“I think of myself as a journalist first and foremost, someone who’s always reporting, always trying to find out what’s beneath that layer that we think is the final one.”
Before Saveur, before Top Chef Masters, before all the National Magazine and James Beard awards, James Oseland was Jimmy Neurosis. James and I talk about his brand-new book, Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir (Ecco Press), about his life as a gay teen in the late ’70s. We get into how none of his previous artistic and literary pursuits prepared him for writing this book, the challenges of remove 50-something James’ perspective from the teen narration, the difficult relationship with his mother at the core of the book (which begins with his dad bailing on them), and what it was like to find comfort in the burgeoning punk-music scene of San Francisco. We get into the toughest parts of the book to write about (we both get choked up at different points of that), his growing concern as a teen that (superabundant) sex wasn’t the be-all and end-all, the diversity of the early punk scene and how it got overwhelmed by violent white guys, why he used ads and TV taglines as chapter titles for the book, the fate of his punk record collection, and the wonderful (but admittedly problematic) experience of living with a much older gay lover in NYC when he was 15/16. And I promise, we also talk about food writing and the new World Food book series he’s working on! Give it a listen! And go buy Jimmy Neurosis!
“One of the key messages that I want to convey is that gay is normal; it’s not strange.”
“You can really appreciate the world by what it eats.”
About our Guest
James Oseland is the editor-in-chief of World Food, a book series launching from Penguin Random House in 2020. Prior to that, he was the editor-in-chief of Saveur, America’s most critically acclaimed food magazine. He has won multiple National Magazine and James Beard Foundation awards and has been a judge on Celebrity Apprentice, Iron Chef America, and all five seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. He is also the author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, which was named one of the best books of 2006 by the New York Times and Good Morning America. He lives in Mexico City and New York City. His new book is Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a hotel in midtown Manhattan on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Oseland by me. It’s on my instagram. Author photo by James Roper.