by Patricia Grandjean
Mar 10, 2011
12:34 PM
Box Office

Q & A Web Exclusive: David Rakoff


(page 2 of 4)

I hate when you have to go back and say to a person, "Could you do this again?"

It's terrible. Which is why I've tried on those occasions I'm asked to be as nice about it as possible, because God knows it happens to everybody.

One of the other stories you told that struck me funny was the one about seeing Madonna early in her career and thinking, "She's nothing special; she'll never make it."

Yes, that she was terrible. I frequently have that experience where my predictions are completely wrong. I really do have my finger off the pulse.

But again, it's totally relatable. My mother always tells the story about when she had a summer job at a toy company during her college years, back in the 1940s. Somebody came into the office with the prototype for the Barbie doll and asked her what she thought. And her immediate reaction was, "How silly, no little girl will ever play with a doll like that."

How funny! Well, think about it, it was a doll from the sex bar district of Berlin, or something like that? I would never have thought it would be popular either! I'm always wrong in that way.

What kinds of reactions have you gotten on the street to the book?

It seems to resonate with a lot of folks who don't particularly feel terribly optimistic about the world in general or their lives in general, and have been made to feel like killjoys as a result. It think they really appreciated having some sort of layperson's analysis of that. And you know, this coming autumn the paperback will be released, so I hope I hear more.

What makes you most pessimistic these days?

Domestic politics, I guess. I'm cautiously heartened by what's going on in the Middle East, but who knows what might happen in Libya and elsewhere? But the stuff here I feel tremendously pessimistic about.

Wisconsin, specifically?

I'm talking about Wisconsin; I'm talking about the very short-sighted budget-cutting instead of actually investing in infrastructure and the future. All that stuff that's being done for political gain. I remain just as dispirited by the Supreme Court as I was a year ago. We do seem to live in uniquely intractable, argumentative, and polarized times.

What do you think of the recent reconsideration of the Defense of Marriage Act?

I think anything that increases civil rights is good. But I don't have a more clever or nuanced take on it all. It will come up against the usual opposition, and basically all anyone has to do is wait for a certain demographic to, quite frankly, die off. Because it is the march of history. Eventually it'll happen.

So much for everyone who's screaming about "wanting their America back," the whole Tea Party mantra. Talk about having your finger off the pulse.

Well, exactly. But it's also trafficking in the kind of nostalgia that doesn't exist. "That" America that they want back is a fantasy. And if it did exist, it was a fantasy built upon a lot of other people doing without. But I really don't know what they mean when they say that. History marches on, and you don't want to be on the wrong side of it.

I also wanted to mention that I recently read the series of reviews you did on all of Woody Allen's films.

Oh, yeah! That was a few years back—a very interesting, fun thing to do. Film Forum in New York City did a retrospective; I think it was 28 films in 21 days. I had never blogged before, and I wasn't used to publishing work so quickly, without gestation and without an editor. Embarrassingly enough, it was not qualitatively different from the stuff I agonize over. It should have been a lesson for me to work more quickly and efficiently, to not get in my own way and not procrastinate. But it didn't turn out that way. I still do all that stuff.

Q & A Web Exclusive: David Rakoff

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Box Office is your guide to entertainment across Connecticut, courtesy of senior editor Pat Grandjean. If it's a chat with an actor or actress, previewing a new play at a regional theater, the latest on a state celebrity's new movie, or recommendations for seeing and doing, let Box Office be one of your hubs.

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