by Patricia Grandjean
Mar 10, 2011
12:34 PMBox Office
Q & A Web Exclusive: David Rakoff
(page 4 of 4)
With Half Empty coming out in paperback in the fall, will we see you on "The Daily Show" again?
I hope so. If it were up to me, I'd be on every night. I think he's the greatest. It's intensely flattering to even be asked on the show at all.
What is it you admire about him?
I think he's incredibly quick, incredibly funny. And I think he's got a moral core that is really admirable. He seems to be concerned with all the right things. I think he comes down on the proper side of most issues; he's kind of a hero. I think he and Stephen Colbert both are.
One of the things I always think about when I read your work is your great love for New York City.
I love New York from a personal standpoint because it's where I became an adult. I moved here when I was 17 and I essentially never left. It's been very formative in that way. I love it for reasons that are not remotely unique: I love diversity, I love the architecture, I love the emotional directness of the people, I love the decades and centuries of great art that it has spawned, I love the energy. All those typical storybook things; some of which at this point are a matter of nostalgic conjecture and don't thoroughly describe the city, which is far too polarized in terms of wealth and much, much harder for younger people who come in with dreams of making art. But it has sort of always been thus, in an ebbing and flowing way. I understand that there are ways in which the city really f***s over its inhabitants—I understand that people elsewhere don't really contend with the kind of BS people in New York do. As I get older that becomes less attractive and romantic than it once was; I don't need to wear those badges of honor. I'd rather be comfortable.
But I do still love the city. We're still getting along.
Why do you think you became a writer? Why do you and writing get along?
Well, I'm a chatterbox. And I like being listened to; there's nothing more empowering. It's a career for a secret bully, or not so secret bully—again, Joan Didion is the one who said that. There's nothing lovelier than being seen by people, being seen by the world. And there's no more visible way of being seen than as a writer. It's a tremendous privilege. Which is why the "Selected Shorts" are interesting because it's not me as a writer. But it's also not entirely acting; it's reading. It sort of hovers somewhere between the two. It uses a different set of muscles, but it still expresses that reverence for words and for writers.
What always excites me about it is the experiences you get to have . . .
Oh my God, it's the luckiest thing in the world! I've gotten entrée into countless things that not only would I never thought of, but been too scared to do on my own. It's been incredibly lucky that way.
Speaking of that, I know you've written about going on a white-water rafting tour with Robert Kennedy Jr. Would that be the most amazing thing writing has brought you?
Oh no, no; I hated that. That was my nightmare. Not for any other reason than things having to do with myself; do you know what I mean? I don't like adventure tours, I don't like being scared, I don't like being three days off the grid. I vastly preferred going to Paris to see the couture collections, but even more than that, getting to go to a folk school in North Carolina where I learned how to do basket weaving. That was the best week of my life because I'm a crafter, and it was fabulous. I made eight baskets in six days.
Were they all similar style?
No, perish the thought! One was a golden egg basket, one was a melon basket, one was a potato basket—all these various techniques. It was fabulous.
You say you're a crafter—what else have you done?
it's been awhile since I've properly made anything, but I used to make all the lamps in my apartment . . . there was a radio story about it, and also an essay in my second book, I think, about making stuff.
Can you come redo my apartment? You should mount an exhibit of your work.
Yeah, but it's kind of all cast out to the world— I'd have to get it back. [laughs]