Currents, an Interview Series with Brian Alan Ellis (Episode 34: Allie Rowbottom)

Allie Rowbottom

ALLIE ROWBOTTOM is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Jell-O Girls. She received her BA from New York University, her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, and her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. Her work has received scholarships, essay prizes and honorable mentions from Tin HouseInprint, the Best American Essays series, the Florida ReviewThe Bellingham Review, the Black Warrior ReviewThe Southampton Review, and Hunger Mountain. She lives in Los Angeles.

My current favorite books are: …I tend not to want to read what everyone else is reading, for the sake of my voice (pretentious, yet true). But I do also think it’s important to keep current. So I tend to be listening to a relatively recent “big novel” or whatever on Audible simultaneous to reading the unpublished work of my friends, which is my favorite material to read. I should also say, I do a lot of re-reading. I have my cabal of favorite writers/books, many of which I’ve loved since I started writing one hundred years ago. Books like Veronica, The Lover and Bluets. Sometimes I’ll stumble on a new book that’s really good and add it to the cabal. But that’s rare.

My current favorite film director is: Nancy Myers. But because I am married to Jon Lindsey, and I only really choose to watch “films” with Jon, I really only ever watch heist movies or movies that were formative to Jon’s childhood development. This can be fun, because I always get stoned for such films and never remember them afterward.

My current favorite film that was formative to Jon Lindsey’s childhood development is: Real Genius. I am certain I have seen it at least three times, but I couldn’t tell you the plot, which makes each repeat viewing a surprise. With certain films, however, my weed-induced memory lapses can be problematic. It’s important that I experience and internalize heavy hitting influences like The Lost Boys well enough to reference them when Jon and I engage in deep conversations about his feelings. Engaging in deep conversations about Jon’s feelings is my favorite thing to do, but the opportunity is rare, so I have to be prepared…. Early in our relationship, before we did a lot of deep conversing about either of our feelings, I resisted having to watch Jon’s favorite films. I wanted him to watch Nancy Myers, which is something he would not do. When forced to watch his movies, I talked the whole time, “unpacking” the “text” in question, through the lens of my BA in gender and sexuality studies. This was always a mistake. Once, Jon threatened (seriously, but drunkenly) to dump me when I offered a searing feminist critique of Conan the Barbarian…. Now, years later, he still won’t watch Nancy Myers but will sometimes enjoy a Jane Austen adaptation. And I’m fine with it. From time to time, we’ll embark on a joint resolution (fueled by guilt and a desire to be more cultured) to watch Criterion Collection films, but typically we become bored and stop them thirty minutes in.

My current favorite television show is: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I don’t fuck with other cities in the franchise. 

My current favorite musicians are: Cardi B, Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Gucci Mane and Prince.

My current state of mind is: …my mother was a woman with deep friendships. Her best friends not only saw her through decades of life, but also helped her die. After she died, and to some degree before, I felt I could never have close friends like that. I felt I was a defective woman, a woman whose vanity or self-obsession or self-hatred or desire to be loved by a man, inherently separated her from other women who would smell all that wanting and know to keep away. This wasn’t at all true in my childhood, which was marked by bosom friendships, first with Lara and then, when she moved to New Zealand, with LeeLee, with whom I was inseparable until we were both shipped off to separate boarding schools. But my high school years were lonely, and I became sure I could never return to the warmth of those honest, bosom friendships. Looking back now, even at my most isolated, I always had close women friends. I just didn’t feel like I deserved them, maybe. But the other day, standing in my kitchen, after an hour-long phone call with my friend Sarah (author of the stunning memoir Joy Enough), or was it my friend Ashley (NBA darling and author of Happy Like This), I felt washed in gratitude, because the next day I had a date for a phone call with LeeLee, which we’ve made a weekly ritual in quarantine. And I had a walk date with my new friend Nada a few days later. And Lara and I had just Facetimed a week prior. Which is to say I am, of late, very grateful not only for the women in my life, but for a deep inner knowing that I deserve their love.

My current chemical romance involves: …I recently tried organic wine—game changer. I dream of the cocaine I had in Tulum a year ago. I dream of 2CB, and of a party worth the hangover. At the beginning of quarantine, I had just broken my wrist in two places roller skating and the pain was so bad and I hate opioids of any kind (the constipation alone makes them totally not worth it, imo), but I did develop a minor dependency on Adderall to cope with the aching and help me write. I bought it in bulk from our drug dealer, James, and it worked but was the worst dependency I’ve ever courted—and as child I was addicted to starving myself, so that’s saying a lot. Here’s why it was the worst: it took away my confidence that I could write, with focus, for any length of time without a magic pill to help me. And knowing I can write, with focus, for long periods of time is very comforting to me. Also, I became convinced my hair was falling out. Later, after a cursory internet search, I realized the “Adderall” I’d been taking was meth. 

My current favorite words are: “bizarre,” “robust,” “cabal,” and “bosom.”

My current mode of transportation is: …despite Jon’s persistent attempts to get me into a minivan, I enjoy driving cars with standard transmissions. I learned to drive on a 1960s Land Rover which was, obviously, a stick, and having to manually shift my car feels homey (horny?) to me. Also, shifting keeps me occupied. Otherwise, I compulsively daydream behind the wheel, which is what got me into the accident that totaled my previous car, a Prius. I bought my current car, a Volkswagen Golf, with the insurance money. It is, indeed, a stick shift. I like it a lot but I think I might look good in a Cadillac someday. 

My current favorite fast food item is: …the last time I ate fast food was in 2019, at a McDonald’s in Hawaii, in the middle of the night. I had apple slices. Otherwise, I like whipped cream from the can. It is delicious, relatively low-cal (though not in the quantities I ingest) and the nitrous gets me a little high, which is a bonus.

My current workout routine consists of: …I am going to talk about my history with exercise addiction elsewhere in this interview so stay tuned. I am, though, no longer addicted to exercise. But I am very conscious, and sometimes very anxious, about my body, especially my butt. This is due to excessive consumption of Photoshopped Instagram images of the Kardashian ilk. Which leads me to strap on ankle weights every night and donkey kick at least 60 reps per leg. 

My current regrettable decision involves: not getting a Brazilian butt lift during quarantine so that I no longer have to do the ankle weight thing.

My current hopes and dreams are: …I’ve written a novel into which I have poured my time, my talent, my soul and my deepest desire, which is to connect to some reason for living, and to help others connect to some deeper reason for living and, in the process, to see from a different perspective the larger cultural systems in which we’ve all developed. I am obsessed with this novel, and would be disingenuous if I didn’t tell you my hopes and dreams are to see it published and widely read. On a lifelong level, I have, since childhood, dreamed of knowing, unequivocally, with certainty, that I am loved and wanted.

My current projects include: …before the pandemic, I was a compulsive gym-goer, on a mission to build and maintain that Instagram-worthy ass. To do so, I lifted heavy, and followed a carefully composed routine of progressive overloading, surprising my muscles, banded “booty pumpers” all that. I drank a protein shake during my workout, and another afterward. If I missed a leg day, I felt anxious. Now, my hobby is watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and vision boarding. 


Allie Rowbottom is the author of JELL-O GIRLS, a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection. Her essays and short fiction can be found in Vanity Fair, Salon, Best American Essays, Literary Hub, New York Tyrant, No Tokens and elsewhere. She holds a PhD from the University of Houston and an MFA from CalArts and lives in LA.

Brian Alan Ellis runs House of Vlad Press, and is the author of several books, including Sad Laughter (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2018). His writing has appeared at Juked, Hobart, Fanzine, Monkeybicycle, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Funhouse, Heavy Feather Review, and Yes Poetry, among other places. He lives in Florida.

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