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Laura Barcella

March 7, 2012

Laura Barcella

Here’s a statistic I just made up: 94% of people – boys and girls, of all races, creeds, colors – who grew up in the 80s and 90s are at least a little bit obsessed with Madonna, and the other 6% are lying. Laura Barcella is proudly part of the 94%. A San Francisco-based writer and editor who has been obsessed with Madonna for as long as she can remember, Laura is the editor of the new anthology Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop. This collection is the best sort of cultural criticism, combining personal reflection and recollection with incisive criticism that locates Madonna – for good or bad – at the center of pop culture and women’s identity politics for the past three decades. It’s also a delightful read that will move you, make you laugh out loud, and piss you off, sometimes all on the same page.

Laura is also the author of the forthcoming pop-culture guide The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late, coming in July from Zest Books). She has also written for more than 40 magazines, newspapers, and websites, including the Village Voice,, Time Out New York, ELLEGirl and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Madonna & Me is out now from Soft Skull Press. The collection features 39 essays by women writers including Cintra Wilson, Gloria Feldt, Caroline Leavitt, Bee Lavender, Wendy Shanker, prior 12?s respondent Lesley Arfin, Courtney E. Martin, Susan Shapiro, and more. Now let’s let Laura express herself…

1. What is your hometown?

Washington, D.C. Yes, D.C. proper. No, not the suburbs.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

This is hard — there are so many, I can’t pick just one! I haven’t seen the film in a long time, but I used to feel a kinship with the title character, Ruby, from an underappreciated 1993 Ashley Judd movie called “Ruby in Paradise.” As a teenager I was obsessed with both the main characters, Jonathan and Bobby, from Michael Cunningham’s novel “A Home at the End of the World.” I read that book, like, 14 times; underlined it, highlighted it, made notes, the whole deal. I also identify with most of the female characters from a book of short stories called “Lust,” by Susan Minot. And I’ve always identified with everything Dorothy Parker wrote. I know she wasn’t a fictional character, but her voice was so cleanly constructed; she just wore that smart, sarcastic, bitter, hilarious persona so well. She was more complicated, though, behind the veneer.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you. I

I’d probably cast Claire Danes or Kirsten Dunst.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

I lean heavily toward women artists; I’m drawn to confessional ones like Tracey Emin. I’ve always loved Cindy Sherman’s photos, and am intrigued by Karen Finley’s work. And I own (and adore) a few paintings by my talented DC artist friend Natalie Eve Garrett, whom I’ve known since kindergarten!

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

Right now I’m reading “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Todd Gilbert and “Agorafabulous!” by the comedian Sara Benincasa. I usually read a couple of books at once — I have one book I read before bed and one book I read out in the world, in waiting rooms or on buses or wherever.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

This changes often depending on my mood (obviously), but a few months ago I was embarrassingly obsessed with “Love You Like a Love Song” by, um, Selena Gomez. Other recent favorites are “I Love You So” by Cassius, “This Will Be Our Year” by the Zombies, “Harsh Realm” by Widowspeak, “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub, “Walking Through That Door” by Future Islands, “17” by Youth Lagoon, “Ciao!” by Lush, and “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

Hmm. I see a ton of movies, but I don’t cry in many of them. In 2011, I think I teared up during “50/50” and “Beginners.” I thought I might cry in “Like Crazy,” but I didn’t — that movie was a bit of a disappointment, IMHO. A good documentary can definitely make me cry — I think I cried during the HBO doc about Gloria Steinem (“Gloria: In Her Own Words”) and the one about Diane Schuler (“There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane”).

8. Cat person or dog person?

I used to be a cat person (I grew up with cats) but now I’m both. I love all kinds of animals. I have 2 cats and a dog at home — all rescues.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

Hard to say, but I’ll go with truth.

10. How do you define sin?

I don’t think about the concept of sin very much; certainly not in any religious sense. I guess to me a sin would be the absence of guilt or remorse after committing an act that intentionally harmed another living being. TV shows like “Animal Cops” and “Dogtown” remind me (painfully) that egregious sins are committed against animals every day. That said, I’m not above killing bugs if I find them in my house. I do feel guilty when I do it, though, so it’s not a sin!

11. How do you define virtue?

Well, per the American Heritage Dictionary, one definition of virtue is “chastity, especially in a woman.” I’ll go with that. Just kidding! To me, virtue would be living unselfishly — putting the needs and welfare of others ahead of your own.

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

I don’t know if I’d want a headstone. I don’t want to be buried, I know that. But if I had to have one, I’d probably put one of my favorite quotes on mine. “Absolutely no regrets” by Madonna would be appropriate.

Laura Barcella
Madonna & Me

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