Dizzy and Disoriented with No
Cure in Sight
It started in 2010 when I smoked pot for the first time since college. It was cheap, gristly weed I’d had in my freezer for nearly six years, but four hours after taking one hit I was still so dizzy I couldn’t stand up without holding on to the furniture. The next day I was still dizzy, and the next, and the next, but it tapered off gradually until about a month later I was mostly fine.
When are you going to write about black people?
My debut novel is out today. Centered on a fictional riot in contemporary Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, it’s told from the perspectives of characters of various ages, genders, economic classes, sexualities, and, most notably, races. I’m a straight white man, and when I began to tell people about my novel, reactions tended to fall across the spectrum from “What have you gotten yourself into?” to “Who do you think you are?”
The Disappearing Rabbi
A few years after my bar mitzvah, our rabbi disappeared. He was supposed to attend Simchat Torah celebrations, but instead, an interim rabbi was shaking hands and leading songs. I was Jewish by culture more than by creed, attending Shabbat services and youth group only for special occasions. So after my rabbi left, my family changed synagogues, and I didn’t give much additional thought to him or religious education.
IT’S THE RARE novel that inspires a hip-hop album. But when, in 2003, Victor LaValle published The Ecstatic, a surreal account of an obese schizophrenic, the artist formerly known as Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) named an album after what he called “one of my favorite novels.” LaValle’s earlier work also had an urban, hip hop-ready vibe.
An Open Letter of Apology to Chad Harbach
Five years ago I wrote a series of intellectually insincere articles with the sole purpose of building a resume. I was a few years out of my MFA and beginning the search for an agent to represent my own fiction, and I wanted to boost my credentials above those of my peers who, like me, had academic accomplishments but few or no publications to their names.
I’ve never been much of a drugs guy. My friends told me I got mean when I smoked, and anything harder made the next day feel so much worse than being on the drugs had felt good the day before. But reading Imagine, Jonah Lehrer’s new collection of essays, I was tempted to reconsider.
THE NEW YORKER
SHOUTS & murmurs
Life With Two Kids
A year ago, I only had one kid. And I am a-hundred-per-cent certain that my wife has only been pregnant once between then and now. But I look around my apartment these days, and there are babies everywhere. I’m only supposed to have two. We had Simon. And then Sara had one more after that. I remember naming him Jasper. But I got home from work on Friday, and my wife was missing, and there was one kid in the bath, and two were watching Elmo on TV, and one was eating dinner, and one was crying, and they were all calling me Daddy. Or at least the kids who could talk were. Some were babies, and some were toddlers, and they all had diapers that needed changing. Continue
If I were built, I’d swim laps
If I were built, I’d swim laps. I’d swim freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, sidestroke, doggy paddle, and the little-known turtle stroke, to work my obliques. I’d wear bright red Speedos with flames rising from the crotch, an American flag swim cap, and Swedish goggles, and I’d shave my body from head to toe to gain a competitive advantage. I wouldn’t be a competitive swimmer if I were built, but as I swam laps at the local Y I’d pretend I was. I’d swim several laps at the same pace as the swimmer in an adjacent lane, then let him get out in front of me for a while, only to gain on and then overtake him just before I touched the wall after what I’d decided was the final lap. Continue
If I Were Built, I Wouldn’t Need as Much Sleep
If I were built, I wouldn’t need as much sleep. Instead of the eleven hours a night I sleep now, I’d need one hour, and in the time I’d save I’d lift weights and respond to e-mails and catch up on “War and Peace” and “Moby-Dick” and “A Tale of Two Cities” and “The Sopranos” and “Dexter” and “The Wire.” Mostly “The Wire.” I watched two episodes on-demand a few years ago, and not only were they boring, they didn’t make any sense; but now, everyone I meet who talks about television says some version of “I used to be like you. I used to roll my eyes when people talked about how ‘The Wire’ was the best series in the history of television. Continue
If I Were Built, I’d Quit My Job
If I were built, I’d quit my job. I’d have the courage to do that, if I were built. With muscles like mine, what would I be afraid of? I’d stride into my boss’s office, strip down to my underwear, and give my two-weeks’ notice. For most people, that’d be something from a nightmare—standing half-naked in front of your boss—but I’d feel completely at ease, if I were built. Continue
If I were built, I’d host the Oscars
If I were built, I’d host the Oscars. With arms like mine, who’d tell me I couldn’t? My arms would be the size of Seth MacFarlane’s legs, and my legs would be the size of Billy Crystal. Critics would call me unqualified, but no one would question my qualifications to my face. “Qualifications?” I’d say if anyone did, and then I’d lift up my shirt and flex my abs and say, “These are my qualifications.” Continue
If I WERE BUILT, I’D BE A POET
If I were built, I’d be a poet. I’d be the strongest poet who ever lived. It wouldn’t come easy, though. I know this. It would require years of literary study and weight training, introspection and nutritional discipline, derangement of the senses and protein cocktails. For many years I’d toil in obscurity, one word, one shirt size at a time. Continue
If I Were Built, I'd Avert the Fiscal Cliff
If I were built, I’d avert the fiscal cliff. I’d avert the fiscal cliff with my muscles. “Listen up, pansies,” I’d say to Boehner and Obama. And they’d take one look at my torso and know I meant business. I’d gain access to our country’s leaders through my good friend Paul Ryan, if I were built. We would have met in an extreme-fitness chat room and quickly become pals and workout buddies. Every Sunday, I’d invite Paul over for cross-training and brunch. Continue
If I Were Built
If I were built, I’d work with wood: I’d be a woodworker. I’d build decks and chairs and crates and chests and cupboards and hutches and spice racks. If I were built I’d build a house, and live in it. If I were built, the house I built would have a library, a lounge, a study, a ballroom, a conservatory, a hall, and a billiard room. It would have all the rooms in the original Clue board game, and on the second Wednesday of every month I would invite friends over to play a live-action game of Clue. Continue
How You Can Help Me Sell My Book
Dear People Who Haven’t Written a Book, great news: I wrote a book! The publishing landscape is rapidly evolving, however, and the limited arrangement with my publisher does not include marketing or distribution. So here are a few ways you can help:
1. Buy eleven copies of my book. Buy through my website, through Amazon, at your local independent bookstore, and at Barnes & Noble. If your nearest Barnes & Noble doesn’t carry my book, consider planting two dozen copies on its shelves and then (re-)buying them all. If you don’t live near an independent bookstore, consider opening a book stand on a busy intersection and screaming “Book!” at passers-by. For each copy of my book you purchase, I’ll send you: A) a handmade watercolor bookmark, B) an email asking you to buy more copies of my book, and C) a package of my favorite dried mango. Just mail me the cost of the dried mango plus shipping and handling. Continue
I’m Renovating My Kitchen So I Can Start Life Anew With No Regrets
I’m renovating my kitchen so I can start life anew with no regrets. Now don’t get me wrong—I love Susan. And the twins have brought me more joy than I’d ever imagined possible. But my new kitchen will be really big. It will have a dishwasher. And a gas stove and granite countertops and maple cabinets and a trash compactor. Also? It will have an island. Two islands. Three. One for food prep, one for plating, and one for stretching out on a towel and soaking in the sun. Continue
My Marriage Will Crumble If We Can’t Find a New Television Show to Watch
Please help me. My marriage will crumble if we can’t find a new television show. I don’t know how it got to this point. We used to… I don’t know what we used to do after dinner. Read, maybe? Watch Jeopardy? Talk about the kids? But now, until bedtime, Morgan puts her feet up on the couch and I pour myself a short bourbon and we watch episodes of whatever it is we’re watching at the time. And we’ve run out. Continue
If I Were Built: I’d Own Guns
If I were built, I’d own guns. I’d be a hunter. I’d own a partially wooded acreage in the country. The woods would be full of animals and I’d shoot them, I’d shoot those animals with my guns for pleasure. Deer, raccoon, owl—you name it. I’d shoot anything that moved on my partially wooded acreage.
If I were built, my partially wooded acreage would be a place of great tranquility. The woods would be a mixture of deciduous and coniferous–walnut, locust, oak, ash, maple, beech, spruce and white pine, primarily. Sunlight would dance on the forest floor. The call of thrush would echo through the trees. Bees would buzz. Brooks would gurgle. There would be bowers and dales and glens. Small mammals would scamper and frolic and I’d shoot them. I’d shoot them with my guns. Continue