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Stephen Elliott, lover of the electoral process

Dan Kennedy, small-talking memoirist

Jonathan Ames, randy writer

Neal Pollack, supercharged satirist

Tom Perrotta, novelist

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Main | January 2003 »

August 19, 2000

Stephen Elliott, lover of the electoral process


1. How’s it going?

Stephen Elliott

It’s going well. We did a fundraiser last night for MoveOn.org. I organized the reading with Peter Orner and we co-hosted. It was our third event; we’ve been doing them monthly on the second Monday and we’re going to keep going through the election. Michael Chabon, Ann Cummins, Hannah Tinti, Jan Richman, Matthew Iribarne, and Tom Kealey all read.

dk (featuring Dan Kennedy and his brother and someone else) also jammed during the intermission, which was awesome. I’m a big fan of his music. Unfortunately, there was an argument between the band and the bar ownership. The guys in the band were pissed off because Marty, the bar owner, hadn’t given them enough microphones or access to the soundboard. Also, nobody was really listening to the band, which was my fault. I introduced them as a group that was going to “play during the intermission” which people took as license to talk and mill about and ignore the musicians. Then the bar owner said something negative about the sound quality and the musicians said something negative back. It looked like it might get heavy for a moment. I was like, “Take it easy guys. We’re all here for a good cause.” Which I think was true. But I think Dan Kennedy’s brother told Marty to “Go fuck yourself.”

After they left I asked Marty “Who do I have to blow to get a Sierra Nevada?” He pointed two thumbs at his chest and poured me a beer.

Other than the band I think everybody had a great time. The audience, which was over 200, paid close attention to the authors. Michael Chabon is funny as hell and I’m not sure anybody writes stories as well as Ann Cummins. Also Tobias Wolff was there, just to hang out and show support. So was Andrew Sean Greer, whose book I’ve decided not to read. I like Andrew too much, I figure if I don’t like his novel it won’t be good for our friendship. Anyway, he hasn’t read my book either and every time I see him he apologizes for that but I tell him it’s too late for apologies. Tobias is reading at the next event, in August, and Greer read at our first one. This was our third reading and each one is better than the last. We raised $2,500.

After the reading I stuck around and drank for a while, even though I knew I had to be up at 6 a.m. to pack and catch a flight to Washington, D.C. I went home with someone I shouldn’t have. She lived in the opposite direction from me. I had $2,500 in cash zippered in my pocket. I was wearing cargo pants, a white shirt, and a tie. She said we should go out and have a good time with the money, but she was only joking. I went to her place for an hour and hung out then caught a cab. At home I hid the wad of bills in my sock crate.

So yeah, things are fine. I’m a little tired today. I also have a new book coming out in late September, but that’s another story.

Mr. Elliott is the author of four novels, most recently Happy Baby. He has a new book coming out in late September, but that is another story. His Web site is stephenelliott.com.

Dan Kennedy, small-talking memoirist


1. What’s shakin’?

Dan Kennedy

I’m starting my fourth week back home after a little travel bender in which I think I clocked 35,000 miles in maybe a month’s time and felt like I had found the answers to everything but now maybe forgot or misplaced them. I am still/again hard at work on the next book—and last week received an unexpected and kind of surreal e-mail from my agent telling me that she’s sending over a foreign offer for Loser Goes First to be translated to Chinese, confirming my lifelong hunch that I am huge in the Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, and that it would one day pay off modestly. Some days working on the new book involves actually getting down to writing. Today, so far, it has again involved taping another thirty pages to the wall and looking at them until I am convinced each page is worth anybody’s every last cent handed over to a bookstore clerk in 2005. In other news, my girlfriend Maria has rather defensively informed anyone who will listen around here that her hobbies are “Larry King Live” and “magazines.” Lately my rests on the blue couch are interrupted by the nightmare of an assistant gone stark-raving wild-dog insane on me, which I’ve embraced, because his behavior is always reminding me of this gray wolf me and Ben saw in Montana in the evening earlier this summer, and recalling the wolf that night puts me in a good mood to write more. Also, somebody checked out a book from the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis then sent it here to headquarters very anonymously. All about the search for the fourteenth Dalai Lama (J921.1996 Stewart, Whitney, 1959– The 14th Dalai Lama: Spiritual Leader of Tibet) and folks here are trying to convince me this is some kind of spiritual message meant to find me. Wolf-boy stares at the book silently for hours before saying something random and spasmodic like, “Keep your mustache. And not as a joke.” At dinners everyone agrees on this: the fact that this Scott Peterson guy on CNN every night seems like bad news anyway you look at him. There’s this S.F. reading with Eggers and crew coming up, and then its back to New York after hanging around out there for the holiday weekend.

Mr. Kennedy is the author of the memoir Loser Goes First, which will be available in paperback on August 24th. He is the editor of Really Small Talk.

August 13, 2000

Jonathan Ames, randy writer


1. What did your mom say the first time she read your tales of ribaldry?

Jonathan Ames

I don’t remember. What a funny word: ribaldry. And funny that I should say funny, since ribaldry has to do with funny. It would seem to mean a rib that is bald and dry. Wait a second, I just looked up ribaldry; it has more to do with blaspheme and indiscretion and obscenity… But now I look closer with my quite exhausted eyes and for ‘ribald’ it says: ‘irreverent jester.’ That’s pretty good. I’m a jester. Not too irreverent though. I believe in things. Anyway, my first book came out in 1989. I vaguely recall my mom telling me that even if I had experimented with homosexuality (she was making an oblique reference to an oblique reference to—well, not too oblique—a graphic anal rape scene in the book) that she loved me regardless and didn't judge me. She's a very good mother. I love her. She knows I love her, but I wish she really knew. That time could slow down enough so that someone could really know just how much you love them. Time seems to move too fast for this to come across.

Mr. Ames is the author of five books, including The Extra Man, My Less Than Secret Life and, most recently, Wake Up, Sir! He can be found on the Web at jonathanames.com.

Neal Pollack, supercharged satirist


1. How come us Jewish folks are so hairy? I look like Robin Williams and the Wolfman had a kid.

Neal Pollack

Body hair, as you know, contains your unique “chemical signature,” designed by nature to sexually attract other mammals. From personal experience, I know that Jews get laid all the time, so we must smell good. Therefore, we’re so hairy because God wanted us to be that way. Note to Jews: Do NOT get rid of your body hair, because that will lead to the extermination of your people, unless you've already reproduced with a non-Jew, in which case you’ve already screwed up everything.

Mr. Pollack is the author of Never Mind the Pollacks, Beneath the Axis of Evil, and The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. His Web site is www.nealpollack.com.

Tom Perrotta, novelist


1. Which do you prefer (to munch on, not to adorn book covers): Pepperidge Farm Goldfish or chocolate-chip cookies?

Tom Perrotta

I prefer chocolate chip cookies. They don't have as many lawyers.

Mr. Perrotta is the author of the novels Little Children, Election, Bad Haircut, The Wishbones, and Joe College.