What neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Gowanus, on Carroll Street, up from Monte’s, around the corner from Littleneck. I love Gowanus, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish it wouldn’t go the way of Fourth Avenue.
Is that where you grew up?
I grew up on President Street in Park Slope. I went away to college, did a decade in Manhattan, and now Gowanus feels awfully close to coming home to Park Slope to me. But I always say I live in Gowanus. Five years ago nobody knew where I was talking about. Now everybody does.
As a native and a writer, how do you feel about the transformation of Brooklyn, especially its recent reputation as a literary capital?
I’m happy for Brooklyn, but it doesn’t feel like a transformation to me. More like a decades-long evolution followed by a stampede. We are somewhere in the third stage now and I’m not sure what to call it.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
In the New York Times Book Review, Dean Bakopoulos said:
Despite a softly cynical underside, Love Is a Canoe is an affirmation that secrets, fantasies and wrong turns are part of both publishing careers and love. Schrank has done something here that may sound impossible: He’s written a funny novel about publishing that is not caustic but optimistic, not biting but bighearted—a story about the delusions with which self-aware, smart people are all too willing to live in order to avoid the painful (yet entertaining) upheaval that comes with truth.
If so many writers hadn’t already gotten tattoos and T-shirts made of their favorite reviews, I’d do both with the above.
What have you read (or seen or heard or tasted or etc.) recently that will permanently change our readers' lives for the better?
At risk of being a neighborhood booster: I had warm chocolate croissant at Runner & Stone on Third Avenue on Sunday morning that was the best I’ve ever had. I am very excited about the Root Hill Burger Place on Fourth Avenue. And, in a departure from Brooklyn, I love Jim Gavin’s upcoming debut short story collection, Middle Men, which takes place mostly in Los Angeles.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all 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)?
My wife and I are really into Bethenny Frankel. We love Bethenny and believe in her and her mission. Of course we have Skinnydipping, her underappreciated semi-autobiographical novel, at home, but we would like the most unvarnished truth from Bethenny about Jason.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I have been a writer who ran out of money and gotten a job because I couldn’t take a girlfriend to dinner. I didn’t enjoy that. I didn’t feel brilliant.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
A friend gave my book to a reader who shared this in an email to me: “I am having such a great time reading your book. I was so engrossed yesterday that I forgot to change to the F and ended up whisking down to Chinatown on the D—and had to double back.” For me, that was it—that’s ideal, that’s the dream.
Have you ever written anything that you'd like to take back?
Yes, there are great steaming heaps of prose in my first two novels that I’d like to take back. But I don’t want to take back a single word of this new one!
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart