“The biggest thing I learned editing The Getaway Car is that a working writer’s work is never done.”
Let’s kick off 2015 with a podcast about one of the 20th century’s great America writers, Donald Westlake! Our guest, Levi Stahl, is the editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany (University of Chicago Press). We talk about his history with Westlake’s crime novels, why Parker is Westlake’s greatest achievement, why the author wrote under so many pseudonyms, what it was like to be a working writer and how that concept may not exist nowadays, and what Westlake project he’d love to bring into print.
We also talk about Levi’s day job as publicity manager for U of Chicago Press, his advice for people looking to get into publishing, why he loves twitter, how the internet has helped and hurt book criticism, what makes him put a book down, what he’s learned about book marketing over the years, his favorite menswear store in NYC, how he can support both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and more! Give it a listen!
About our Guest
Levi Stahl is the publicity manager for the University of Chicago Press. He has served as the poetry editor for the Quarterly Conversation, and has written for the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago Reader, the Second Pass, the Bloomsbury Review, the Front Table, the New-York Ghost, the New York Moon, and McSweeneys Internet Tendency. He tweets at @levistahl
Credits: This episode’s music is Life of Crime by The Triffids. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Stahl by me.
“One thing I tell young cartoonists: a magazine is like going out on a date, and a book is like getting married. If you’re going out on a date, you don’t need a lawyer. If you’re doing a book, you get a lawyer.”
Sam Gross’ gag panels warped me at a young age (see above), so it was an honor to get him on mic to talk about his nearly six-decade cartooning career. We sat down in his studio to discuss the serious business of gags, how he went from drawing a Saul Steinberg nose to drawing a Sam Gross one, how he continues in his 80s to come up with a week’s worth of new gags for Look Day, how he once got a Vanishing New York tour from Charles Addams, how he revels in the “humor of the handicapped”, and the magazine he misses the most. Give it a listen!
“I don’t know where I’m gonna go next. I’m not a finished product.”
About our Guest
Sam Gross has been publishing cartoons since the 1950s. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker since 1969. He served as the cartoon editor of National Lampoon and Parents magazines, and was president of the Cartoonists Guild. He has published numerous collections, including I Am Blind and My Dog is Dead. You can buy reproductions of his art at the Conde Nast Store.
Credits: This episode’s music is Funny Little Frog by Belle & Sebastian. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gross’ studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Gross by me.
“The choices that an artist makes are not traceable back to a particular set of neurons firing. They’re choices made by the complete consciousness of a person. Art, in a way, validates free will, and thereby validates the notion of evil.”
Ron Rosenbaum returns to the show to talk about the new edition of his great book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (Da Capo Press)! We talk Hitler, the meaning(s) of evil, determinism and free will, Hitler-as-artist vs. Hitler-as-suicide-bomber, “degenerate art,” the tendency to blame Jews for their misfortune, his search for the “Higgs Boson” of Hitler, and how internet culture has warped the meaning of Hitler in the 16 years since Ron’s book was first published.
“I just couldn’t bear being a graduate student, so I dropped out after a year and revolted against academia. I wanted to hang out with cops and criminals and write long form stories about America, about crimes, about strange things.”
Of course, we also get around to some other fun topics, like whether his studies of the Holocaust inspired him to become a “better Jew”, whether it’s possible to knowingly commit evil, how Bleak House changed his life, and just how he managed to become a unique voice in American nonfiction.
About our Guest
Ron Rosenbaum‘s work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Slate, Esquire and other magazines. He is currently the national correspondent for Smithsonian Magazine, and was recently featured in the History Channel documentary, “The World Wars.” His books include The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III, The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups, and he edited Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism. You can find him on twitter at @ronrosenbaum1.
Credits: This episode’s music is Back to Black by Amy Winehouse (see, because Ron’s a fan of her stuff, and the episode is about his returning to the topic of evil, and — oh, never mind). The conversation was recorded in a friend’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. (There was a loud air conditioner, so I did some noise removal, which may have tweaked the audio a little.) Photo of Mr. Rosenbaum by me.
“Artistically, LA’s a disaster. It’s full of amazing stories. But as a city, it’s not a city. Nobody but bus-drivers see the whole place.”
Singer-songwriter, musician, inventor, dad, reader, and writer David Baerwald joins the show to talk about the ups and downs of his career in the music biz, his crazy family history, the perils of grafting personalities onto up-and-coming musicians, and why he doesn’t trust happiness. We also talk about the Watchmen-like trail of destruction that followed Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough album, why the drug business is notoriously filled with short-tempered people, how being a script analyst for a movie studio taught him how to write a song, and why he’s a firm believer in the notion that to tell a big story, you have to tell a small one.
“You just want to do something decent when you make a record, but then it becomes a whole thing. It becomes an industry, and you’re always on display and people are tearing you apart psychologically, and you just feel like a buffoon.”
We also get into the difference between writing poems and writing songs, the writers who inspired his work on the David + David album, Boomtown, and why he thinks Thomas Pynchon understood things about the world that people are only now coming to grips with. (BONUS: I clean up some loose ends from last week’s podcast with Merrill Markoe)
About our Guest
David Baerwald was one half of David + David (along with David Ricketts), a band whose one album, Boomtown, scored a gold record. They split up and Baerwald put out several solo records — Bedtime Stories, Triage and Here Comes The New Folk Underground — between 1990 and 2002. He’s written songs for plenty of acts you know, and he wrote many of the songs on Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough album, which is a story he gets into in our conversation. He’s also done a lot of work in movies and TV, both scoring music and writing songs. David’s IMDB page lists many of his songwriting credits, including Come What May, the love song for Moulin Rouge, which was nominated for a Golden Globe award. He also wrote Supermodel, for the movie Clueless, which proves he’s not ALL grim and gloomy.
Credits: This episode’s music is Welcome to the Boomtown (David + David), Colette (David Baerwald), If (David Baerwald), and Heroes (David + David). The conversation was recorded in Mr. Baerwald’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Baerwald by me.
Here’s a quote from this morning’s reading:
“We live in what is called a democracy, rule by the majority of the people. A fine ideal if it could be made to work. The people elect, but the party machines nominate, and the party machines to be effective must spend a great deal of money. Somebody has to give it to them, and that somebody, whether it be an individual, a financial group, a trade union or what have you, expects some consideration in return.”
— Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (1953)
What I’m reading: Back to Raymond Chandler! Then, who knows?
What I’m listening to: Joe Jackson’s Rain record
What I’m watching: Amy was pretty unwell this weekend, so she watched some chick flicks on Saturday afternoon, before we tuned into the LSU win over Miss State. Don’t worry; we TiVo’d the new Chris Rock special.
What I’m drinking: Plymouth & tonic. A lot. But I’m going to try to dry out for the next week or two.
What Rufus is up to: Bonding with his mom while I was away at my conference.
Where I’m going: The Warwick Applefest next Sunday, but that should be about it, unless I take a half-day this week and head into NYC or Montclair to sell a few boxes of books.
What I’m happy about: I’m happy that our conference was a big success, but for the moment I’m happier that it’s over.
What I’m sad about: Today may be the last day for the Official Newspaper of Gil Roth.
What I’m pondering: How few physical objects I order from Amazon nowadays. I buy music from their MP3 store, and books through their Kindle store. I still get comic collections in print, but most everything else I get from them is electronic.
What I’m reading: Didn’t have much time to read this week, so I’m still on Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye and Jason Lutes’ Berlin. I don’t anticipate getting much reading in next week, with all the work on our October issue and our conference ahead.
What I’m watching: the last series at Yankee Stadium.
What I’m drinking: Plymouth & tonic.
What Rufus is up to: Greyhound Planet picnic in Bridgewater, NJ, baby!
Where I’m going: New Brunswick, NJ, baby!
What I’m sad about: They didn’t call me or my blog by name, so now I have yet another alias: Chimera Obscura. Sigh. I shouldn’t complain, considering I have at least six active e-mail addresses.
What I’m pondering: How working for the Long Island Rail Road seems to be a more dangerous occupation than Alaskan crab fishing.
What I’m reading: The Long Goodbye, which I haven’t read since 1992. I gotta read more of Chandler’s stuff. For some reason, 9 of his novels are available for the Kindle. So . . . any suggestions? (Also, The Last Musketeer, by Jason, and still with Montaigne’s essays. . .)
What I’m watching: Your mom. There. I’ve said it. (Amy had a pretty busy week, so we didn’t get around to finishing up the last season of The Wire. Two episodes left!)
What I’m drinking: Red Stripe! Hooray beer!
What Rufus is up to: Accidentally showing up at a greyhound meet & greet! The admin of the Greyhound Friends NJ list dropped our e-mail by accident, so we didn’t know that our local pet store was hosting an event on Saturday. Coincidentally, we took Rufus up there to buy his pet food (we could’ve done it without him, but he loves going to the store), and discovered 4 or 5 greyhounds & owners in the parking-lot. Rufus, of course, was very happy to make some new friends.
Where I’m going: To the GFNJ Annual Fall Picnic/Greyhound Planet Day on Sunday in Bridgewater, NJ! My pal/co-worker Jason & his wife are picking up their grey at the picnic, so we’ll find out if their girl gets along with Rufus before we set up a playdate.
What I’m happy about: Having a quiet weekend, between pretty busy weeks.
What I’m sad about: David Foster Wallace’s suicide, even though I hadn’t read a book of his in around 10 years. (I suppose this title is a bit ironic now.) Here’s a terrific appreciation of/meditation on DFW by David Gates. Gates & I talked about Wallace in our first conversation, c. 1996, when I called him through the Newsweek switchboard because I was bored at my office and thought maybe he’d be around and willing to shoot the breeze. He was. (UPDATE: Gates suggests I/we read Laura Miller’s DFW piece on Salon.) (UPDATE 2: Michael Bierut has a good post on DFW viewed through a design/marketing lens.)
What I’m pondering: How SiteMeter made so many poor decisions when it “upgraded” this weekend.