Jennifer Hodgson is a writer, critic, and the editor of The Unmapped Country, by the radical author Ann Quin. Hodgson spent over seven years collecting ‘lost’ short stories and fragments which had sat scattered in boxes and sequestered in drawers in archives and private collections for 50 years. The Unmapped Country was chosen by And Other Stories to launch their Year of Publishing Women 2018.
The Momus Questionnaire was created by musician Nick Currie, and is designed to identify the aspects of the subject’s personality which give them a positive self-image, or ‘subcultural capital’.
Have you rebelled against someone else’s dreary expectations of your life, and become something more unexpected?
Yes and no: I was a bookish, hyperverbal, working-class kid from Hull (which is a compellingly mysterious place – the very opposite of dreary), who got a scholarship to go to the posh school – don’t they all end up like this? Or, at least, they used to… And by “this” I think I mean: (sometimes productively, generally pleasantly) uneasy in the world.
What in your life can you point to and say, like Frankie, ‘I Did It My Way’?
Not a lot, probably. See above. I can point to things where I’ve stutteringly, tentatively followed trails that were already marked, however wonky, however stubbornly insistent upon taking-the-long-way-around-over-the-hardest-terrain. Doing things your own way is lonely, after all, and all “this” (again, see above) is, in the end, an effort to live in the world rather than against it – or it is most of the time.
What creative achievements are you most proud of?
Getting Ann Quin’s ‘lost’ stories out into the world is one of the things I’m most peacefully and unreservedly satisfied with. That feeling of I did a thing, it is finished, it was a good thing to do (which is perhaps something like pride) is a rare one, and always easier when it is someone else’s thing. Otherwise: see the answer to question 6. What you do in order to be able to do the stuff that you want to do frequently feels more creative than the bit that’s meant to be creative, I think.
If there was one event in your life which really shaped you, made you the person you are today, what would it be?
If you had asked me two years ago, I would have probably alighted upon things I had usefully jacked in, generally quite a while after they’d already become paralyzingly futile, like a law degree, or an academic career. And then I would have marvelled – and perhaps even worried slightly about – what a safe and charmed life I’d led thus far. But then my dad died, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and – well – there’s no way of being ironic or obtuse about this in the ways that these questions invite, but I can feel how that has and will continue to re-form me. What kind of person it’s made, I don’t know – certainly a person who now knows that you die at the end.
If you had to make a song or rap boasting about your irresistible charm and greatness, how would you describe yourself?
Half an hour or so into a run, when I’m absolutely off my head on dopamine, the verse I most often call upon is Nicki Minaj’s on Kanye West’s “Monster”. Make of that what you will.
Have you ever made material sacrifices because of your integrity?
I’ve just stopped doing that, actually, in the last year or so. I lived hand-to-mouth, sitting in a cupboard and feeling generally disconsolate about my (ahem) grands projets for about seven years and not much felt very good or very righteous about it. Whatever integrity means, I think it’s a bit more complicated than all that. At present, I’m having a go at earning enough money to live on and doing stuff I think is worthwhile (does that count as integrity?). It’s going okay so far.
Describe a public personality who exemplifies everything you’d like to be yourself, then another public personality who incarnates everything you’d least like to be.
I get a kick out of anyone who has the capacity to do, apparently naturally and comfortably, precisely what they’re meant to be doing and seems to be enjoying it. I would type the words “self-actualisation”, and you would laugh at me for being such a cheesedick, but I think that’s what I mean. And, equally, I draw solace from finding out later that they found things difficult and felt uncertain too. Perhaps even more I admire humans capable of finding and articulating their own perversity and discomfort and making something with them. My GOAT of One’s Own list shifts all the time, but right now let’s say: Lorna Sage (she’s the reason I got into this game in the first place), Andre 3000, Sue Tompkins, Joni Mitchell, Ian Svenonius and Eve Sedgwick.
I’d like to opt out of the other half of this question. Naming a single human seems pointless, and listing everything I’d least like to be makes me sound like an irate football manager doing a post-match interview on Sky Sports.
If you were an Egyptian pharaoh and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?
A large, very soft paintbrush (to touch). A lozenge-shaped eraser (to look at). A roll of athletic tape. A packet of poppadoms. Some extremely violent chilli sauce. A picture of Goldie Hawn (for the joy). The song “Nobody Does it Better” by Carly Simon. A pack of nicotine chewing gum. Contact lenses. Absolutely definitely no books or writing implements – I don’t have to do this stuff in the next world, do I?
Do you have a favourite joke, quotation or proverb?
If I do it’s very probably written on the back of a receipt that I’ve lost and I no longer remember it. I’m a rabid underliner (always pen, come on now), but I almost never remember what the words were, and what it was about them the struck me – only that they did. An ex-boyfriend bequeathed to me the phrase “can happen”, and I find its cheerful nihilism very useful almost all of the time.
What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?
I love the photograph “Beachy Head” by Tony Ray Jones.