Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel Kapitoil. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Time, Esquire, McSweeney’s, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in New York, and reads at the Freerange Nonfiction Reading Series at the Cornelia St. Cafe on July 7, and at Franklin Park‘s reading series on July 12.
The L: For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Wayne: I have no idea if Jonathan Franzen’s blurb is the most accurate assessment, but I’ve turned it into a facial tattoo: “Kapitoil is one of those uncommon novels that really is novel.Though the storytelling is conventional, it is satisfyingly so, and the book’s estimable young narrator is a human type whom nobody until Wayne was ever inspired to write about.”
The L: What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
Wayne: Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs; MTV’s Warren the Ape; the gibberish song “Prisencolinensinainciusol” by Adriano Celentano; the abyss, which then looked back at me; my dog’s homework.
The L: 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 to balance it out)?
Wayne: Pop Goes the Weasel: From Encino Man to Bio-Dome, My Meteoric Rise and, More Adjectivally Appropriate, Meteoric Fall, by Pauly Shore (ghostwritten by fellow early-90s MTV personalities Dan Cortese, Eric Nies, and—so someone can handle the big words—Kennedy).
The L: Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
Wayne: For just about anyone in this country who has the cultural advantages to write and publish fiction, it’s an elective poverty. Like most writers, I’ve had my tuna-fish-and-canned-soup periods. But it’s nowhere near hard times, so the only accrued wisdom comes from some meager identification with the financial anxieties of the rest of the world, and which soups have the most protein.
The L: What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Wayne: No names, no promises, no apologies; just raw, unfettered, all-night-long cuddling.
The L: Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Wayne: My first assignment for the former incarnation of Radar magazine was an elaborate prank in which I pretended to be a power-tool company representative who wanted Willie Aames, aka Buddy Lembeck from Charles in Charge, to endorse our power sander. I legally recorded the phone call and we put it on the website (accompanied by an animated film). The prank was “successful”—he really wanted to do it and he was all for using his Christian children’s video-series superhero, Bibleman, to promote the sander (though he was a bit more dubious of my suggestion that we depict Bibleman “sanding off the heathens”). Yes, he’s a celebrity whose values clash with mine, but he’s also a human being I publicly made fun of. I resolved that any prank targets thereafter (military recruiters, college admissions officers, Second Life sex addicts) would remain fully anonymous. It’s off the site now, thankfully—but if you’re reading this, Willie, I apologize.