For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
An Internet commenter once said: “bizarre but completely wonderful.” An editor at a large publishing house once said: “incredible but too schizophrenic.” They were delivering opposite verdicts but appeared to be entirely in agreement.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
It won’t improve your life unless you adore literature’s misanthropes, but The Voice Imitator, a collection of (extremely) short parables by Thomas Bernhard, is a wicked gem. Ditto The Map and the Territory, by Michel Houellebecq, his best in more than a decade, with its icy third act and dreamlike coda. For those who think the Great American Novel is dead, Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods. I also recommend looking up at the tops of very tall buildings, which, once you quell your fear of being a tourist—and everyone is one, let’s admit—can be quite calming.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
People I’ve Killed by Vladimir Putin.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
At worst it’s just a week of ramen noodles, which may account for some angst or bitterness in the work. I’m hoping the new upscale Japanese noodle bar around the block doesn’t take that edge off. Regardless, I have plenty of time left to become truly destitute.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
The reader emails to ask if I might write a line of text for each piece in her exhibit at a modern art gallery, at the rate of $1000 per word. The opening is an unqualified success; no one at the party minds that I’m shy or aloof, or indeed even knows why I’m there. Afterward the reader and I walk to the luxury hotel she owns to smoke a joint, discuss the relative absurdity of things and have sex on a king-size mattress (the reader is very beautiful).
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
In response to a colleague’s unsolicited advice—and that’s putting it charitably—I dashed off a sarcastically sycophantic missive that, so I later learned, was taken wholly in earnest. To this day it depresses the hell out of me.