Describe your latest project.
Men and Cartoons is
my second collection of stories. It spans ten years, and makes a kind of survey
of what, during that period in my life and in my reading and in my writing, fascinated
and infuriated and beguiled me. In this way a story collection is more intimate
than any single novel — by reading all these
stories I think you can really glimpse my mind at work, for better or worse.
Of course, several are precursors to my novel, The
Fortress of Solitude. Others
were written as breaks from that book, and a couple were written afterwards.
With that book they share themes — male friendship, childhood, childhood male
friendship, and the yearning for the solace of romance, conversation, sex,
community, and comic books.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good place to start.
Everyone should read Thomas
Berger (the dedicatee of Men and Cartoons), the
great poet of menace in American fiction. His book Neighbors is the ideal place
to start: a furious and hilarious and breakneck episode in the life of a typical
suburban couple when they encounter an unexpected challenge to their complacency
in the form of a pair of new next-door neighbors. Berger builds scenes with a
shifting Kafkaesque dream-logic, and his stories unfold with uncanny, disastrous
grace. His language is an intoxicating collision of high diction and low
vernacular, and his books are impossible not to read compulsively once you've
picked them up.
Writers are better liars than other people: true or false? Why, or not?
Writers are better liars (perhaps) not because their lies are more persuasive
but because they've dedicated themselves to eradicating the difference between
the truth and lies. Well, not so much eradicating as filling in the space
between — building a network of meaning between the truth and lies, a
span of language so firm it can be crossed like a bridge. Writers are where the
truth and lies go to be reconciled, to lay down arms.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"Be ordinary and bourgeois in your life so that you may be violent and original
in your work."
What section of the newspaper do you read first?
I like the sports section, particularly during baseball season. The statistical
dramas are enacted in a realm somewhere between life and art, with the narrative
pleasure of the latter and the homely and unpredictable texture of the former.
Baseball is a realm of symbolic struggle so much more honest and absorbing than
the rest of the newspaper, where politicians and pundits and critics struggle to
blunt the nuances of everyday reality and the striving of human beings to
express themselves and be free into a debased symbolic form ("good v.
evil"; "realism v. the fantastic") that resembles sports.
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
Don't you think the relationship of humans to shoes is fundamentally tragic?
My favorite pair is always one which briefly resembles some perfect lost shoe
of the past — a pair of Beatle boots I once found at a stoop sale in Park
Slope, or the first and freshest set of blue Converse All-Star high-tops I ever
owned, or the best-fitting and slickest-looking wingtips. When I wear new shoes
out into the world they're always briefly my favorite again, but the interval
between backache- and blister-inducing stiffness and the day when they sag and
fade and are destroyed always seems smaller and smaller. The great era of shoes
is some time in the past.
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
In German hotels they serve nothing but cold cuts — sausage and cheese and
smoked turkey and thinly-sliced ham, and then, as if to apologize, lots of fruit
salad and yogurt. I could eat a German hotel breakfast every day for the rest of