For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most
accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Regarding accuracy — that’s a tricky term, but there are a few places
where people have said things about Couch and I’ve thought — yeah! I’d
effing love to write a book like that. Scott Pack wrote:
“It is an upholstered Odyssey unlike any other you are likely to read.
It is funny, confusing in places, wild and anarchic. It is part
Quixote, part Murakami, part Tom Robbins, part DFS showroom.”
(DFS is a UK furniture store, incidentally.)
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will
permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I’m a fan of mashups, and I thought this site,
which spliced together various Youtube musicians – mostly playing in
their skivvies – into full-band collages was really lovely.
Permanently change one’s life for the better? Probably not.
Life-changing items come along too rarely, I’m afraid. I also really enjoyed this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert at TED on the nature of genius. I just ate a cinnamon roll that I’m quite certain has positively
altered the course of my day.
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)?
Ooh boy, none that I can think of off the top of my head that I would
feel particularly embarrassed about other than the embarrassment that
comes from choosing a book that so obviously stereotypes you. In other
words, when I sidled up to the counter bearing my Will Oldham, Jeff
Mangum and Miranda July autobiographies, the book clerk would think,
“yeah, pff, you *would* buy these.” But other than that, I’m so bad
with names/faces that I’m having trouble even remembering which
celebrities I have crushes on.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just
Yes, I suppose I have been. I remember crying in the Olympia,
Washington food Co-op when I realized I didn’t have enough money to my
name to buy the oranges in my hand. Speaking of oranges and starving
and writers — if you haven’t read John Fante’s Ask The Dust — now’s
a great time to turn off this interview and go find it.
When I was in college I took up dumpster diving with a vengeance and
made myself a specialized set of tools for the job. I loved that time
— bicycling around at night, up to my neck in dumpsters, finding
great treasures. It did not make me brilliant, but it gave me a sense
of power and outrage, self-reliance and fuck-the-system that has
helped in just about everything since.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Maybe a long french kiss after a sunset walk on the beach? And then we
could both climb onto the great scaly back of her/his asthmatic
dragon, Lenny, destroy a couple of battleships mid-air and then fly
home in time to argue over what to make for dinner. Sushi? We had that
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
I’m a compulsive editor — my reading copy of Couch has a number of
edits scratched into it. In 1990 I published (anonymously) a small
newspaper thingy called the Thinktivist that, while at the time I
desperately wanted to be discovered, I feel very happy about having
published anonymously now. And any number of letters I fired off in a
bout of hot-headedness.