Tournament of Books 2015

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

Powell's Q&A

Mac Montandon

Describe your latest project.
Like a lot of people, by now I very much expected to be living in the future. You know, with flying cars, teleportation chambers, robot bartenders (or was that just me?), and, of course, that most amazing device, capable of lifting you over bumper-to-bumper traffic like an urban angel, the jetpack. It hasn't happened — well, unless you consider the Segway futuristic — so in Jetpack Dreams, I set out to determine why that is and if it might soon change. Along the way, I met many charming jetpack enthusiasts and other firm believers in the power of flight.

I also recount the inspired, mid-20th-century jetpacking work done by Wendell Moore and his band of renegade engineers at Bell Aerospace's Niagara headquarters and Bill Suitor's 1984 Olympic flight in front of billions of viewers around the world; dig into a gruesome, jetpack-driven murder in Houston; and take a peek into the secret laboratories and government facilities of today to see the current state of personalized propulsion.

In other chapters, the book explores Hollywood's renditions of the jetpack over the decades, from the 1949 serial King of the Rocket Men to Lost in Space, The Jetsons, and The Rocketeer, to the popular 'packs worn by Buck Rogers, James Bond, and Boba Fett. Finally, I travel the world — from Mexico to England, Ireland, and New Jersey — to meet fellow jetpack fans who are readying their own personal flying machines for takeoff, some of whom are getting very close to the real thing. It's a story of hopes, dreams, obsessions, nostalgia, romance, physics, the seductiveness of soaring, and protective eyewear.

  1. Jetpack Dreams: One Man
    $4.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "This snappily written, often funny book should attract dreamers of both sexes and all ages." Publishers Weekly

    "A delightful and engrossing story of the quest for one of humankind's greatest technological fantasies — to strap on a device and fly like a bird."

  2. Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader
    $11.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    "[E]ntertaining....The fans surely will love this collection." Booklist
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Tonight, I Will Do Anything: The Mac Montandon Story. Alternate title: Sunshine Travels Light. Both titles I overheard my four-year-old daughter say while pretending to read a book to an imaginary class full of kids (okay, yes, the class was very real to her), and I think they are fantastic and should be used for something.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Ballroom dance instructor in Portland, Oregon! (Note: I don't know how to ballroom dance.)

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Chris Ayres is the funny and smart Los Angeles correspondent for the Times of London. His book on his unlikely assignment to cover the Iraq war, War Reporting for Cowards, is a great, interesting, and unusual take on the terribly difficult subject.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
My friend lent me his copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao not long ago. I'd heard and read reviews saying that it is, like, one of the best novels written in a long, long time. I hadn't been reading much fiction, but was certainly intrigued, and I absolutely loved it.

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Does drinking excessively in a Dublin pub count?

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Easy: yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, and coffee in a cottage situated in an olive orchard on Skopelos, an island off the coast of Greece. What do the Greeks put in their yogurt? Magic sauce? I was with my then-girlfriend and now wife, Catherine, and I don't think the fact that we are now married is totally unrelated to this breakfast.

Why do you write?
Like Max Fischer advises, I've tried to find the thing I love doing and hope to do it for the rest of my life.

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Mötley Crüe.

If you could have been someone else, who would that be and why?
Jean-Paul Belmondo or Björn Borg. They both seem so freakin' cool.

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

Seven Books that Make Great Bar or Bat Mitzvah Presents

Even though many 13-year-olds hate to read, I like to try to get them to do it, anyway. Also, this list is like a delicious literary sandwich — on rye.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

First Love and Other Sorrows by Harold Brodkey

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

÷ ÷ ÷

Mac Montandon is the editor of Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader. He has written for the New York Times, New York, Details, and Salon, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at