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This is really none of my business, but are Wag and Liam your friends in real life?! You love them so much more than anyone else. Also, didn't you see/LOVE The Social Network?! Lastly, if you think movies are bad, try reading scripts that will never become movies. There seems to be a weird trend these days where writers slip in gross-talk in lieu of real or interesting character nuances. For example: in one script I read today, the writer describes the main character's polyester pants as "wedged in her tweadle. *And in case the reader has no idea what a tweadle is, went on to clarify "(the orifice just south of the poo.)" Needless to say, I stopped reading the script right there, at page 12. But it did get me thinking: how the hell do you write genuinely funny things without pandering (like this writer did), alienating or inadvertently writing tragedy? While easy to criticize a failed attempt, I suspect it's really hard to get right. And yet, you manage to nail it, Stacey. Share your secrets, please!
Okay, one more: Would you tease us with a tidbit from the capitalist novel?!!
Yes, Wag and Liam are my friends in real life, but it only seems like I love them more because they're good sports who use one same-ish name when they ask questions so I can identify them. (And for what it's worth, Wag is an old friend from Tucson who I know in the old-fashioned way--and is pretty much my only real-life friend who posts here, bless him--while I got to know Liam after he started posting here and made a coffee date with me, because he's one of those amazing, friendly people who is not afraid of other people). Speaking of social, I did not see The Social Network. I heard it was good but I still thought it was going to like one of the New York Times articles about twitter that explains the internet to old people.
As for humor, I think the answer is right there in your question. You can't write comedy without risk, especial without the risk of inadvertently writing tragedy (and forget about not alienating people--by definition, anything really funny isn't funny to everyone). Deep funniness, to me, is often sad, and sometimes the most biting humor isn't even exactly funny, like Andy Kaufman's Mighty Mouse routine, or when Hal 9000 says "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that," or when Louis C.K.'s playdate falls asleep on the couch in Louie. Those moments are so full of loneliness and sorrow and awkwardness that they shouldn't be funny at all. They sort of aren't. But then they are.
But that's not an answer. Here's my answer: sorry about the scripts. Hollywood thrives on sameness and thinks that funny things should be happy, but the best humor is unexpected and often quite sad.
Novel? What novel?
It has been said that fiction reveals the truth obscured by reality. What general truths do you attempt to reveal with your eloquent fiction?
What is cynicism a defense mechanism for? How did it evolve and when does it just become pathetic and immature? I'm also a sufferer.
When you get right down to it, pretty much every personality trait is a defense mechanism--cynicism, trust, optimism, pessimism; intelligence, sweetness, industry, heroism--all are strategies for coping with the devastating fact that the future is utterly unknown to us except for the part where we and everyone we know DIES. Dies, dies, dies, dies, dies, dies, dies. Octomoms, Buddhists, Trappist monks, authors, army generals, supermodels, world record-holders, schoolchildren, you, dies. So that you're DEAD. It's almost impossible to think about this for more than ten seconds without slipping into a mental strategy of mitigation: but my children will live on! My work will be remembered! I'll be reborn as a lizard! I'll live until I'm super-old and then fade away! By then they'll know how to preserve my brain in a jar and I'll pilot a Segue until the end of time with my mind! The whole earth will be destroyed in the coming enviro-apocalypse, so I won't bother to imagine my individual death because if everybody gets flattened by the new weather I myself won't suddenly be gone the way, say, Jeff Conoway was eerily just here and is now totally gone alone (besides he was a drug addict and everyone knows addicts are practically asking for it. How bad can a broken spine hurt anyway?)!
The thing is this: humans have intellects, we are forward thinking, we've invented leaf-blowers and slow cookers through the cumulative dynamo of culture, but in the end we're animals that shit and fuck and then die. Our denial circuits evolved to make us want to live in the face of death (I've actually thought this for a while, but it turns out this guy Ernest Becker wrote a Woody-Allenesque book about it in the 1970's that seems to say a lot more stuff about it, but I'm not sure if I can finish it since my bookmark fell out around page 30 and I'm afraid someone is going to see me reading a book called The Denial of Death and make fun of me. Because even reading about the denial of death is frightening). In the face of all this, what's a little cynicism? It sounds almost wholesome. It's never pathetic and immature, it's only human and distracting. And sometimes Gali, it's realistic. I bet you know when to trust people and when to give them the benefit of the doubt and besides, what are you supposed to do? Be all starry-eyed with puppy trust and overflow with faith in humanity? Because first of all, that's just creepy and second, those are the people who get cut up by serial killers.
Stacey Could just be me but the links to the Jewcy and Fringe interviews failed. FYI. Love your work, just terrific!
Thanks. I'll see if I can fix it. You are terrific too.
What is the probability that the one-eyed pirates are now robbing mail boxes?
I think the post office has it under control. Every time I try to mail a box, they ask me if it contains any explosives, anything toxic, anything perishable or spoiled, liquid, blood, or medical waste, and every time I say, "Do bloody Kleenexes count?," and when they say yes I leave sadly with my box and go home.
How much wood might a woodchuck chuck should said woodchuck belong to a state employees' union in Wisconsin which has recently suffered an ideological beatdown with disappointing practical implications? Is collectivism more a problem or a solution? How do magnets work?
I don't know. I don't know a lot about state employees' unions, woodchucks, Wisconsin, or magnets. I no longer understand American politics since I've noticed that all the working guys driving around in trucks seem to be Republicans, while all the college educated people seem to be Democrats, even though it makes more logically sense for them to switch. I'm beginning to suspect that logic doesn't have much to do with it. I'm sure other people have more cogent things to say about this than I do. Collectivism seems good in theory. I thought I'd have a better answer but I don't.
Magnets have something to do with electricity, particles, and other things that are invisible. Like ex-boyfriends, sometimes they can attract and repel us at the same time.
Would you describe the writing process as 'painful'?
I prefer "difficult" but maybe I'm splitting hairs. I find a lot of the writing process to be positive. There are those great moments when bright, intriguing things pop out of your brain--images, ideas, scraps of dialogue, memories, little structures, mirrors of what you wrote before--all that. My guess is, if we only ever wrote for ourselves, it wouldn't be painful or difficult. The hard parts happen when we wrestle with all the problems of language as communication and all the complexities of our own desires to be read, seen, heard, loved, known, understood deeply, and never forgotten. Ha! Good fucking luck. But even though such wishes are impossible, it doesn't mean most writers aren't driven by them. Or most people, for that matter.
Hi Stacey, If you can put questions in your answers, then I can put replies in my questions. My favorite Douglas Coupland novels are Miss Wyoming and Girlfriend In A Coma. I liked Life After God a lot, though it wasn't a novel per se. There is a part in Miss Wyoming where he humanizes a really wretched and miserable character. A masterstroke of writing. It centers around the free red plastic spoon you get with a sundae at Dairy Queen. Currently I am reading The Gum Thief. I am really enjoying it. Did you know that Mr. Coupland also collects art? To conform to the proper format of this site, I'll end with a question: how's the pirate novel coming along?
Hi Tom. Spoons, hmmm. The pirate novel is killing me, but thanks for asking.
Happy Birthday! My question is this: do you like the work of Douglas Coupland? I have just started reading some of his later works and I enjoy them a good bit.
Thanks Tom. I like Douglas Coupland but I haven't read him for a long time. (I admire that he makes furniture as well as books. It's nice furniture, and writers need a break from words.) I liked Generation X when it came out--as I recall it had sidebars, neat typography, a lot of creative energy. Then I read a book with the word "hair" in the title. I think maybe, at least in my mind, Coupland suffers from the same problem as Jay Mcinerney--his first book was so good that it made it harder for the subsequent ones (if you haven't read Bright Lights, Big City for a while, I think you'd be surprised by how good it is). I'm not supposed to put questions in my answers, but if I did I might ask which Couplands you liked.
Additional question: What are you doing for your big day, Birthday Girl?
For my birthday, I went to Phoenix to see my friends and family and have them feed me cake. My parents gave me a wonderful present a few weeks ago (a necklace that belonged to my grandmother), but on this trip my mother also gave me a scarf she'd given me a few years ago (when I refused it); I'm planning to save it and give it back to her for her next birthday. She also gave me half a pedicure machine with the promise that the second half (now lost) would turn up soon. I didn't tell her this, but I actually found the second half last summer when she sent me into her closet to find a few things for her (she was out of town). It looks like a sex toy-dildo device and this disturbed me for weeks. But it's not my mother's sex toy! It's a pedicure wand. That, in itself, was a good present.