What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo, from Calvino‘s Baron in the Trees, and who climbed up into the trees at the age of twelve and never came down again. He’s smart, well-read and full of interesting opinions and life experiences. Plus there’s the whole having-sex-in-the-trees thing.
If you could choose any story to live in, what story would that be? Why?
Though I’m not sure I’d want to live there for all time, I have since fourth grade wished I could live inside James’s giant peach, in the book of roughly the same name by Roald Dahl.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good place to start.
I’m going to suggest two:
New author: Todd Hasak-Lowy — his book of short stories, The Task of This Translator, just came out this year and it is funny, smart, sad, and full of truths, often simultaneously. Hasak-Lowy pits the banal against the world-shattering to deliver memorable snapshots of the strange place the world is turning into.
Old author: J. G. Farrell — I’ve only read one book by this guy — The Seige of Krishnapur — but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in years. The story takes place during the beginning of the end of the British empire in India, which is the sort of topic that generally would send me running in the other direction in fear that it would be stuffy or dull or too edifying, but this book is vibrant, engrossing, hilarious, and a deeply, deeply dark study of human nature.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
“…human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.”
The first time I read that, in Madame Bovary, I had to stop reading and look at the floor for a while in order to recover.
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
My favorite pair of shoes is a really old pair of Fluevog boots. I bought them used in a thrift store in the early ’90s and wore them constantly for years and I still wear them, but only on special occasions because they’re at death’s door. They’re the perfect cross between clown shoes and bowling shoes and even once they’re completely unwearable I’m going to hold onto them because in addition to being ridiculous shoes, once when I was wearing them a man sat next to me on a subway platform and — when my head was turned — began kissing them passionately. When I turned to see what was happening to my right foot, I was lucky enough to see him before he saw me. In the brief instant before he disengaged his mouth from my boot and we both gasped and fled, he wore the most beatific expression of happiness that I have ever seen on a human face.
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
The best breakfast of my life (I’m speaking in a platonic sense here) would be brunch, because breakfast is a thing I associate with hours at which I don’t like to be awake. I really like brunch and here’s why: it gives me a child-like thrill to drink several kinds of beverage at once. For dinner one can get away with a glass of wine and a glass of water followed by a coffee over dessert, but only at brunch is it considered totally normal to have three — count ’em, three — different beverages in front of you at the same time: water, juice, and coffee. The juice, in my case, would be fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
Stanley Kubrick‘s intellectual rigor, combined with his narrative sense, visual ingenuity, and plain good taste have resulted in some of the finest movies ever made. The Shining, Lolita, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange would all make it onto a list of my all-time favorite films.
Hieronymus Bosch‘s paintings are genuinely strange and beautiful and I will never get tired of looking at them.
Max Ernst‘s inventiveness and fearlessness produced a body of work that can’t be pigeonholed, which is something I aspire to.
Aside from the fact that I think Buster Keaton was one of the world’s most beautiful men, the movies he made and starred in are silent masterpieces of humor and ingenuity. He was an expert at falling and being knocked around, but also at standing utterly still.