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Q and A

Jan 28, 2012; Pickles, Pickles, Pickles Asks:

The first paragraph of your answer to Lauren is so Groucho Marx that I was looking for attribution. Who would you say are your comedic heroes?

Stacey answers:

It's true though, all the stuff about the cat. I know what you mean, Pickles, but I'm not exactly trying to be funny, but maybe Groucho wasn't always exactly trying either. As for old Jewish men, I like Jackie Mason, or at least I love his "I look like a hooker" joke (I'd tell it but you need the intonation for it to make sense).

My favorite comedy is usually a little surreal and sometimes not-funny in a way that makes it more funny to me. I kind of like early Woody Allen--though mostly I just love Annie Hall. I love anything that seems to be the product of a demented child-brain, like Andy Kaufman (Mighty Mouse is on Youtube) and of course "Kittens Inspired by Kittens." I love Louis C.K. and his brilliant show Louie, and though I've never immersed myself in the Kids in the Hall oeuvre, I've watched the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy a dozen times--not sure I can explain that. I love Kathy Griffin; she's funny but what I'm in total awe of is her bullshit detector. I once saw her making fun of a spokesperson on Larry King. It was an amazing TV moment, watching her say what she really thought; it was kind of wild.

As for funny writers, I love Diane Johnson and find Le Divorce especially wonderful. I loved Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow. That was funny, funny, smarty-pants funny, especially the part about Pride and Prejudice. I won't spoil it; maybe you'll read it someday.

Jan 23, 2012; Murakami is incredible! Asks:

Thank you for the suggestion. I started The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and all I can say, pardon the lack of imagination, is WOW!

Stacey answers:

Right on.

Jan 18, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

Are artist ever happy? Maybe they would be if they had a good Pirate novel to read. A real swashbuckler that gives them something to do besides their work.

Stacey answers:

Good point. I don't know why pirate novels aren't popular anymore--maybe they were never popular. Pirates seem at least as cool as vampires, though they don't get to live forever and wear fancy gowns. They might not even get to take showers.

But even a thrilling swashbuckler probably wouldn't make most artists happy. They might be temporarily amused, then go back to brooding. I don't know if artists are ever happy. I don't know any happy artists (but if I met one I'd kill him). I don't think I even know any happy people (but if I did I might not like them). I think I might need to get out more.

Jan 18, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

Which Haruki Murakami work should I read first? A Wild Sheep Chase seems interesting. Then again, they all do.

Stacey answers:

I've heard A Wild Sheep's Chase is good but haven't read it. I might have started it and been put off by the business of the first chapter being about a guy making a cup of coffee. That was before I understood that every Murakami novel begins with a long, boring, detailed section and then slowly becomes more strange. Pretty much everyone likes The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because it's so amazing. I say read that. The Elephant Vanishes, a story collection, is also really great. I wouldn't recommend Kafka on the Shore (because talking cats should say things like, "Why are you starving me to death when my little nose is so sweet?", not, "You are taking too much of my time sir," like snooty headwaiters) and the gigantic 1Q84, which has cool parts but is wildly repetitive.

Jan 18, 2012; Lauren Asks:

Hi Stacey, Liam shared a link to your Q&A page a few days ago and I have been reading it ever since. It's been a source of amusement and thoughtfulness at the end of long days. There's a delicious sense of eavesdropping while you dole very wry, good advice and a funny-poignant insightfulness that I feel drawn to. I haven't read any of your fiction, yet, but I thought since I had the opportunity to, I should tell you candidly how I have appreciated reading your miscellany. And perhaps see if I couldn't participate in the conversation, as well. I have a few questions. The first deal with reading. Have you read "Cannery Row" by Steinbeck? I just finished it. I think I am at a time in my life for it to matter a lot to me. Also, have you ever read any Eric Hoffer? You share a certain clarity. My other question is an advice seeking one. You wrote on here that "making art is fraught with fear, as is love. There's a lot at stake, like your sense of yourself as smart or worthwhile or interesting or useful". I feel a little silly, since you gave solid advice on tackling fear related to making art, but do you have any advice on negotiating the fears that arise in love? Best wishes, Lauren

Stacey answers:

Hi Lauren. Thanks for writing in. I’m not qualified to address the fears of love. I just want to warn you. For instance, I recently adopted a terminally ill cat because I could only deal with short-term commitment. Then, when I realized I loved her madly (she’s so soft and so small), I asked the vet to just euthanize her now so I wouldn’t have the agony of anticipating it. Did she? No she did not. She thought I was joking! Silly vet.

With that in mind, all I can really offer is the reminder that there’s no such thing as love without fear. There is no one who won’t leave you, or won’t die, or cannot disappoint you, or will protect you in every circumstance, or give you everything you need, or make you feel happy, or make up for what you’ve lost. Except Jesus, but he’s a mythological being (don't argue with me on this). So if you’re holding out for that, or trying anxiously to get there, you can stop.

I haven’t read those books. I’d like to though. It's so great to find books that feel like they're part of your life. I put them in my library queue.

Jan 11, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

I meant to post a comment and question about catch-22. About one third the way through I really caught on to Heller's rhythm for the book and it made reading it even better. It was kind like acquiring an new skill; as if I could suddenly play piano or work crossword puzzles. John Yossarian is a protagonists protagonist. In a slight way he reminds me of myself during a certain period of my navy career when I realized the doctrine of Mutual assured Destruction was indeed MAD. Anyway, great book for the ages. About Mr. Hornby, or Hornsby, if you prefer; I think he is a really good writer that one day may become a great writer if there is a really kick-ass novel waiting in him. But for now I do enjoy his portraits of contemporary life and his use of popular music in his stories (always back to the music). So what is the latest on the Pirate novel?

Stacey answers:

You are like my father, always asking about the pirate novel. I'm in a shame/procrastination spiral and haven't looked at it in a month, okay Tom? Are you happy now?

Jan 11, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

Are you familiar with the work of Nick Hornby? Now that catch-22 is behind me I have started reading Mr. Hornby's latest, Juliet, Naked?

Stacey answers:

I did not read Juliet, Naked though I think maybe you asked me about Nick Hornby once before, Tom. I think you recommended him so I read How To Be Good and found it a little programmatic for my taste, though everyone is allowed to write a few books that are not as wonderful as their other ones. (Yes Haruki Murakami, I'm talking to you).

Is Hornby your one true love? Can I say "Hornsby" instead? Do I have to keep reading him?

Jan 06, 2012; Pickles Asks:

Yesterday I paid one dollar, U.S., to sit in a movie theater and watch Moneyball, which I did not hate. I didn't even hate myself for liking what I liked about it. Half the trailers shown beforehand were for t.v. shows. You been to the movies lately?

Stacey answers:

Moneyball is a good title--reminiscent of Rollerball, yet also like it could be about a giant ball of money, or else a testicle filled with money. Obviously I did not see it. I haven't seen anything.

Dec 22, 2011; Pickles Asks:

Yo, Stacey, have you checked out the flying videos made by the man called Jeb Corliss?!! Man, oh Manischewits!!!! Have you/ would you ever jump out of a airplane? Do you enjoy Danger these days?

Stacey answers:

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles. Yeah, I have seen that guy. He's awesome but I'm mad at him because I think that if anyone should get to fly, it should be me. I should be able to fly without jumping off of anything, maybe even just hovering a few feet above the ground until I get the hang of it. Then I will take a nap in midair.

I don't enjoy danger! Sometimes fake danger is okay, like getting on a giant Ferris wheel, but having happened upon a terrible car accident just yesterday I feel confident in saying that danger is frightening and disturbing. Even though I think everyone was basically okay in this crash, but the cars were ruined and it looked like hell. Happy New Year!

Dec 15, 2011; Tom Hancock Asks:

Hi Stacey1 Have you read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller? I am rereading it and really enjoying it. Happy Holidays! Tom

Stacey answers:

Yes, I reread it recently too. I really liked it too though it's so circular and repetitive that I was kind of thrown off. I swear one of the chapters was repeated in its entirety. But this can't be right, right? Will you let me know?

Also it's aged amazingly well, I think because it's one of the few major novels of the mid 20th century that's not about men and women. (In the foreword, Franzen says he cringes at the book's attitude toward women, but it just seems satirical to me). Of course there's also the irony and lassitude and cynicism--that makes it feel current too. And the ending is phenomenal, the one real thing that all the unreality revolves around. Yet still funny.

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