, and how the character could make the world whatever she wanted it to be. This later transpired to be a novel about a woman who is an outsider and wants desperately to be part of something.

The character in the novel is a photographer who inserts herself into a wealthy Manhattan family, and over the course of the book she becomes an integral part of the family. Her behavior is considered to be horrible, and it is suggested that her desperate desire to belong and her misplaced idea of what that means is the reason for this. The photographer ends up using the family and the family uses her, forming an awkward and fraught relationship.

Mary talks about how her characters are based on a combination of her own experiences and people she knows. She talks about how the creepiness of the book reflects the dark and disturbing side of human nature. Will and Mary discuss the importance of creating art that reflects a variety of experiences and perspectives. 

Mary talks about the media she did for the book and the questions. She explains that she was often asked where she got the idea for the book and the character, in addition to questions about motherhood, and social media. She also talks about lying, why she is so interested in it,  and how it is at the core of the book, as Delta Dawn lies to herself and actually believes the stories she makes up. Finally, she notes that we all come into contact with people who lie to themselves.

A Career in Acting and Journalism

Mary has had an interesting journey since graduating college. She moved to New York and auditioned for plays and studied acting, then moved to Los Angeles for a few years where she was cast in plays and classical theater.  Eventually she moved back to the East Coast when her husband was accepted to Harvard, and she accepted her father’s offer to work for his newspaper, The New York Observer. She worked there for six years until Jared Kushner bought the paper and she left. She started freelancing and wrote for various publications such as The Economist, San Francisco Chronicle and Chicago Tribune.

After becoming pregnant with her first child and her mother passing away, she decided to focus her creative energy on writing. She wrote a novel which was not published, and eventually put it aside before moving on and writing the book that became The Photographer.

 Finding an Agent and Focusing on Writing

After a period of struggling to be published, Mary found a wonderful agent and is thrilled with the people at Minotaur Books, St. Martin’s Press who published her first book. She is currently writing her second book tentatively called Marguerite by the Lake, which has a bit of a Gothic feel, meanwhile, the first book is being developed into a TV series. Though it has taken longer than she expected, she hopes to have the second book finished by the end of the summer, potentially releasing it in 2024.

Meeting the Trumps

Mary shares a few thoughts on Jared Kushner when he bought the paper from her father. She noted that he was very knowledgeable and charming in the beginning, but changed his direction once the paper was sold. She believes that Jared lacks a moral compass, and does what is convenient and most beneficial to him at the time, rather than being rooted in what is right or good. Mary talks about meeting Donald Trump. Mary speculated that Trump was hoping to get some positive coverage in the newspaper where she was working, but the newspaper had integrity and wouldn’t write a puff piece about Trump.

Reflections on Professors and Courses
When thinking back to Harvard, Mary reflects on two influential teachers,  Helen Vendler. She was greatly impacted by Helen’s readings of poetry, as she was able to experience the sound of the words and their lyricism. The second teacher, D. A. Miller’s unique approach to Jane Austen was also impactful, as he was able to teach the novels in a way that truly allowed her to appreciate the literature. Both of these teachers left a lasting impression on the speaker, and have likely influenced her reading and writing.


00:01 The Inspiration behind The Photographer

07:21 The story behind the main character in her novel 

18:44 Acting and Working for the New York Observer 

26:34 Writing Process and Upcoming Book Release 

27:58 Upcoming TV Series Adaptation 

36:23  Donald Trump’s Motivations for meeting with the Newspaper 

42:34 Reflections on meeting Jared Kushner 

47:14 Education and Writing 





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Will Bachman, Mary Dixie Carter


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 90 T report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host, will Bachman. If you visit 92 You can sign up for the weekly email and see all the transcripts of all the past episodes. I’m here today with my friend from college. I’m so excited about this Mary Dixie Carter. She is a journalist and an author. She’s the author of the photographer, which is the creepiest novel I’ve read in many years. Super creeped me out. Oh, my goodness, what a imagination. I mean, I’m almost creeped up by this conversation. Mary, welcome to the show.


Mary Dixie Carter  00:49

Oh, thank you for having me.


Will Bachman  00:53

So, you have written a novel we can. I mean, normally, I just start by asking you about, you know, tell me your journey since Harvey, but I want to start with this novel that I recently read, you have created a one disturbing woman Delta dawn came out of your brain and you write this book. From her perspective, this is told from the perspective of Delta Don, tell us a little bit of a give us a thumbnail on this novel.


Mary Dixie Carter  01:25

Okay, well, I got the idea for this book, when I hired a photographer to take pictures of my kids. And they were they were younger at that time. And I got the pictures back. And their eyes in the photos were cobalt blue, like very, very bright blue. And they’re not in real life. And I said to photographer, I’d like for the children’s eyes to be their real color. And she said there is no real color. And I was like, wow, well, so it’s stuck with me that like that point of view that there was no real color. So I just wrote at that time, I wrote like a few pages from this photographers point of view. And this woman who kind of feels like she can make the she can make the photo, anything she wants it to be there she can make, she can make life anything she wants it to be, she can just change it to suit what she thinks it should be. And then, and then it was a couple years later that I wrote the novel. So I at that time when when I had that, that interaction with that photographer, I was actually working on a different novel, a novel that was never published. So when I finally put that first novel aside and moved on, moved on from it, I went back to those few pages that I’d written about this woman who, you know, sees the world a certain way. And I was still really fascinated by her mind. And so the book is really not I don’t know, the photographer well enough to have visited upon her at all. But it was just that core idea. And then once I sort of got into that person’s head, there were a lot of other things that came with that, I guess that personality. And a lot of it was, I think was from like a place of feeling like an outsider feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere, and wanting to be a part of something in this desperate, desperate way. So some of her horrible behavior and she does behave horribly. Is is this desperate desire to belong? And, and a misplaced idea of what that even means? Yeah, I think


Will Bachman  04:25

and just for some context, the photographer. I don’t want to we don’t want to be spoilers here, but she inserts herself into a wealthy Manhattan family. And over the course of the book gets, you know, closer and closer and insinuates itself more told from her perspective where from her perspective, it’s totally everything is very reasonable that she’s doing but she’s telling the story and we are kind of horrified, completely creeped out by what this what she’s doing and I think I don’t know This is probably particularly for Manhattan and New York City families can sympathize with this, it just in a big city, often, you know, particularly wealthier people there have people involved in their lives, you know, housekeepers, and, you know, tutors and babysitters, and, you know, I mean, I don’t have all those things, but like, right people would. And so you can imagine how someone, one of those people supporting you, like, on your staff, quote, unquote, would imagine sort of how that could. Could go could go awry?


Mary Dixie Carter  05:38

Yes. So if exactly like, so she, and that relationship is sort of a, an awkward one, and maybe a fraught, one like, and that’s another thing that, that is interesting to me, she sort of is, like, treated like an equal by the family. So she starts out as their photographer, and then she finds other ways to insinuate herself into this family’s life. She’s not like working for them, but she just finds ways to become kind of integral. And, and so they’re sort of using her and she’s sort of using them. And it’s hard to say, like, who’s using who the most. They treat her sort of, like, she’s part of the family, but they also don’t, in that they, there’s some way that it’s patronizing or like, condescending, or like, there’s definitely still this, this hierarchy like that, and, and she chooses a times to only see the parts of their behavior that are warm and welcoming. Until she doesn’t. And then. So she finds more and more inappropriate and horrible ways in which to, in which to like, solidifying her position in this family at all costs.


Will Bachman  07:21

Yeah. The book came out a couple years ago. I’m curious, you mean, it was written up in a ton of places, right? If you go on Amazon, you can see quotes from like, one of the five books not to miss from USA Today. And lots of Publishers Weekly, the publishers week of summer reads 2021, a lots of places, you must have done a lot of media. I’m curious, what are the most common? Two or three or four questions that you’d get from journalists, when you did media for this book?


Mary Dixie Carter  07:53

Well, I guess the one thing is, where did you get the idea for this book, which I just talk to you about that photographer? That’s one thing. And and sometimes they would say, you know, you know, is, you seem so nice, like, tell us? Did you know, who is this delta Dawn is She is like, how did you get to this character? And and so then I would sort of, you know, explain that how I got to delta dot. They also, you know, there was there was a range of different things. Sometimes it was images, like sometimes the question had to do with like social media, and because the book is a lot about images, and the importance of images almost like being more important than reality for this woman, that social media, what is sort of a natural conversation to have, even though there’s not a lot of social media in the book, but, you know, it is sort of the same conversation about like, images, replacing real, real interactions with people and using images to sort of like, live off of instead of like, in person contact with one another. Then another thing they would ask me about is motherhood. So motherhood is sort of a theme of the book. There’s one mother who’s so I won’t give any too many spoilers, hopefully, but like, there’s this family and there’s the main mother. Her name is Amelia And she has a daughter, an 11 year old daughter, and she’s really desperate for a second child desperate for a second child. And her desperation for a second child is it, it is a little bit like. More like, it’s not it doesn’t come necessarily from the right place, I would say. And delta is sort of you finds that vulnerability in her and decides to exploit it, I guess. And Delta’s wanting Delta’s view of motherhood, I guess, and how she behaves as a mother or doesn’t behave as a mother and meal is take on motherhood, which she’s actually a very poor mother and neglects her child. So then there’s an irony that she like, really desperately wants the second child, because she doesn’t even look after the child that she has. So anyway, I’m going off on that, but that, I would often end up talking about motherhood, as like, in you know, when I, if I were having an interview, I would also talk about lying. And lying is like, to me lying is at the core of the book, because I think it’s what I’m, like most interested in. And what kind of prompted this book to come to my mind is people who are lying to themselves, in addition to lying to others, but the worst kind of lying, or the most disturbing kind of lying, I think, is someone who’s lying to themselves and really, really believes their own lie. So delta Dawn, you know, she will edit this photo and change the reality of what happened in the photo, and then actually, believe it, like, believe the, the new image, and then in the stories that she tells herself about her own life, about the Strawbs life, that’s the family that she’s inserted herself into. And she actually believes these stories. And so in, in my own life, and I think probably this, I would guess this is true for everyone to a certain extent, that you have come into contact with people who lie to themselves. And, and it’s really hard to, it’s really hard to have a conversation with that person and have a relationship with that person. Because you can’t argue with them. Because there you can never get to like what actually happened, because they have been chosen to have their own set of facts and history. And, and so, so yeah, so I, I am really interested in lying and, and that I feel like sort of plays a pretty big role. And everyone, you know, other characters are lying to themselves as well. Delta Dawn is the most obvious but Amelia and Amelia, especially the mother, she is a kind of tells herself the story of her being a very good person and being very generous and, and, you know, props herself up with a story about herself, which, you know, if you really kind of, it sort of falls apart the story about herself that she likes to tell, because she actually is really narcissistic, and she’s very selfish and self centered. And so, so anyway, yeah, so that’s all like that would be like my talk about lying, which I would, you know, go on for a while. And then anything what other things I guess like I mentioned this towards the beginning, like the idea of being an outsider. And what, what that I how that feels to Delta, Delta dawn, and that being sort of the motivating thing that pushes her to try to insinuate herself into this family she she grew up in Florida she grew up in Disney World and her parents were janitors at Disney World. And so she grew up like looking at this sort of magical place with children, you know, everywhere having the times of their life, but she was not part of it, she was like watching it. So she brings that with her to kind of everything that she does, she feels like it’s the, the camera. And being a photographer is a metaphor for that in a way, which is like, she’s outside of the scene, she’s always outside of the scene, and taking a picture of it and looking in. And that’s sort of the role that she’s cast herself in, is the outsider. And it’s kind of self fulfilling, because she feels like the outsider. And therefore she is the outsider. And she’s very smart, very skilled, very successful and attractive. So she has a lot of like, she, there’s no reason for her to be an outsider, she doesn’t need to be. It is. I mean, she did start off with a lot of disadvantages. But at this point in her life when the book is taking place, a lot of it a lot of her outsider feeling she brings upon herself, I would say. So, yeah. And I’m an outsider thing. Oh, they would also sometimes say like, why, you know, why are you so interested in or? Or why are you so interested in the outsider theme? Or they might say, No, how? Why did you decide to make her from Florida? Or? I don’t know, what the rant, the answer, sometimes I would give about that. Outsider theme is like, I think that everyone feels like an outsider sometimes. And I don’t think it necessarily matters, like an even if might not, your kind of external circumstances might not look like you’re an outsider, in certain situations, and at certain times in one’s life. Everyone feels like an outsider, or most people, I think, have had that experience. And, and sometimes it’s warranted, and sometimes it’s not even warranted. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be that way. So it’s something I’m interested in is the person. Because I’ve felt that way in the past, and probably felt that way, at times when it wasn’t necessary to feel that way. The person who feels like the outsider. Anyway, so I’m going all off on on these different, these are the things that I’ve talked about, in interviews, like, these are some of the subjects I’ve talked about. And then sometimes people will say, Oh, you know, how did you? You know, get from, I started off acting out of college, and then I was a journalist, and then, you know, from being a journalist, and then I wrote a novel, and then like, how did you get to this point? So it would, in answering that question, I sort of say what I just said to you, which is, I did, I did start off acting, I was acting a lot in college, and then I continued acting like through my 20s. And then


Will Bachman  18:44

can you tell us a bit about that? We maybe I should take the time now to start my normal question. So tell us a little bit about your journey since graduating, and then I’d love to hear a bit about the acting.


Mary Dixie Carter  18:56

So, um, I first moved to New York after getting out of college, and I was auditioning, studying acting, and, you know, and also getting cast in plays. I was mainly doing theater, classical theater here in there. And, and then I went to so I was in New York for a couple of years. And I went to Los Angeles. Most of the things that the work that I got, was theater still, like, from the time that I had been in New York, even when I went down to Los Angeles, I was still got some theater and came back to the East Coast sometimes. And I and maybe like, I got one or two little things in television. So it was it was like I my career wasn’t like taking off and in any fabulous way, but I was I did Love acting, and I was really enjoying theater. I am moved back east to well, two things. One is Steve camp was on the east coast as my husband passed and on YouTube. At that time, I moved back east because he was doing a JD MBA at Harvard. And so I moved back to Cambridge, where he was at that time, and we got engaged, like, around I know, like, right after that, I think, or something. But then I moved to New York. And what brought me to New York, really was to go work for my dad’s newspaper, The New York Observer. So my father founded the New York Observer. And he was the publisher of the New York Observer. And he had asked me many times to come work for the New York Observer. And I was acting and I didn’t, and then I felt like that. I just felt like it was what I ought to do. So I went to work for my dad at the New York Observer, and then I was there for six years, I guess. And then he sold it, unfortunately, or fortunately, however, you want to look at it to Jared Kushner, who most of us know Jared Kushner, the son in law, Trump’s son in law. And so I had some, I had like six months of overlap with Jared Kushner and got to know him more than I ever needed to. And then I, and then I left and I started freelancing. And did like I wrote some articles for the economist I, I wrote book reviews for San Francisco Chronicle and Chicago Tribune, and I wrote like books and arts reviews. And then, and I was, I was doing that for a little while, I got pregnant with my first child, and and my mother passed away. And like, while I was pregnant, which isn’t directly relevant, but I wrote a novel while I was pregnant, that was not the photographer. So different novel. And then an eye after the, my baby was born, the night I rewrote it, I sent it around, I got an agent, I tried to, and I got a lot of good responses, people said really nice things about the book. But I it was not published, no one wanted to publish it. So I, you know, I went around in circles on that book for a while too long, probably. And then finally, I put it aside. And finally I moved on. And I wrote the photographer. And meanwhile, even while I was writing that book, I was also like, writing like, a lot of little ideas, like, you know, a short story or a few pages here, a few pages there. So the few pages that I wrote, that was like the, the core idea for the photographer, I had many of those, you know, that were on my computer that were like, a few pages of an idea for something. And then, but that was the one that I chose to go back to, eventually, and, and write that one. And then so so then I, I had an agent for that first book that was not published. And in retrospect, I realized was not the right agent for me at all. And I didn’t know that the book would have sold if I’d had the right agent, but I didn’t really think that he was the right person to work with. On my second book, so I found a wonderful agent. And I’m really, really happy with her. And then right around the time that so we started working together and then then it was the pandemic, like, the week that she was going to send my book out was the very beginning of the pandemic, like it was March of, you know, it was like March of 2020. And it was like I think the London Book Fair and it was canceled. She was going to she was going to meet with people at the London Book Fair she was going to submit it and and so I was like, Oh my God, what’s going to happen? We’re not going to like at the London Book Fair was canceled and and it all it all worked out wonderfully well. Anyway it was I’m thrilled with the people that that Minotaur books, St. Martin’s St. Martin’s Press who published it, I also got a two book deal, which is wonderful because then No, now I’m writing my second book. And, and I feel really lucky. But you know, it took a while, but I do feel really lucky that they wanted to publish the book. And, and, you know, excited that I get to write another book. And though it is a little different writing, you know, we’re writing on deadline is very different than writing the book. And then just hoping that someone’s interested in it, and someone wants to buy it. And they’re different in different ways. It’s like, the writing on deadline for someone who already wants your book. It’s wonderful. But it’s also a different kind of pressure, because you’re not just writing it for yourself, you’re writing it, you know, with other people that need to be pleased. You know what I mean? It’s so it’s a slightly different thing.


Will Bachman  26:34

When should we expect to see your second book?


Mary Dixie Carter  26:36

Oh, um, so it’s not quite done yet. It’s, I’m hoping, oh, I’m hoping it’s done by the end of the summer. Maybe it might be out next year. So like, if I, it might be out in 2024? It’s, it kind of depends. Yeah, it depends on on when it’s finished. And I’m hoping it’ll be finished, like maybe around the end of the summer, hopefully. So the second book is called Marguerite by the lake, or that’s the tentative title anyway, Marguerite by the lake. And the second book is like, has a bit of a Rebecca God. No know Rebecca, Daphne for a that like, kind of Gothic feeling. And it’s going well, it’s, it’s, you know, I’m, I’m excited about it. It just everything takes longer than you think it’s going to and I’m plugging away plugging away. Oh, but one exciting thing about the first book about the photographer is it’s being made into a, it’s a TV series that’s being developed into a TV series.


Will Bachman  27:58

That is wonderful news, I was going to ask you about that. Because it is such a kind of cinema, you’re gonna feel is very much like a almost like it was written for to be seen on a screen where it’s very, you know, defined scenes visually imagined. And tell us about? What, what’s going on with the TV series?


Mary Dixie Carter  28:22

Um, well, so it’s not really public yet.


Will Bachman  28:28

Don’t share, don’t share it. Oh, don’t don’t don’t know.


Mary Dixie Carter  28:31

I mean, I can just tell you that it’s, I’m excited about it. But I guess I’m not really supposed to say any any of the specifics yet, though. I really would like to. But I think it’s gonna I think it’s very close. Like, I think that, you know, it’s a matter of, of a few months before it will be public, I hope.


Will Bachman  28:54

All right. So watch this face listeners. We will, we’ll announce will announce on a future episode when it’s ready to be seen.


Mary Dixie Carter  29:03

But you never know. Like, so that’s the thing, like, you know, and you never know, like, it could. It’s possible, it won’t even happen, but it does look very good right now. It looks very good right now.


Will Bachman  29:14

That is exciting. That is exciting. I was going to ask you about that in terms of screen adaptation. Now, one of the bylaws of the 92 reports written in there is actually if someone brings up Jared Kushner, I just have to ask for more details not to meet nondisclosure agreements that you’ve signed or something but is there any is there any anecdotes that you can share? Because that is one of one of the bylaws of the show, I have to ask.


Mary Dixie Carter  29:45

So Jared Kushner I mean, he said when when my my father sold the newspaper refer to Jared Kushner, and he said and did all the right things in order to, you know, convince my father that, that he was going to be like a faithful steward and like that he was going to carry on the legacy and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He said and did all the right things like that. He wanted my father’s mentorship guidance. And, and he asked, you know, he asked that I stay on and not not that I was any sort of pivotal person at that time, I was the publishing director of the newspaper. But he said, there wasn’t meaning when, you know, my dad sold him the newspaper, and I was there and I wasn’t like the person deciding anything, but I was there. And, and he was like, very deferential, very charming, very. Like he, he just knew how to sell himself really well. And very believable. And then, you know, he really turned on a dime, the day after it was sold. And and then it was clear that he didn’t even like the newspaper. Like he didn’t even he didn’t, he said it was unreadable. That’s what he said, in the newspaper was unreadable, that it was so boring to him. And then it’s like, well, why did you buy it then. And he had no, he had very little respect for any of the writers and editors, they’re like, very little to zero, I would say, and, and even less respect for me. And, like, he, the main thing that he did was just sort of chill me out, like, I tried many times to meet with him to have, you know, just a, like a coffee to have anything, any kind of contact with him. And the end, the day after the newspapers sold, flight, it was impossible, he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. Much less meat with me about something. So, like, I did try for several months, I think I stayed for six months after the newspaper was sold. And then it was like, it was clear that this was a dead end situation, and I shouldn’t move on. So that was, you know, that was very sad. And I didn’t invested a lot of, you know, time and energy in the newspaper. So it was, it was very sad. But it didn’t, there was there was no potential at all. So I can just say, like, I, I, I don’t think very highly of Jared Kushner. I think that he’s the worst kind of salesman, which is like, you know, it’s sort of a bait and switch situation. He just said what he needed to say, to be to, to be successful in purchasing the newspaper. And then he moved on and did what he wanted to do. And so I don’t know, I wrote an article about him and about Donald Trump. Or were like, an essay kind of opinion piece for time. So if you Google, my name, and Jared Kushner mining and Trump will probably pop up. And because it happens that I’m also met Trump while I was working for the New York Observer, so the paper was struggling financially. And I was doing my best to contribute. And so I was I was spending time on the business side and spending time on the editorial side. So I was doing advertising a lot of advertising sales. And I went to me with Donald Trump to try to get him to, you know, to advertise in the New York Observer. And so what like, this was before, you know, this is well before Jared Kushner came into the picture, you know, maybe a couple years before that. And and so, like I had a, you know, whatever half An hour with Donald Trump. And he was, I mean, it was it was definitely memorable he. So I went over there to try to sell him advertising but like, I never got to talk about the newspaper or the advertising, or anything like that. He was just asking me my opinion on like different kinds of molding that he was going to use, like there was, and they were all very elaborate. There were like, several different kinds of molding. And I’m not sure what property he was, you know, where he was putting this molding? But he was like, like this one? Or do you like this one?


Will Bachman  35:42

So, so you never got to talk about advertising, you never say, Hey,


Mary Dixie Carter  35:48

I’m just talking about molding. And, and then he talked about his kids. And every time I would try to like, get back on the subject of, you know, the New York Observer and advertising, he would just had, he had no time for it. So I think he just took the meeting, but I don’t think he had any intention, really the advertising, of advertising the newspaper. But it was an experience, it was definitely an experience. was amusing what


Will Bachman  36:23

it’s, I mean, it’s even before he was President, he was a busy person, presumably, what? What’s your model for? Why he was taking the meeting and asking you about molding? It’s like, what’s your what’s your model of his mind that did that? Oh, what he was.


Mary Dixie Carter  36:42

I mean, I think he was hoping for positive coverage in the newspaper, like, he was probably hoping, because that’s the way he works. He didn’t, he has no sense of like, oh, there’s integrity and the newspaper, and we’re not just gonna, like, you know, write something, write a puff piece about Donald Trump, because, you know, that that kind of quickly changed after the newspaper went to Jared. But at that time, there was integrity about, like, you know, no one’s going to write a puff piece about Donald Trump, whether or not he takes me whether or not he has a meeting with us, or advertises or whatever he does, it’s not going to affect what we write about him. So. But I think that’s what he probably thought at that time.


Will Bachman  37:34

That’s very strange. I mean, one would think that if that was the goal, you know, he’d spend his time telling you about, you know, his great via properties, and so forth. And trying to convince you around that, instead of asking about molding, it’s a very, no, I want to ask you about Jared. So one of the questions about Jared, so, yeah, I don’t I haven’t seen his transcript, but apparently, he was not, you know, the greatest student at Harvard. And whatever you think about his politics, and most listeners of the show, probably have a certain point of view. And, you know, I tend not to get political on the show here. But I wouldn’t challenge that point of view. But whatever you think about his politics, wasn’t apparently the greatest student, but apparently, you know, played a pretty critical role in the campaign. And I mean, judging by the results, they were successful, and then he played, like, you know, some kind of senior role in the administration. And I don’t really have a strong perspective about, you know, his success from his own perspective and his own goals. But, you know, Middle East stuff and different things. What’s your kind of model of what, Jared Kushner is strong at, you know, like, or what, what would you say his strengths are? And where those come from? Is it having been raised in a family that just sort of is familiar with the world of real estate and like, billion dollar bills, you know, truly whatever? Or, like, what’s your model of Jared Kushner?


Mary Dixie Carter  39:11

So I mean, nothing I say is gonna sound very positive. It he’s very, he knows. He, he knows how to be charming, for sure. When he wants to be, he’s slick. He knows how to be charming and kind of win people over I guess. He also so what I’m gonna say is like, really imposing a lot on to him that I don’t know for a fact. So I can say it or not, but, but like I you know, he has his father He was in prison, you probably know, his father was in prison. And it was sort of an ugly thing. Leading up to it and, and I think Jared went to visit him every week. And like, it was, I’m sure it took a huge toll on him. And I think he was very angry, like a lot of rage over his father going to prison, but also along with that rage, and, you know, this is surely his father’s fault. It’s like a lack of a feeling that anyone should be accountable for anything like he meant he never acknowledged to anyone to my knowledge that his father really did anything wrong in his mind, that it was outrageous that his father went to prison, just totally outrageous. And he was deeply angry about that. Now, I feel like some of that rage has been funneled into other things. And he doesn’t come across as an angry person when you need him. But I do think underneath that he is really angry. And the and that there’s also no no, no moral compass. So like he has in his mind, maybe for loyalty. And, and maybe he really had no choice in in his family situation, to be on his father’s side to defend his father in throughout that, you know, really awful trial and whatever went on, maybe he felt he had no choice, and that that was his duty to defend his father to take his father’s side. But then the end result was like, he has no moral compass. I don’t think he I really think it’s, it’s like he does what needs to happen, depending on what’s convenient, and the opportunity, and there isn’t like any center from which he moves. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like there’s nothing grounding him. And it’s like, this is, this is what I know to be right. Or this is what I know to be true. This is what I know to be good. I don’t feel like that he’s grounded in that way. I don’t know if that’s answering any of your questions.


Will Bachman  42:34

Potential inspiration for novel number three. I want to turn now to dial back the clock to college. So are there any professors or courses that you had at Harvard, that have continued to resonate with you up through today?


Mary Dixie Carter  42:53

So, I would say the main one is Helen vendler. And, you know, I was in that, a couple of huge lectures with Helen venlor, that a lot of our classmates took the same classes, I took poems, poets, and poetry with her. And then also like, the, the requirement for all English majors like English 10, or whatever it was called, I think was English 10. So I took two classes with her, and, um, and I don’t think I even really realize in the moment, like how it would stick with me. But she would read, she would read sections of Poetry Out Loud, especially I’m thinking of the I think poems, poets and poetry. She would read sections of poems out loud, or the whole poem sometimes, and and it really, it really made a huge impression on me. I think just listening to her read those poems made a huge impression on me. And the way she talked about them, too, and what she got out of them, made a big impression on me. And just like the sounds of the words and the music in the language, and and her then she would, you know, talk about out how it was achieved, like, the, the lyricism, or I’m not being very articulate and explaining and explaining it, but it just, it stuck with me. Also, just some of those poems that she read out loud. Like stuck with me, like were I like, kind of know them. I mean, probably couldn’t recite them, but, but I do feel like I know them and And that, you know, I think it’s, you know, indirectly indirectly influenced my, my reading my writing, and, you know, in everything that I’ve done professionally, but you know very indirectly and also just, you know, personally influenced me to the other one. Da Miller. I took a Jane Austen seminar with Da Miller. And that was really fabulous. And he was so brilliant. And so that was like a deep dive into all the Jane Austen novels and. And, like, so one thing about that was just like reading all these Jane Austen novels, I think that most of which I had already read, but, but like, that’s all we were doing. It’s just Jane Austen. And like, he was so smart about what he brought to that, what he brought to those books and and it just made me see the see those novels a very different way than I had before. So those those two come to mind, most readily, but there were a lot of classes that I like that stayed with me and in, you know, all ways like were it isn’t? Maybe it’s not. It was just one comment that a professor made one time that like struck a chord with me. Bit Yeah, I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for some of those brilliant for being in the company of some of those brilliant minds, even in a situation where I was there with, I don’t know how many other students in the room, and I didn’t have any direct contact with Helen vendler At that time, but I still was very much influenced by her.


Will Bachman  47:14

What a testament Mary Dixie, if listeners want to keep track of when your book comes out and follow follow you, Instagram or website or other links, where would you point people online?


Mary Dixie Carter  47:30

So, um, you could go to my website, which is Mary Dixie I’m also on Instagram, Mary Dixie Carter, and an Instagram may be where I’m the most often. I’m also on Facebook, though, but probably Instagram is where I am the most often.


Will Bachman  47:51

Wonderful. We will include those links in the show notes. Mary Dixie, it was wonderful to catch up with you today. Thank you so much for joining. Oh, it


Mary Dixie Carter  47:59

was wonderful to chat with you. Thanks. Well.