Hearing this story, Calhoun became convinced that succeeding where her father had failed was her next assignment. “I just thought, I’m so much nicer than my dad, I’m so much more fun,” she said. “Everything he did wrong, I will do right.” She would be respectful, she would do her homework and, she said, “I was totally going to win.”
Sitting outside at a sidewalk cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Calhoun laughed as she recalled her early hubris on the way to writing her new book, “Also a Poet,” out June 14. She’s a regular here; she lives around the corner with her husband, the performance artist Neal Medlyn, and their teenage son, Oliver. Holding a glass of orange wine between fingernails painted a bright orange, Calhoun, who is effervescent and conversational, cuts to the book’s not-so-spoiling spoiler: Where her father had failed back in the 1970s, so too did she.
At 46, Calhoun is the author of “St. Marks is Dead,” a history of the colorful downtown neighborhood where she grew up, “Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give” and “Why We Can’t Sleep,” as well as the ghostwriter of more than a dozen books. Despite having a well-known writer for a father, her career choice wasn’t predestined, she said. Growing up, Calhoun had always told herself that her father was the writer, so she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, be one.
But in a spontaneous act of reinvention, still in her early twenties and newly hired at The Austin Chronicle, she began writing under Calhoun, her middle name. She found that along with the distinctive, well-known surname, she had also shed the parental shadow hanging over her.