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Frisky Q&A: Great Author Sara Benincasa Talks Young Adult Fiction, Zelda Fitzgerald & Women In Comedy

Frisky Q&A: Great Author Sara Benincasa

A show of hands: who had to read The Great Gatsby in school?

Most of us, right? You’re probably overly familiar with the tale of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, if not from high school English class then from the Baz Luhrman spectacle in theaters this past summer. I hope you still have room in your stomach for more, because there’s a new Gatsby tale in town: Great, by Sara Benincasa, a young adult novel retelling of the classic.

But Great isn’t just any old retelling: the star-crossed lovers in this story are a same-sex couple set in the modern-day Hamptons. Jacinta is an “It girl” blogger who lives next door to Naomi, our narrator. While she rides out the summer at her mother’s extravagant summer home, Naomi tries to piece together Jacinta’s love affair with Delilah, a family friend of her mom and the Daisy Buchanan character in the story. It’s a familiar tale, but a completely different take on modern sexual mores and class.

And Sara Benincasa isn’t just any writer, either. She’s also one of my dearest friends. We met about seven years ago when she was a New York City-based standup comic and hosted a “Gossip Girl” fan festival. (Dorota came. It was amazing.) Over the years, I’ve watched Sara’s writing and comedy career skyrocket to much-deserved success. I’m genuinely thrilled for her that Great is such a good book and that more books from Sara are coming down the pipeline soon.

I called Sara up over Skype last week to chat about F. Scott Fitzgerald, feminism and how her memoir is being made into a TV show (!!!) by Diablo Cody. Here’s our conversation, after the jump:

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Why Men Should Stay Home On Election Day

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Cockblock The Vote!

If only women were voting in next week’s election, Barack Obama would win … which is why men need to stay home on Election Day for the good of America. Starring Franchesca Ramsey, Sara Benincasa and other funny ladies who leant themselves to this “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” skit, it’s the best case I’ve heard for keeping the polls progesterone-only.

Book Excerpt: “Agorafabulous! Dispatches From My Bedroom” — Plus, Win A Copy Of The Book!

Panic Attacks Explained
Sara Benincasa explains panic attacks in cartoon form. Watch »

Sara Benincasa’s struggle with panic disorder began with childhood anxiety attacks and intensified until, at the age of 21, she developed full-on agoraphobia.  Her fears were so severe she was afraid to leave her own bedroom.  She sank into suicidal depression.  Garbage piled up against the wall as her appetite for food—and life—slipped away.  Finally, one day two college friends contacted Sara’s family out of fear for her safety and state of mind.  Here is an excerpt detailing when Sara’s parents have first been notified that their daughter was dealing with some very real problems.

“Hello?” I said hoarsely.

“Hi, Ra-Ra!” chirped one voice.

“Hey, Ra!” boomed another.

It was my parents. Keep reading »

Panic Attacks, Explained In Cartoon Form

Explaining Depression
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Watch Video

Here at The Frisky’s offices, one of the most hotly anticipated books of 2011 is Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom, by the comedienne and all-around-awesome-lady Sara Benincasa. I love this girl for her balls-out honesty regarding her mental health struggles with agoraphobia and anxiety. Agorafabulous! is based on Sara’s one-woman show of the same name, which recounts how vicious panic attacks created a fear of the outside world, to the point where she refused to leave her college dorm room. In this cartoon, Sara explains all about anxiety attacks, the “flight or fight” response, and why you shouldn’t shop at Whole Foods. As someone who has suffered from panic attacks from age 15 onwards, I could have used an explanation like this back when I was hyperventilating and didn’t know what the eff was going on!  

If “Mad Men”‘s Peggy Olson Vlogged In 1964


Our girl Sara Benincasa does a lot of awesome impressions, but her Peggy Olson is so dead-on, it’s almost like the overachiever transported herself to 2010. In anticipation of tonight’s season four premiere of “Mad Men,” “Peggy” plopped herself down in front of her 1964 laptop and recorded a vlog on just what’s been going down at Sterling Cooper Draper Price since we last saw them. It seems everyone in the office is very preoccupied with little Sally Draper’s lisp … [YouTube] Keep reading »

Who’s Our Dream Celebrity Boyfriend This Week?


Our friend Sara’s hormones are raging again! She’s got a new Dream Celebrity Boyfriend and this one, unlike her last crush, Johnny Weir, is probably someone you’ve never heard of. This boy-crazy chick sure knows how to spot an unidentified and unappreciated hottie from a mile away! I hope he has a job that pays well enough that he can hire a bodyguard. Keep reading »

I Have Panic Attacks

In retrospect, it was all inevitable. Not the details, like the time I grew so afraid of using the toilet that I urinated in cereal bowls in my apartment, or the time I collapsed outside a filling station in Sicily and told someone I couldn’t remember how to breathe. Those specific situations weren’t predictable, of course. But looking back, I can see how much sense it makes that I have panic attacks. Keep reading »

The Candi Dish: How To Deal With Roots & His Request For A Threesome


Hey Frisky readers! Please join me in welcoming our latest contributor, video blogger Candelabra Sanchez McGonagall, although you can call her Candi for short. A prolific style and relationship expert, Candi will be giving out fantastic beauty tips and love advice in our new series, “The Candi Dish.” In this first segment, Candi discusses how to deal with roots in between salon visits and what to do when your boyfriend wants a threesome. Eek! Keep reading »

Who’s Our Dream Celebrity Boyfriend?


Our friend Sara Benincasa is what you might call a litttttttle boy crazy. It seems like every other week she has a new celebrity crush that she just can’t stop obsessing over. This week she sent us this little video confessing her love for a certain “controversial” sportsman who she has not-so “family friendly” feelings about … check out what I mean, above! Keep reading »

Good Gigs: One Woman On Why Teaching High School Is The Most Important Job In The World

Sara Benincasa is a comedian, writer, and radio personality. You’ve probably seen her on The Frisky in one of her crazy hilarious videos. But, once upon a time, she was a high school teacher. Not unlike Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds,” but with far less Coolio.

We talked to Sara about why she decided to go into teaching, what she found out, and what it takes to tackle the toughest, most important job out there. Keep reading »

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