It’s a rare moment in publishing when a brother and sister have hit books in the same season. But this summer, that weird coincidence befell siblings Julie Klam and Matt Klam. Julie came out with The Stars in Our Eyes: The Famous, the Infamous, and Why We Care Too Much About Them, which the Washington Post called “a fast, fun look at celebrity culture that reads like a bubbly conversation at an Oscars viewing party.” Matt Klam’s novel, Who Is Rich?, an Amazon Best of the Month choice for July, was described by the New Yorker as a “gem within the canon of infidelity literature.” These two comic geniuses agreed to take turns interviewing each other for the Amazon Book Review. The only question we have to add is: How did the parents of these crazy kids survive raising them?
Julie Klam’s Questions for Matt Klam:
Julie Klam: Who do you like better? Mom or Dad? Me or Brian?
Matt Klam: Dear Julie, I'm so grateful for this question about who I like the best in our family. I'd rather put you all in one group, as I think of you as a family, which you are. As a child I associated chiefly with our house pets. I remember an older gentleman who interrupted dinner most nights to tell a joke he heard at the office that day; and two fair haired children who insisted on competing with me for the affections of our mother. But those are vague memories, nothing too specific. Now that I'm older, I'll hope to get to know your group better, names and habits, dreams and regrets. Once I do that, I'll rank each of you properly and I'll thank you not to rush me as I tabulate the results.
Julie Klam: What question about your book does everyone ask?
Matt Klam: “Where can I meet and fall in love with my own sexy billionaire?” I kid. What they really ask is, “What took you so long?” That's the truth. Although as John LeCarré once said, "Never trust a novelist when he tells you the truth."
Julie Klam: Do you think people want to believe you are the character, Rich, in your book? I personally don't. Also, you mention in the book someone who has a crazy sister named Julie? As Katie Couric says, "What up wit dat?"
Matt Klam: In real life there may in fact be a crazy sister Julie, but in my fiction there is no such person! But yes, people do “go there,” assuming the narrator is me, and that everything in the book is true, but that's also because on just about every page of the book, the narrator, Rich Fisher, a semi-autobiographical cartoonist, talks about his struggle to take his real life and turn it into fiction. I did this because I thought it was silly to pretend that my fiction was entirely invented, that the similarities were a coincidence. Of course I draw off of my own experience, stories I've heard, things I've witnessed, impulses and fantasies I've had. Of course this is partly based on the undisciplined madman inside me. I invite the reader to wonder how racy I am, how dangerous, how reckless, how silly, how suicidal, how crooked and thieving I am. It excites me to think of a reader reading my work and wondering a little about the real me.
Julie Klam: What was it like growing up with a quote elusive genius end quote for a sister?
Matt Klam: Julie, now that you mention it, I do remember you from our childhood. And there were so many times when you would do those things that only a genius can do: play your Rachmaninoff on your harpsichord, spend some downtime in your chemistry lab, or face off against a Russian chessmaster. I recall the time you helped design software for a secret program for NASA, but then I also remember how hard it was for you to comb your hair. It got all messy! Julie, now that I remember you as a child genius, I can say that to be your brother was thrilling, maddening, and deeply inspiring.
Julie Klam: THIS IS A QUESTION FROM SOMEONE AT AMAZON FOR YOU: Some readers have had a negative reaction to who Rich is and the choices he makes. Do you ever wish you'd just written a World War II novel?
Matt Klam: Yes, I do wish I'd written a WWII novel instead! Something wintry, full of espionage and Bavarian forests, and secret armies amassing in the French Alps. And a little dog named Coco, who sniffs out bombs and rides sidecar with mini ski goggles. Unfortunately I didn't have a choice with this one. But maybe next time!
Matt Klam’s Questions for Julie Klam:
Matt Klam: Julie, you've received raves for your new book, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New York Observer. Fascinating, Hilarious, juicy, but I also found at least three reviews that called it “Eye Opening." Would you say that for older readers, this book is "Eye Lifting?" ALSO, People magazine says, “It's her own self-deprecating wit that is the real star." Shouldn't you have toned it down, so that you wouldn't distract readers with your wit?
Julie Klam: One thing I’ve tried to convey is that this book will make you more attractive, eye lift, face lift, weight loss, whatever you want it will do that with the flick of a page. You know what they say about wit, right? It’s the lowest form of high jinx.
Matt Klam: Julie, I'm concerned that this this audience will worry whether I can remain impartial enough to do my job as your inquisitor, whether I'll be incisive and unforgiving in my questions to you. Answer: Yes I can. I do worry that if either of us try to sound like we know what we're talking about, the other will make fun of them, but I want you to know that I've read your book, and reread some of my favorite parts on the train this morning, and while I was reading, a woman caught me picking my nose. First Question: Did I really tell you I wanted to be Whitney Houston?
Julie Klam: Yes, Matt, when I asked you and our other brother, Brian, what celebrities you wanted to be you said Whitney Houston and he said Amy Winehouse. But I think neither of you was taking me seriously.
Matt Klam: You wrote a book about celebrity, and because of that book, you were invited onto the Tonight Show. Before your appearance on the Tonight Show, you were in the green room with other celebrities. Tell me truly, was it wonderful?
Julie Klam: It was the most fun I ever had in my whole life. I so wish I could be a talk show guest instead of a writer. I am looking at Help Wanted ads for that right now!
Matt Klam: Julie, warning, this might be a real question—Letterman, the show you interned on, is a kind of anti-celebrity celebrity show—that in some ways ruined show business for many of us, to our delight, making fun of stardom with the man from under the stairs, etc. Your book seems to both raise celebrity up, and also lower it or normalize it—so I'm wondering, how should we feel about celebrity? Should we be for it? Or against it?
Julie Klam: I think that is personal for everyone. I like celebrity watching—it’s non-addictive, you don’t gain weight, it doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s free. So I’m on the pro side (as in not con, not in professional).
Matt Klam: The epigraph to The Stars in Our Eyes is from The King of Comedy: "The more scribbled the name, the bigger the fame"—Rupert Pupkin. You have a very readable signature, but I'm wondering if you're thinking of scribbling it more.
Julie Klam: When we were little kids I watched how Daddy wrote his signature PHK and I copied that and I kind of still sign my name that way.
Matt Klam: Julie, much to your annoyance, from time to time when we were stuck in a place with no entertainment, I would offer to play a game of my invention called The What If Game, where I would say, “What if a concrete block the size of a car fell out of the sky right now and crushed us?” or “What if we were eating cooked human and didn’t know it?” and you would say, "I hate this game," and would ignore me. “If you could have a meal with any person living or dead…” was a question I would sometimes ask, and then you would ignore me and I would answer it myself, and the answer was William Shatner. So my question to you is, Why did I say William Shatner? No, my question is, if you could meet any person living or dead, and talk with them, who would it be and why? And were there people on your list for this book that you never were able to reach? And are there people who through the excuse of this book you were able to speak with, and was it interesting to speak with them?
Julie Klam: I loved the people talked to: Julie Warner, Timothy Hutton, Griffin Dunne, Doris Roberts – these are all people I was a fan of. I didn't reach out to anyone I didn’t have some connection to, because I did it once and the person’s PR rep was rude and dismissive and it hurt my feelings. I think the conversations I had were so fun that at times I would pinch myself and say, “Is this really happening? Am I really talking to Griffin Dunne about when Carrie Fisher got the part in Star Wars?” And the answer was yes, yes I was!
Amazon Book Review: Thanks, Julie and Matt! If only all our interviews could be this goofy.
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