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Powell's Q&A

Jonathan Evison

Describe your latest project.
I've been working on a real beast for the past two years — three, if you count the research. It's very different from All about Lulu. It's called West of Here and is much larger in scope. Third person, a gazillion POVs. Bigfoot, naked Indians, Colonel Sanders, a lot of ecological destruction. Maybe it's a disaster, but I don't care; it's exhilarating if nothing else, though at times a bit overwhelming. I really believe in challenging myself, pushing myself to new places. I have to wake up at five in the morning six days a week just to keep a handle on this thing, but that's not a complaint. I wouldn't have it any other way. The good news is it's very close to being done, and I can take a little breather.

  1. All about Lulu
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    All about Lulu

    Jonathan Evison
    "Evison provides readers a viciously funny and deeply felt portrayal of a blended family and one man's thwarted longing." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    "[R]eads like Salinger for the Freaks and Geeks-meets-Wes Anderson crowd, a whip smart Gen X Lolita (sans pedophilia)." Gerry Donaghy, Powells.com


What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Maybe hacking up roadkill with a machete and feeding it to captive grizzly bears in Oregon. I was volunteering at a wildlife rehab center. That's the job they gave me. I also worked as a professional heckler. I had to serve spaghetti at that job, too — that was the only drawback.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Man, this is tough. There're so many great writers out there who aren't getting the exposure they deserve. I'm gonna say Keith Dixon. The guy can write like hell, and I especially like his work because it's nothing like my own. It takes me out of my comfort zone. Ghostfires is a good place to start; it's dark and disquieting, and it resonates.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
You tell me. True or false: I have a dad who was a competitive bodybuilder until the age of 68, a brother who made a living for three years playing Christmas carols for a guy who thought he was going to build a flying saucer and land it on the statehouse lawn, and I've got an uncle who used to be a famous magician with three wives and over 20 children and who eats one rice ball a day, drinks two cases of beer, and lives on the side of a volcano in Hawaii? C'mon, true or false? For the record, that's all true. I like hyperbole as much as the next guy, but really, do I need it?

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
I feel like I'm about to embark on a literary pilgrimage with this tour, seriously. All my life I've been lurking in the stacks in total awe at some of the world's greatest bookstores — City Lights, Powell's, Booksmith, Elliott Bay, Eagle Harbor, Skylight, Left Bank. Now, I get to read and sign at these places! What's more (and this is the best part!), when nobody's looking, I get to put my own book face-out on the shelf, and to make room, I get to turn Jeffrey Eugenides and Frederick Exley's books in — ha! I may even get to turn Faulkner in, if they're out of Exley — that'd be sweet! Faulkner was kind of a dick. I'll bet Exley was nice, though. In a kind of crazy way.

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
Well, if I'm naming my kid, and I want him to be an NBA point guard or a wide receiver in the NFL, I'm going with Kelvin. If I'm naming my kid, and I want him to sound like a conservative statesman in the Roman tradition, I gotta go with Celsius (sounds like a hell of an orator, doesn't he?). If I wanted my kid to be a really high-maintenance landscape architect, I might name him Fahrenheit, but probably not.

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
That's like asking who's hotter: Paz Vega or Ernest Borgnine? The answer, of course, is my wife.

I may be the exception to the rule when it comes to touring authors. I think the old school is long overdue for an overhaul — no wine and cheese and suede elbow patches for this cowboy. I'm rolling out a real circus for my summer '08 tour (13 cities), and it all peaks in Bakersfield (yes, Bakersfield), where the local literati are really rolling out the red carpet for this debut novelist — we're talking amateur bodybuilding, a house party, and a hotdog social to go along with my appearance at Russo's Books! I ask you, are they doing this for me in New York? Los Angeles? Chicago? I'm serious. I'm bringing a whole entourage. First and foremost, is my "tour manager" and agent of chaos, John Brooks, who provides an excellent counterpoint to yours truly and always, always picks up the bar tab (love that!). Brooks stubbornly refuses to read books — not even my books. No books at all. Refreshing, no? My pal Justin is coming to film the whole tour — primarily because he enjoys the bickering repartee between Brooks and me, and he likes to egg it on. I'd like to do free hotdogs at Powell's on July 29, too. Can I do free hotdogs? I don't need a permit or anything if they're free, right? People like free stuff and hotdogs — that's kinda the touchstone of my whole tour: free stuff and hotdogs. And any authors reading this better not try and steal my idea!

Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
Add a new pair of hiking shoes, and maybe a new suit (so I can stop wearing that damn pin-striped affair to every dressy occasion), and I honestly feel like I'm living my ideal life, right now. Sure, the bottom could drop out any moment, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. I get to do what I've wanted to do my whole life: write books, and make a living at it (sort of). I spend a ton of time in the woods, I mean a ton. I've got a wonderfully supportive and drop-dead gorgeous wife, three dogs, eight bunnies, and with any luck, a few kids on the horizon. The truth is, even before I "broke through" with Lulu, I felt like my life was more or less ideal, because I love to write — love it, love it, love it! Granted, it's nice to actually have somebody reading my stuff, now, but as long as I get to write and drink beer and bumble around in the woods, and take a lot of vacations (even if they're on the cheap), I'm a happy guy.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Books about the Spirit of California, by California Writers:

McTeague by Frank Norris

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Ask the Dust by John Fante

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

÷ ÷ ÷

Jonathan Evison likes rabbits. His work had appeared in the Portland Review, Orchid, Knock, Opium, Quick Fiction, and other journals. All about Lulu is his first novel.

(Read Jonathan Evison's posts on the Powells.com blog.) spacer

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