The trope of damaged lovebirds trekking across the United States appears everywhere from Lolita to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. So, how does a contemporary author breathe new life into such a classic conceit?
Gerard turned to the stars. “I began to read about black holes, sort of accidentally. And then I learned that a black hole can be an unseen binary companion. And I thought, binary star: what a useful metaphor when you’re writing about a toxic relationship.”
Gerard’s novel, Binary Star, which centers on an anorexic college senior who takes a road trip with her troubled boyfriend, began as a master’s thesis, while Gerard was in the M.F.A. program at the New School. Unsatisfied with the outcome, she put the manuscript on the back burner, turning her attention to other writing projects, including a 2008 New York Times essay about her experiences with anorexia and bulimia.
“I didn’t think that anyone really wanted a whole book about a girl with an eating disorder,” Gerard says. “There are so many out there. But that [essay] did grant me permission. So, I sat down and began writing.” She wrote the bulk of the manuscript for Binary Star in one month, while living in a rented trailer near her parents’ home in Largo, Fla. She says the marathon method helped her to imbue the text with an “emotional velocity,” adding, “I had to write it all at once.”
Eric Obenauf, cofounder of the Columbus, Ohio–based independent press Two Dollar Radio, says he was “blown away” when he first saw the manuscript for Binary Star. “It’s beautiful, and really aggressive, and paunchy,” he says. “What elevates it beyond that story about two young lovers and their afflictions is this study of the stars. She did a good job of tying that all together.”