Your book is coming out in paperback.  Isn’t that the literary equivalent of straight-to-DVD?

Are you really going to open this interview by insulting me?

 

I’m not insulting you, just calling it like I see it.  Totally Killer is Private Valentine, isn’t it?

Um…

 

I’ll rephrase.  Your book is coming out in paperback.  How do you feel about that?

Hardcover has more cachet, of course.  And many media outlets, clinging to an outmoded set of parameters, won’t review a paperback at all.  But hardcovers are pricy; the new Pynchon ran me almost thirty bucks.  I’ve seen Totally Killer on sale for less than $10, and I’m happy about that.  The most important thing, to me, is that people read the book.  I don’t want anyone to be discouraged by the price tag.  I want to be accessible.

 

So you hold with Melville—

Who said that the primary purpose of the novel is to entertain.  Yes, I do, very much so.  That’s not to say that a challenging novel can’t be entertaining, but I don’t like difficulty for difficulty’s sake—Eliot with his obscure allusions and Greek epithets, Finnegan’s Wake.  Eighth graders can read The Great Gatsby; they may not get as much out of it as adults will, but they can read it.

 

That smacks of populism.

All great literature is populist.  Shakespeare was popular, Chaucer was popular, Dickens was popular, Fitzgerald was popular, Ian McEwan is popular.  Not that what I’m doing is great literature, but the same rules apply.  I wrote Totally Killer for a general audience.  Will you enjoy it more if you’re down with conspiracy theory, 1991 pop culture, lost-and-gone East Village hangouts, human resources, and the strange death of media mogul Robert Maxwell?  Sure.  But you don’t need to know about any of those things to enjoy the book.

 

I take it you’re not into modernism?

I don’t know what that means.  Is Ezra Pound involved?  If Ezra Pound is involved, then no.

 

Obviously your education is suspect.  Where did you get your MFA?

I don’t have an MFA.

 

Really.

Nope.  I’m not the sort of writer MFA programs dig on.

 

So you didn’t get in?

No comment.  But I’m glad it worked out the way it did.  I don’t move easily in the world of academe.  My sensibilities are too pop.  I would have done poorly in a writing program.  I hate being told what to read, and I hate being told what to write.  I would have resisted bowing at the altar of a professor.  I just don’t have it in me.

 

Do you think MFAs are worthwhile?  Should an aspiring novelist pursue one, in your opinion?

It depends on the individual.  MFA programs are great in that they give you dedicated time to work on the craft, and they also provide a forum for meeting other writers and agents and editors and so forth.  Without the MFA program at SC, Brad Listi might not have met Lenore Zion, and The Nervous Breakdown in its current form would not exist.

That said, MFA programs are expensive, and they’re not necessary, in the way that med school is necessary to be a doctor.  The two best novels I read this year—The Kindly Ones and Banned For Life—were written by Jonathan Littell and our own D.R. Haney, neither of whom have advanced fine arts degrees.

 

You’re just saying that because you’re friends with Duke.

I read his book before I was friends with him.  The novel I read right after Banned for Life was Revolutionary Road.  I know that’s a literary darling kind of book, but it just didn’t hit me like Duke’s did.

 

Richard Yates didn’t have an MFA, either.

No, but he taught the first wave of MFA students at Columbia and Iowa.  You say tomato

 

New topic: when you got your book deal, did you go through your rejection letters and gloat?

This business of saving rejection letters…I know people do it, but I never understood that.  Everybody gets rejected—everybody.  When I get a rejection letter, unless it contains a personalized note of encouragement, I rip it up and throw it away immediately.  What’s the point in hanging on to that stuff?

 

To lord it over your doubters when success is yours.

That’s ridiculous.  I mean, this is publishing, not The Count of Monte Cristo.  And which doubters, exactly?  There was not a secret cabal of agents and editors hellbent on keeping my work out of print, although it might have seemed that way at times.  The truth is, my early stuff wasn’t good enough to be published.  It’s really that simple.

 

How much “stuff” was there?

Quite a bit.  Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words.  Maybe even millions of words.  I wrote my first novel when I was twenty-two years old…

 

How old are you now?

I turned thirty-seven on November 13.  Anyway, I sent it to a few editors, who sent me encouraging notes of rejection.  We can’t use this, but keep trying.  That sort of thing.  And I’m very, very glad that that book didn’t get published.  Or the one after that, or the one after that, or the one after that.

 

Why not?

A lousy novel one wrote in college could potentially be quite the albatross about the neck.  Or a ball and chain about the ankle.  You don’t want to walk the publishing plank with so many unwelcome encumbrances.

 

“Encumbrances”?  Stop using big words, poindexter.  You don’t work at Kaplan anymore.

That’s a Dungeons & Dragons word; it doesn’t count.  Anyone who played D&D knows what encumbrance means, sure as they know the definitions of dexterity, constitution, and charisma.

 

You’re such an insufferable geek.

Was that ever in question?

 

Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers out there—“novelists on the make,” in Nicholson Baker’s phrase?

That’s the line from U & I.  Every writer should read that.  One of the better writing memoirs out there.  Let’s see…words of wisdom?  Don’t give up.  Keep working.  Be patient.  The process of becoming a novelist is akin to the process of writing a novel.  It’s long form.  It takes time.  Years and years and years.  But that doesn’t mean it’s an unattainable goal.  It’s not like you’re a baseball player or a ballerina, where there’s a physical window after which your skills erode.  Milton was sixty-five when he wrote Paradise Lost, and that’s about as good as writing gets.

 

What about this idea of getting short stories published as an entrée to the publishing world?

If you want to be a novelist, be a novelist.  Focus on that.  Look, anybody can write a short story.  Most people can’t write a good one, myself included, but anybody can sit down and bang out three thousand words, just like anybody can run a hundred yards.  But eighty thousand words, that’s a marathon.  That’s running twenty-six miles.  Not everybody can do that.  It takes time, it takes training, most of all it takes discipline.  You have to want it.

 

But you’ve written more than one novel.

Well, people who run marathons seldom run one and then stop.  They keep doing it.  They keep doing it because they can—or because they must.

 

How does one go about “growing” a novel?

A novel, in my experience, is built on a handful of inspired ideas.  One flash of inspiration isn’t enough—there needs to be more than that.  And when these inspired ideas are cobbled together just so, you get something beautiful.  Or, in my case, something less ugly.

 

What do you mean by “inspired idea”?

The eureka-in-the-bathtub moments you have when plotting it all out.  The ideas that get you unstalled.  The ones that, when they hit you, feel like divine inspiration.  These aren’t necessarily good ideas, I might add—just important ones to the book.

 

For instance…

Take Gatsby.  There’s the idea of the nouveau riche guy pining for the blue-blood rich girl, which was probably the impetus for the novel.  That’s the first inspired idea.  But wait—let’s make her not worthy of his fastidious attention, a real piece of shit; another inspired idea.  And rather than make it your usual third-person Victorian thing, let’s tell it first person, and let’s have the narrator be an outsider, a repressed homosexual who’s in love with Gatsby.  Inspired idea number three.  Without Nick Carraway, Gatsby loses a layer.  It’s still good, but it isn’t the Great American Novel.  Another example is Romeo and Juliet…

 

That’s not a novel.

Same difference.  The most interesting character in Romeo and Juliet is neither Romeo nor Juliet, nor any of the various and sundry Montague and Capulet family members and hangers-on.  The priest—he’s the most interesting character.  He’s the inspired idea.

 

And Totally Killer, how did that work?

Thanks for segueing from Fitzgerald and Shakespeare to me.

 

It’s not a segue; it’s just the next question on my list.

Oh.  TK required four inspired ideas: the initial B-movie conceit; the twist that the heroine, rather than fighting the bad guys, joins them; the 1991 setting; and the use of Todd as the narrator.  The good news is that the four inspired ideas gelled in such a way that I got a published novel out of it.  The bad news is, it took thirteen years to receive all four of the inspired ideas.

 

Tell us what the book is about.

I call it a literary thriller.  That means that it’s a thriller, and that I’m pretentious.  I thought I’d made up the term—just like I thought I’d originated the idea of a book trailer—but no, it’s been around for some time.  Alexander Chee just remarked on it in his recent TNB piece about how novels don’t have to be boring.

 

And how does Totally Killer fare on the Chee Scale?

Meaning?

 

Is it boring?

Put it this way: I don’t know if it’s any good—that’s someone else’s job—but it’s certainly not boring.  In addition to my affinity for Melville, I’m also down with Elmore Leonard, who said, “I tend to leave out the parts that people skip.”

 

Rumor has it you make an appearance in the book.

Yeah, I’m big on metatext.  Nabokov used to do it—his character was called Vivian Darkbloom, which is an anagram of his name.

 

A pretty cool anagram.

Not as cool as “Larger Ego,” which is an anagram of Greg Olear.  But, going back to the question, yes, I appear in Totally Killer, somewhat anachronistically, as the book is set in 1991, and in 1991, I was a senior in high school.

 

1991 is a big deal in the book.  Why 1991?  What’s so special about that year?

It’s a turning-point year.  And not just from one decade to the next.  The Yale historian Eric Hobsbawm uses 1991 as a bracket year for his books; The Age of Extremes he locates at 1914-1991.  This is not arbitrary—the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union were huge historical turning points. The eminent astrologer Dane Rudhyar wrote a book called Astrological Timing, in which he pinpoints when the New Age will begin; the final phase of the Piscean Age—or the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, if you will—he locates in 1991.  The web browser was invented in 1991.  That might not be on par with, say, the printing press, but it has to be in the same league with television, radio, telephone, and telegraph.

 

There are many parallels between the economic climate in 1991 and 2009.

Then and now, we were a nation recovering from a recession exacerbated by President Bush invading Iraq.  Then and now, it was hard to find work.  Then and now, it was extremely difficult for a recent college graduate to land that first job.  I’ve read a lot about the economy in the last year, and I don’t think I’ve seen one story about the effect the recession has on recent college grads.  As usual, the press gives them the fuzzy end of the lollipop.  Let me tell you, recent college grads—I feel your pain.

 

Did you engineer the global financial collapse to create a better platform for your book launch?

Yes.  I’m a Bilderberger.  Bear Stearns was all me.

 

What works were influential in writing the novel?

Well, it can be read as a parody of The Firm, which I read in college, when I wrote the screenplay on which the book is based.  So that.  And Heathers.  The Nabokov novel Despair gave me the idea for the narrator.  Generation X and American Psycho.

 

One of the characters in the book, a Gen X-er, has strong antipathy for Baby Boomers.  How do you feel about them?

There’s a great line in Pirates of Penzance: “Individually, I love you all, with affection unspeakable.  But collectively, I look upon you with a disgust that amounts to absolute detestation.”  That doesn’t totally convey my feelings, but it’s better than anything I can come up with on the spot.

 

Answer the question.

What are you, Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men?

 

I love Tom Cruise.

Me, too.  Look, for the entire decade of the sixties, the Baby Boomers made this country a better place.  Their record since then is spotty—their presidents in particular have been mediocre—but that’s forgivable.

 

Obama’s not mediocre.

Obama was born in 1961.  He’s Generation X.

 

He’s a late Boomer.

You wish.

 

Totally Killer is set in New York.  You lived in New York?

For ten years, from 1995 – 2005.

 

Weren’t you in Hoboken for part of that time?

Hoboken is the Sixth Borough.

 

Um, I’m no Rand-McNally, but Hoboken is in New Jersey.

Drop this line of questioning or I will kick your ass.

 

Why didn’t you write about New York as it was when you lived there?

It was cooler in ’91.  I wish I’d lived there then.  This is a theme in my life—I have an almost constant feeling that I’m arriving to the party just as the keg is farting foam.  I always wanted to write a Gen X book, an answer to Coupland, but that ship sailed long ago.  So I created that world for myself in the novel.  A lost-and-gone-forever New York.  It’s all changed now, even from when I lived there.  The East Village just ain’t what it used to be.

 

You can say that again.  What is that hideous monstrosity in Astor Place?

I don’t know, but it was clearly the work of the same mad architect who designed the parking lot at the New Paltz Stop ‘n’ Shop and the on-ramps from the Mid-Hudson Bridge to Route 9 in Poughkeepsie.  Call him Frank Lloyd Wrong.

 

Do you read a lot?

As much as I can, which is never enough.  I’m usually reading about seven or eight books at once.  I have a short attention span, I guess.

 

According to Strong Opinions, Nabokov used to do the same thing.

That makes up for your Jessica Simpson jab.

 

Yeah?  Even if I remind everyone that you correctly identified the star of Private Valentine without using IMDB?

Yeah.  We’re even.

 

Do you think the book is going the way of the dodo?

That’s bullshit.  People have been saying that for years, and there are more books than ever.  I’ve always loved books.  I’m a fetishist in that way.  The Kindle is not for me.  I buy books I already have, if I see a nice copy at a used bookstore.  I bought a paperback of The Sun Also Rises the other day, because I liked the cover.  I’ve read that book seven or eight times, and I have three other copies of it, but I bought it anyway.

 

What are your strengths as a writer?

I think my dialogue is halfway decent.  I have an okay sense of story, I’d say, and I’m very good at offbeat analogies.  In a memoir I’m writing about genealogy, for example, I have this sentence: “Slovakia was the Andrew Ridgeley to the Czech Republic’s George Michael in the Wham! that was Czechoslovakia.”  I have a facility for coming up with stuff like that.  For better or worse.

 

You’re Slovak, right?

On my father’s side.  Olear is a Slovak name, a corruption of Olejár.  People are forever inserting an apostrophe in it and pronouncing it “Oh-LEER.”  It’s three syllables, “OH-lee-ar,” and I’m not Irish at all.

 

Your weaknesses?

Blocking, stage directions.  I’m always wanting to write, “She smiled.”  I get frustrated that there are so few ways to say smile in English.  And it irks me that I can’t come up with a more elegant way of saying, “He went to the table, sat down, and opened a beer.”

 

How else would you say that?

Better writers know.  Pynchon would never allow a sentence like that in his books.  I read Pain Killers by Jerry Stahl—he never wastes an opportunity to be creative, even with the stage directions.  It’s really something.

 

I just checked the word count.  We’re in the late-two-thousands.

Whatever, man.  It’s for the Web.  There’s no layout to worry about.

 

No, we should wrap it up.  It’s late, and my kids get up at six no matter what.

Mine too.

 

They’re the same kids.  It’s a self-interview.

See?  I’m starting to fade.

 

What’s next for Greg Olear?

I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.  My goal is to write one of everything, so that each book is different.  I don’t know that my agent will be thrilled with that plan, but that’s what I’d like to do.

 

Who is your agent?

Mollie Glick at Foundry Media.  She’s the best.  I run out of superlatives.

 

Isn’t she also Jonathan Evison’s agent?

She is, which is how I know Jonathan, which is how I wound up on TNB.

 

That’s a good place to end—what has TNB meant to you?

TNB was a godsend for me.  The most supportive, talented, and downright nice group of writers and readers I’ve ever had the pleasure to be involved with.  And Listi is a saint.  He really is.  I’m blessed to be a part of it.  And I hope some day we can have a convention.  How fun would that be?

 

More fun than this interview was.

TAGS: , ,

GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

81 responses to “Greg Olear: The TNB 
Self-Interview”

  1. Kimberly says:

    Frank Lloyd Wrong.

    (snicker)

    You know what? There isn’t a better way to say, “He went to the table, sat down, and opened a beer.” You know why? Because, sometimes, that’s simply what people do.

    So there.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, K-Dub. Was either that or Cor-bust-ier…

      I suppose I could get all Hemingway:

      He went to the table and sat and feeling thirsty ordered a round of cold beers and the waiter came and brought them and he drank them and so did she.

  2. […] yesteryear into a noirish plot as suspenseful as it is far-reaching. The author interviews himself here. And you can read an excerpt right here. Trailer directed by Kimberly M. […]

  3. Zara Potts says:

    We’re blessed to have you, Greg OhLeeAr.
    Oh and you are so NOT a geek.

  4. I love that there’s now a Chee scale. Thanks for the shout-out, Greg. And I’m glad you liked the post. I’ve got a few more writing ones underway before the year is out.

  5. Also, I’m concerned about this idea people have of the MFA being expensive. Mine cost me literally whatever I spent on driving to and from Iowa. I had a fellowship, a not uncommon experience for the MFA in general—and when I applied, I applied just to state schools, so that if I did have to pay tuition, it would be low. And I do recommend to my students to go only if you get fellowship money and not take out loans in order to go.

    This would be the other Chee scale: don’t pay a lot for that MFA.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Now you’re putting ideas in my head…

    • JB says:

      Funny thing about MFA programs: They’re basically teaching programs, wherein no classroom management strategies or teaching of pedagogy is included in the workload.

      You earn an MFA which gives you license to teach at the college level. So, they more or less produce patently mediocre composition instructors.

      On the JB scale: don’t bother.

      • Greg Olear says:

        More fuel for the fire. Thanks, Justin.

      • Well. Some. I don’t know; I did the MPW at USC, and I managed to score a fellowship during my second year, so I taught freshman comp at the same time, and they certainly had classroom management/teaching of pedagogy. It was, in fact, an extra credit of class I was required to attend every Wednesday the entire first semester, and there was a three-week long orientation that summer before the semester actually started during which we had an intensive workshop/seminar/lecture thing about everything from classroom presentation to normative grading.

        So, while it wasn’t integrated into my actual writing degree, there certainly was official education about education. I can’t imagine that other programs don’t implement a similar program when administering and awarding such fellowships.

        Then again, USC might be an exception, which may be why my observations since then have borne out that I am an exceptional teacher.

      • Justin: Well…you’re cute and I like you, but from my experience, you’re also wrong. I was instructed in pedagogy at Iowa—we all were. And if you call me a ‘patently mediocre composition instructor’, I’m going to break up with you. And make you wear that hat I like.

  6. Megan DiLullo says:

    Great interview, Greg.

    I’m excited to read Totally Killer. I’ve heard it’s great.

    TNB is lucky to have you.

  7. Lenore says:

    i was laughing through this entire thing. and i agree with KW…ain’t nothing wrong with your stage directions.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Lenore.

      These two are like the comedy troupe of Abbott and…Abbott.

      I read a so-so review of TK today on some blog — they hated the beginning, but thought the second half saved it — in which I was criticized for using the word “foyer” too many times in a paragraph. Case in point. (The sad thing is, I know what paragraph she means, and on that point, I agree with her.)

  8. I dug this so hard. Almost as much as I’m digging Totally Killer. Which I’m still reading. I got distracted by Anthony Bourdain.

    I love the discussion of entertainment versus challenging. My first thought was “Since when was Melville entertaining?” I guess late-19th century readers totally dug their whaling?

    Kimberly is totally right about sitting down to a beer. Sometimes that’s all the character does.

    You had me with your populist argument until went McEwan on it. Because, seriously, who reads McEwan? Arguing popular lit and name-dropping McEwan over either King or Rowling is like arguing popular music and name-dropping Radiohead over U2, except that McEwan doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of Radiohead. That was just the best analogy I could come up with.

    That said, man, I look forward to shaking your hand and demanding your scribble on my Totally Killer. Totally dug everything about being a novelist, being popular, and being entertaining. This is why your novel is so rad.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Will. Glad you’re digging it.

      McEwan is very popular, especially in Britain. He’s not rock-star popular, maybe, but certainly in line with the Philip Roths of the lit world. And I read him. The guy is so good at what he does, it’s scary. Atonement and Saturday — completely different in tone and purpose, both incredible.

      As a full novel, Moby Dick gets boring. But the first five or six chapters are amazing. Crisp, funny, insightful, and surprisingly modern. Melville is a fantastic writer, and by “writer” I mean “person who uses language gorgeously.” Quakers On A Rampage sounds like a punk band, but it’s a joke Melville made in MD. (His stuff about the Galapagos is also really well done).

      I’ll see you on 12/11, my friend.

      G

      • Matt says:

        I loved Atonement. I almost wished I’d seen the film first, as I could have appreciated it more on it’s own terms. Except, of course, that the film doesn’t handle the ending anywhere near as well as the novel does….though in fairness, I’m not sure it could’ve.

        I agree with you on Melville, as well. His shorter works, such as Typee don’t get as much attention as Moby Dick, but damn are they good.

    • Yep, McEwan’s popular over here. And he is, indeed, a remarkable writer, although I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed (rather than admired) much of his work. For me, anyway, the Radiohead analogy is spot on. So U2 would be…Nick Hornby, perhaps?

      • Stephen King would be U2, I think, which would make Stephenie Meyer Britney Spears. Nick Hornby could be Coldplay.

        I can’t get into McEwan. I read about twenty pages of Saturday before deciding I had better things to do than be utterly bored.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Saturday is really a suspense novel. Rarely have I been more in a state of dread when reading a book — heart pounding, scared for all involved — then reading it. It starts off slow, I know, but that’s part of his appeal, in a way…he makes you stop your usual reading rate and slow down to his writing rate. At least, that’s how it is for me. Very not boring, in the long run. Anything but.

      • Greg Olear says:

        I was arguing for popular quality lit, and suggesting that quality and popularity are not mutually exclusive. Hence McEwan.

        I would go with this:

        U2: Phillip Roth ::
        Radiohead: Thomas Pynchon ::
        Belle & Sebastian : Ian McEwan ::
        Britney Spears : JK Rowling

  9. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Amen to “Don’t give up. Keep working. Be patient.” Getting published takes some luck, but A LOT of perseverance and hard work, too. Huge congrats on your book! Enjoy this part of the journey.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Ronlyn.

      When I was in sort of a publishing purgatory a few years ago I read an interview with a writer, I forget who, who said, “It takes ten years to get good enough to find an agent.” That’s maybe not what a 23-year-old wants to hear, but it was bang-on in my case.

      G

  10. Rachel Pollon says:

    Oh, I’m so sad I didn’t get to meet you, Greg O-le-ar! Great interview. You really know how to bring out the best in yourself.

    P.S. I got myself down to Book Soup today and bought “Totally Killer.” Going to start it whilst I’m in Mexico next week. Woo hoo!

  11. Wow – your “interviewer” didn’t shy away from the hard questions, now did he? 😉 Thanks for showing me how this is done….. and done well.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Robin. I look forward to reading yours…both novel and interview.

      Yeah, that guy was a real ballbuster. But now maybe I’ll come up when people are searching for Jessica Simpson…

  12. Ben Loory says:

    And then went down to the ship,
    Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
    We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
    Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
    Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
    Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
    Crice’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
    Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
    Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day’s end.

    Come on, man… he wasn’t all bad.

    • Greg Olear says:

      As per my previous comment, the beginning of the whale book is outstanding.

      I think the length and relative boredom of the later part is supposed to mimic life at sea…long dull stretches and then blood and whales. But the dude can write.

      • Ben Loory says:

        no no, i’m talking about pound… first canto… awesome stuff… and his book abc of reading is like the most inspiring thing ever written… i keep in the bathroom… it makes me want to go to the bathroom a lot… but hey… you take mcewan, i’ll take pound, and we’ll call it even… 🙂

  13. Irene Zion says:

    Damn,
    That was a rough interview!
    Good dancing, there.

  14. Megan says:

    greg, that was a lot of fun to have with yourself. Super entertaining to read.

    Oh me too I totally feel like spitting on Ezra’s grave. In class last week we seriously spent two whole hours analyzing

    IN A STATION OF THE METRO

    The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet black bough.

    Kill me now.

  15. Man I hate that Ezra Pound. Although I do grudgingly admire the way that he cheerfully pointed out that everything that he didn’t like was objectively worthless. That takes some cojones.

    Also: dude. Stop spilling the beans about the Cabal.

  16. D.R. Haney says:

    It’s not every day that an unknown writer can have his debut novel praised at the expense of Revolutionary Road, especially by another writer of enviable chops. You are more than generous, sir. Meantime, I love that, as a novelist on the matter of craft, you employ the language of theater — “blocking,” etc. That’s exactly what it is, innit? But do you mind if I steal that? Writers are thieves, after all, according to Anne Sexton. I also going to include Hemingway, but, on second thought, he just called us all liars.

  17. Richard Klin says:

    Jeez, Greg–could you quite being so freakin’ entertaining? I’m reading all your stuff here instead of doing my freelance work. And why is everybody so down on Ezra Pound? I mean, it wasn’t like he was some sort of Fascist anti-Semite or anything.

    • Greg Olear says:

      How can I not be entertaining? Hmmm….OK, take it away, Ezra…

      And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
      Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
      “A second time? why? man of ill star,
      Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
      Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
      For soothsay.”
      And I stepped back,
      And he stong with the blood, said then: “Odysseus
      Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
      Lose all companions.” And then Anticlea came.
      Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
      In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
      And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outward and away
      And unto Circe.
      Venerandam,
      In the Creatan’s phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
      Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, orichalchi, with golden
      Girdles and breast bands, thou with dark eyelids
      Bearing the golden bough of Argicida. So that:

  18. Richard Klin says:

    Thanks–I needed that. Through in a little FINNEGANS WAKE and I’ll never goof off again.

    Back to work.

  19. I L’ed OL at the last line.

    Respect for asking – and answering – yourself about your weaknesses.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Steve. It’s rare that the interviewer gets the last word…

      Well, there are plenty of weaknesses, for sure. And there are some who might find what I consider my strengths to also be weaknesses. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

  20. I forgot this was a self interview about five times…

    An enjoyable and interesting read…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Only in a self-interview can have the interviewer be this scathing. Unless Sarah Palin is involved. (Note to Brad: let’s get HER to do one…she’d still blame the interviewer and claim her quotes were taken out of context).

  21. Marni Grossman says:

    Greg, Greg! I’ve been incredibly busy ringing up calendars. Also, crying about ringing up calendars.

    In any event, I missed this the first go round and I’m glad I went looking through the archives and found it. Hilarious. I love that you managed to insult yourself multiple times in your own interview. Also that you mentioned Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, and Stop-N-Shop.

    I really miss the Poughkeepsie Stop-N-Shop. It was open 24 hours and we used to go at midnight and buy peanut butter and lucky charms.

    Can’t wait to read “Totally Killer.”

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Marni. Did I insult myself, or did I just take some great whacks at that snarky author?

      The Stop-N-Shop opened in New Paltz a few years ago, when we were up here. It was a MAJOR event. You would have thought one of the New Moon kids were involved. But two weeks later, everyone was back at Shop Rite.

  22. Christine Elowitt says:

    If you haven’t seen any press on the effect of the economic climate on recent college grads, you clearly aren’t as addicted to reading the newspaper as I am! You must be busy reading books or something…

    On another note, you bring up a topic that nags at me – trying the define when the Baby Boom generation ends and Gen X begins. Though some sources site 1961 as the end of the Baby Boom, more say that people born in 1964 are at the tail end. Having a sister who was born in 1964, I would say that she clearly is not in the same generation culturally as I am (1973-when the baby bust bottomed out) or our other sister (1969). But I always thought the “Baby Boom” generation encompassed too many years and it should be split in half, since the people born in the late ’40’s clearly have a different experience than those of the early sixties.

    • Greg Olear says:

      There are still newspapers?

    • Greg Olear says:

      My boundaries of Gen X are taken from the book Generations.

      The whole thing is arbitrary, of course, but the first wave of what I consider the speakers of our generation were born in 1960 (Linklater) and the first few years of that decade. (And if you want to get technical, the jacket copy of the Coupland novel Generation X, from which the label entered the popular culture, suggests that even those born in the late 50s are Gen X. But I reject that).

      But if you want to say that the years 1960-64 are a sort of Kashmir between the India and Pakistan of Boom and X, depending more on the person than anything, I can live with that. We’ll call it the Christine’s Sister Rule.

      (As long as you allow that Obama is NOT a baby boomer. This business of Obama being “post-racial,” as discussed in the campaign, is really about him being one of us.)

      Thanks again for coming on Friday.

      G

  23. Richard Cox says:

    I don’t know why but I love your abbreviation in the URL: “golear.” Ha.

    I’m totally waiting on my copy of Totally Killer. However I read the first few pages on Amazon and was hooked. I loved your first two lines, and I think we’ve all known someone like Taylor…at least the oozing pheromones part. Can’t wait to read the rest.

    You’ve helped set a high bar for the self interview. I think by the time mine comes around we’ll be parodying the early ones and I’ll just copy/paste this and change your name to mine.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Golear sounds like a sci-fi name. Change the last letter, though, and it’s health food.

      Thanks, Richard. This was pretty fun to do (as you’ll soon see), and I look forward to yours. Even if it winds up being a cut and paste of mine. I won’t tell…

      G

  24. Jim Simpson says:

    Your dialogue is much more than halfway decent. I really enjoyed the interview: smart, funny, irreverent, all the good stuff. TK is a great read and will surely (unbeknownst to them) end up in more than a few of my friends’ Xmas stockings.

    Also, “encumbrances” is so Thomas Hardy. Nice.

    TK reminds me of the NYC I recall from ’87-’88. Well done, sir.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Jim. So glad you liked the book…and also glad to be mentioned with Hardy in any context. I love Hardy (much more than Dickens). One of my favorites.

      TK would make a great holiday gift…especially for one’s boss. ; )

  25. janice olear says:

    I didn’t know a person could actually interview himself. But if anybody could do it with such humor and style it’s my Greg.

  26. Tony DuShane says:

    hey, we have the same agent.

  27. Elizabeth Collins says:

    Dear Greg,

    I am late reading this interview (I am tired and did not get that you were interviewing yourself until the end…despite the subtitle…but was amused by the “they’re the same kids” part. Actually, I was amused by more than that. Nice job!). Sorry!

    I was also late listening to the podcast of your reading with Duke. Again, very nice. Congratulations and wish I could have been a fly on the wall.

    You kindly gave me a “Totally Killer” 1991 sticker that I actually don’t want to stick on anything, but if you have suggestions for where I should put it, let me know. It’s very cool.

    I hesitate to put it on my car, because I am too vain for people to think that I drive a 1991 car–not that the car is any great shakes.

    So–are we still going to do this Philadelphia reading? You tell me, and maybe you can get the cabaret dudes to call you back.

    I wonder if Marni has any Advent calendars for sale? I really need one–preferably the kind with chocolates inside. Guess i could drive down to a Delaware mall and find out?

    Start tweeting again, please!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Liz.

      There will be video of the Greg & Duke Show, too, hopefully by year’s end. It was a great crowd, and I’m really pleased with how it went.

      I’m still on for Philly if you are. We’ll talk offline.

      Re: the stickers. I suggest your daughter’s guitar case. Or a locker at the school. Or the mirror in the girls room. Or just in your office.

      And now am off to tweet…

  28. If my self interview is half as good as yours I will consider myself a real writer. You turned this into a fucking art form, Greg. Hilarious read!

  29. […] GREG OLEAR on Greg Olear […]

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