Stephanie LaCava Leaks Mathilde's Screenshots

The author of the forthcoming novel "The Superrationals" spills the screenshots of her novel's main character. It's all very meta.

by Stephanie LaCava
Sep 25 2020, 9:30am

Everyone's a voyeur. We love seeing other people's dramas unfold on Instagram, crane our necks as we pass a traffic accident even as we complain how everyone slowing down to look at the accident is causing a traffic jam. As we live our lives online, we love to see what our technological footprint says about the people around us. What are your most currently used emojis? What does your YouTube search history say about you? What does your photo roll look like? For our recurring series, "Show Us Your Screenshots," we usually ask our favorite creatives to share with us a selection of the recently saved images on their phones, but this week we bring you something a little different. Stephanie LaCava, author of the fantastic new novel, The Superrationals, which is out in October, has turned the format on its head, offering us instead a glimpse into the digital footprint of Mathilde, the novel’s protagonist. We love it.


There’s a section in the novel where the main character, a girl named Mathilde, talks about her own writing, about having collected images, both pictures and scraps of text on her phone over the years. (“Sometimes they have been screen-shotted from the original, so that the time stamp of the digital file betrays its revisitation.”) She compares all the little squares to the childhood matching game Memory, but is careful to cite the difference: “these images do not match up objectively when laid on top of one another, rather they explain corollary phenomenon,” she says. “Gamer’s choice. Pick your story.”

It would be too easy to put together a grid of images of the art cited in the half-baked thesis that also runs throughout the story, a work in progress for Mathilde. Instead, here are nine images that may have been found on her phone and some words on how they tell her story.

1. from Merlin Carpenter’s “Business Women,” show at Galerie Neu in 2017.jpg

From Merlin Carpenter’s “Business Women” show, at Galerie Neu in 2017
There’s the obvious allusion to libidinal exchange, but also the colors and details. The pose of the woman looking into the mirror reminds me of a portrait of Marine Vacth that I once saw with her hair twirled around her head and high socks. It’s this very same stance. It makes me think also of her character in François Ozon’s Jeune & Jolie. The details of the painting almost make fun of the considered outfit: the lace-up corset belt, the gathered satin underwear and the tiny purple-blue bow. I also love the red nail polish on her hand and absent from the businessman in the mirror.

2. from Shuji Terayama film still Throw Away your Books, Rally in the Streets, 1971  copy.jpg

From Shuji Terayama’s filmThrow Away your Books, Rally in the Streets,” 1971 
The spirited school girls here seem to be considering questions akin to the woman in the above painting. Still, they are protected by playing at adulthood while being part of a group. There's an innocence to them and their sailor-like uniforms even though some have stripped off their shirts. I love the colors of this film too and its style, so saturated and quick.

3. The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes.jpg

The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes
St. Bernadette died of tuberculosis in 1879. Her body was exhumed in 1909, 1919, and 1925, each time seemingly without decay. There is an important scene in the book in which Mathilde visits a relic and asks her mother Olympia about it. There is also something to the young girl story of Bernadette, who’s legend started when she saw the Virgin Mary at fourteen.

4. Martin Kippenberger, “Dear Painter, Paint Me” (1977).jpg

Martin Kippenberger, “Dear Painter, Paint Me” (1977)
I love the knowing title of this painting, again about a kind of exchange, the promise of muse-dom?

5. Karen Mulder for Vogue by Patrick Demarchelier, 1991.jpg

Karen Mulder for Vogue by Patrick Demarchelier, 1991
In the book, someone asks “What happened to Karen Mulder?” The ’90s supermodel represents a kind of iconic figure that faded away, leaving the public to wonder… She is so happy captured here, in a red sequin dress and big heart-shaped costume jewelry.

6. Isabell Adjani shot by Herve Guibert, 1980.jpg

Isabell Adjani shot by Hervé Guibert, 1980
This is one of many photographs taken by artist Hervé Guibert of his at one-time friend French actress Isabelle Adjani who he writes about in To the Friend Who Didn’t Save My Life. Another image from this series is on the cover of the book. They were taken in 1980, a year before Andrej Zulawski’s Possession came out. In the cult film, Adjani stars in as woman unraveling as she asks her husband for a divorce.

7. still from Eric Rohmer’s Conte de Printemps, 1990  copy.jpg

Still from Eric Rohmer’s “Conte de Printemps,” 1990 
This picture makes me think of Mathilde and her best friend Gretchen when they go out to Saint Germain en Laye. Rohmer’s interest in looking at French life and sexual mores is echoed in parts of the novel.

8. Catherine Deneuve in Peau d’Ane, 1970.jpg

Catherine Deneuve in “Peau d’Ane,” 1970
I love this image of an icon of beauty dressed up as a donkey. It’s from Jacques Demy’s 1970 movie based on a Freudian fairytale. I recently read an essay by Susan Weiner titled, “Demy and Deneuve: The Princess and the Post- ’68 Fairy Tale.” She mentions that Demy thought the film was “psychedelic,” in style. This reminds me of Terayama’s movie too. The mud on Deneuve’s face recalls a similar scene in Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour. Joseph’s Kessel’s novel that inspired that film was a big influence on the book.

9. Tina Aumont clipping on set, 1968 copy.jpg

Tina Aumont clipping on set, 1968
This is a picture of the actress on set of the film L’Urlo. The caption describes the plot of the film as “a girl takes off with a young man for a week before facing a conventional marriage—the ending is tragic.” Again, beautiful young actress in a story where her romantic desires lead to disaster. I saw another stock image of her once with one boot off, throwing her hair back and washing thigh-high stockinged feet in the fountain.

stephanie lacava