PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG WOMAN
There’s only a small excerpt on the website from Nathaniel Rich’s interview with Albert, which I’ve quoted in its entirety below. To read the rest, we’ll have to pick up the magazine. The quote below details that “Eureka!” moment in which a young Albert developed a strategy that she would finetune in later years.
From the interview:
INTERVIEWER: Did you have many friends at school—kids your own age?
LAURA ALBERT: I was friends with all the nerd guys. And the popular kids liked me because I made them laugh. I made up funny stories and I was the best at prank phone calls. In sixth and seventh grade girls started having serious crushes on boys, and we started calling them on the phone. There was this one guy that everyone really liked, but no one could speak to him on the phone because they’d giggle too much. So one day, with the other girls listening, I called him using a Swedish accent, and he fell for it. I kept calling him—and the other girls didn’t know this. I made up a whole character, Katrin. I went to the library to research Sweden, and I studied Swedish to make sure my accent was right. Katrin was living with Laura, with me, but her parents were very strict and she wasn’t allowed to leave the house. So no one ever saw her. I found I had this skill over the phone—which I think a lot of women discover—this idea of, Wow, I have this personality, but I’m not allowed to expose it, because my physical appearance doesn’t match it. The boy fell in love with Katrin. And I fell in love with him.
Our phone relationship went on for months. It got really elaborate. And then one day I met him, as Katrin’s friend Laura, and we started to hang out together. I cut out a picture of a pretty girl from an old yearbook to show him. He had friends that were into her and would talk to her on the phone. And they would hang out with me also, but they didn’t know that I was Katrin. It got to the point where the whole neighborhood had fallen in love with her. And I felt love for this guy, in the way that you do when you’re twelve, where it’s safe. It was very real, and it had taken me over. I didn’t know how to stop it, but I realized it had to end. So I discovered this kind of cancer that could develop pretty fast, and I gave that to Katrin, and one day when the boy called the house, I told him that Katrin had died.
The next morning the boy’s mother showed up at our door. The boy’s family was upset, and they wanted to know what had happened. And my mother was like, What the fuck are you talking about? I remember hearing them talking in the other room, and feeling heartbroken. I hadn’t meant for any of this to happen.