Mary-Louise Parker On Writing, Celebrity, And 'Dear Mr. You'
In Dear Mr. You , Mary-Louise Parker pours her heart out in the form of letters addressed to the men who helped shaped her life. From the beloved priest of her childhood to the grandfather she never knew, from her own ex-boyfriends and former lovers to the future potential suitor of her daughter, Parker writes to and about men, both real and imagined, in 35 unique letters, each one varied in style and ranging in tone. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and always honest, Dear Mr. You is a literary experience unlike any other, and certainly unlike any celebrity book you've ever read before.
While you may know her as Nancy Botwin in Weeds , Amy Gardner in The West Wing, or Catherine in Proof, Mary-Louise Parker's artistic abilities go well beyond the screen and the stage. A natural literary talent, Parker's writing, which had previously appeared in Esquire and several other magazines, is intimate and lyrical, her stories captivating and original. But as a celebrity, Parker understands people's skepticism about her writing. "Acting hasn’t influenced my writing, but I do wonder if my status as an actress makes it more challenging for someone to pick up my book and assume that I can write," Parker tells Bustle. "I think people would be more apt to give me the benefit of the doubt if I were a rice farmer or hand model, but I understand why that is and it doesn’t particularly make me angry or anything. I got used to people reading my stuff in Esquire and asking me who wrote it for me. It felt oddly complimentary."
After Dear Mr. You, no one will be able to question Parker's massive talents. Sincere and deeply affecting, the author's collection is as gut-wrenching as it is heartwarming, as personal as it is profound. Although its packaged as a memoir in letters, Parker doesn't consider her book to be an autobiography. "It was genuinely an opportunity to write about these particular people and moments that haunted or inspired me, or both," Parker explains. And for as why she chose letters over a more traditional narrative form? "The letters were about and for the experience of expressing all that. I find letters really satisfying," Parker says. "You can express yourself in a much more creative and intimate way than you might in person. People love getting letters." Fans of the book and the actress can't argue with that.
But for Parker, writing this collection wasn't about elevating her career or giving fans a tell-all, either. Her motivations were much simpler than that. "I simply love to write. I love how it feels," Parker says. "I’ve always written—I have millions of little notebooks and saved letters and cocktail napkins with scribbles on them. I save most all of that and I used quite a lot of it for this book."
"I honestly felt like I could have written that book forever. If someone hadn’t stopped me I would probably still be writing it."
Out of the 35 letters included in Parker's collection, several of them existed in one form or another before the book, while others were fresh from the author's mind. "Some of the letters I knew I wanted to write, and some of those I actually was unsuccessful with," she explains. "Others just occurred to me out of nowhere and seemed to write themselves. I honestly felt like I could have written that book forever. If someone hadn’t stopped me I would probably still be writing it."
Her collection may be written to the men in her life, but the women closest to Parker's heart lived in the book's pages, too. Dedicated to her mother, Dear Mr. You brought to life to Parker's mom and several other important female figures, including her daughter, who is proud to be a part of her mother's book. When asked if she wants her kids to read her book, Parker explains I hope they’ll want to read it. My daughter has been present a couple of times when I read 'Dear Future Man Who Loves My Daughter' and she loves when I get to the part 'if you hurt her in ways that are irreparable, I will send out people to hurt you back.' She sits up so tall and just grins, it’s adorable"
Now that Dear Mr. You is out in paperback, can we expect to see more from Parker? "I am trying to write something like six books at the moment," she says. "None of them are especially taking off yet, but I am still searching—and the writing feels good even if nothing comes of it." Spoken like a true author, which, Mary-Louise Parker most certainly is.