The L Mag Questionnaire for Writer Types: Joseph Riippi

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04/13/2012 9:52 AM |


Joseph Riippi, who lives in New York, is the author of four books, including A Cloth House and The Orange Suitcase. He will be appearing at the Franklin Park Reading Series next Monday, April 16, along with Heidi Julavits, Toure and others.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
I’d like to believe the most accurate things are the fireworkiest blurbs. I think it’s good I don’t. I do believe those who call it genreless and memory-y, and that it contains a great deal of heart. Heart is really all I care about.

What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
Always and forever, Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje is a book to love. And Michael Kimball’s Us makes me cry each time. I wish I had written Us. Since reading Us, I wish most books were Us instead. I love Us so much. You should love Us, too.

(Also, the suckling pig chef’s table dinner at the Breslin Bar is something spectacular—my wife and some friends took me for my birthday).

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)?
Eddie Vedder. Or Stephin Merritt. Either way, instead of The Meditations I’d buy a magnum of red wine as accompaniment.

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
My first few years in New York I worked as intern and then junior copywriter at an ad agency and made a habit of hoarding bagels and sandwiches from post-client conference rooms. I did not starve, did not even come close. I was often admonished for the hoarding, but I was a sharer, too, and everyone loves bagels. What small salary they paid me went to books and beer and great big freezer bags I’d buy to keep the agency’s Friday-morning bagels fresh for a week of my breakfasts and lunches. On weekends I wrote and read and made ninety-nine cent sale pasta with my girlfriend. On Mondays I defrosted pumpernickels, making certain to seal the bag. Eventually I afforded the deli.

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
One in which I am not sweaty and awkward and magnificently self-conscious. That is to say, in dreams or in writing.

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Almost everything.