I find there are few things more enjoyable than being the first person to interview someone about their upcoming book. You get to watch them work out their ideas on the fly, before they've become solidified through repetition (and my questions, though they might end up being the same ones they end up hearing dozens of times as they promote their book, still seem fresh). And in few cases have I felt that more strongly that when I got to talk to David Rakoff at the very end of BookExpo in New York in May, after three exhausting but thrilling days of interviews (the fruits of which I've been posting ever since, and will continue to, as the books we talked about get released this fall). Tired as I was, I immediately woke up when I sat down with David--he was engaging and warm and funny and we ended up having one of my favorite talks of the whole week, I think in part because he was so thoughtfully and honestly working out what his book was about as we spoke.
I knew his voice--and his sensibility--well from his frequent appearances on This American Life, but the combination of reading his new book, Half Empty, and talking with him about it gave me a much more vivid sense of the coherence and the philosophical insistence behind the humor and the persona that is so obviously appealing in his stories. You can listen in to our talk here, or read below.
Amazon: So David, do you like anything?
David Rakoff: [laughter] You're referring to a piece in the book where I take three trips. Someone did ask me that at a reading, but she asked it in a far less kind way than you do. She asked in this challenging, "Do you like anything?", which is both an honest and a reductive question, because it does seem like I don't like anything, on a really, really cursory and superficial level.
But it turns out that I like everything. I really am absolutely porous to the world. I'm porous to pleasure. I'm open to beauty. I'm frequently stopped in my tracks, many times a day, by being overwhelmed in some sort of aesthetic swoon, because I am at heart a 14-year-old girl.