As I write this, the world has spent the past four days transfixed and deeply saddened by Japan’s 9.0 earthquake and its resulting tsunami and nuclear disasters. Within my extended family, for the second time this year, one member just almost killed another, not by assault, but through a split-second accident. (No, I’m not a member of the Flying Wallendas.)
This is where Mike Sacks comes in. I’ve interviewed Sacks before, in conjunction with 2010’s tome, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk by the Association for the Betterment of Sex and nowhere in my research did I uncover evidence the Vanity Fair editor and author of the new, hilarious essay collection, Your Wildest Dreams within Reason, oversees plate tectonics or prompts sundry family members to nearly give me a fucking heart attack.
Indeed, Sacks’ work is the antidote to all that. Which might be why David Sedaris says, “Mike Sacks is not just a sensational comic writer, but a sensational writer–period.” In a world that will never make sense, we need smart people who make us laugh. So, thank you, Mike Sacks, for helping us keep the lids on our pill jars.
Litsa Dremousis: So far, reviews for Your Wildest Dreams within Reason have been uniformly stellar, with everyone from David Sedaris to Kirkus Sedaris to Sandra Bernhard lauding you as hilarious and richly talented. Do you read reviews? If so, what do you intend to do to the commenter who said she was embarrassed to read you on the subway?
Mike Sacks: I don’t know any author who doesn’t read his or her reviews. I definitely read reviews. What I don’t read are reader comments. They can be really nasty and misinformed. Now, as far as being too embarrassed to read my book on the subway, I couldn’t agree more with this theoretical lady. Read something with more substance, like Glenn Beck’s America’s King of Lunacy or Mike Huckabee’s America’s Dipshit, Southern Fried.
LD: Your Wildest Dreams is a collection of pieces you’ve published in the New Yorker, McSweeney’s and Vanity Fair, among others. You boldly state in the introduction that there is no overriding theme, so don’t bother looking for one. Are there larger existential implications here? Also, is this how you prepare meals?
MS: The implication is that if you pitch a book of short pieces or stories to the publishers or agents, they will always come back with, “No, we can’t do this. There must be a common theme.” I don’t know why this is the case. I think it’s ridiculous. So the intro was sort of a dig at this sort of thinking. It pissed me off for years and this was my retaliation. Granted, it’s not much of a retaliation, but I am weak and not prone to physical altercations. As far as preparing meals, I only consume meat-pockets straight out of the freezer. Have you done this? Just suck on one of those bad boys for fifteen, twenty minutes. I like to do this on my exercise machine, usually half-asleep.
LD: The series of letters by deluded writer, “Rhon Penny”, who sends missives to titans like Don DeLillo and Salman Rushdie as if he is their peer, is wickedly droll. Have you been beset by such correspondence? Or do you like tormenting the afflicted?
MS: No, I’ve never been beset by such a writer, although I would love to. I love characters like Rhon Penny. They’re totally harmless, but just a little off. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he just wants to be known as a writer who’s on par with the best of the best. He has a million ideas, all of them bad. Rhon is the character I feared becoming: living with my mother and writing missives to the famous. And, yes, I do enjoy tormenting the afflicted, because they are so weak and they are not as handsome as I am–or soon will be after my upcoming Mexican cosmetic surgery to remove my extra nostril.
LD: How do you balance your career and your family? (Oops. Skip that. Should only be posed to those with ladyparts. If, however, you sport hermaphroditic traits, feel free to answer at least half.)
MS: I’ve met my two year-old daughter once and my wife just a few times. I believe only in writing constantly, seven days a week, with no rest, all year round, except for President’s Day. And if anyone else suffers, so be it. I recommend this for all writing students or those just starting out with their careers. It works very well.
LD: In “Worst Places to Die” (co-written with Ted Travelstead), you include “Instants before the flash explodes on that whimsical ‘old-timey’ photo” and “Prepped and ready for your first-ever high colonic.” Where would like to unspool from this mortal coil? And do you have a preference as to time of day?
MS: I would love for my death to come in the middle of the day, as I sit at my work desk, fast asleep, and dreaming about a McLobster. Is that too specific? Okay, how about while I tight-rope between two huge buildings in Dubai, as a crowd of 15 or so look on in wonder? That sounds exotic, yes.
LD: In “Happiness Is…”, you list “…comparing scars at a family reunion.” You grew up in Maryland. Do you or anyone you know have scars? Were they incurred shucking oysters or grinding glass to slip into the help’s food?
MS: Every member of my family has scars, not just the psychological kind. We’re tough and tumble, and most of the scars come from impromptu football scrimmages with the Kennedy family (who live next door) to my family in Maryland. Did you know that the remaining Kennedys live in the middle-class suburbs, all in connected townhomes just off I-95? True.
LD: When your parents gave you a name Bart Simpson might use to prank Moe, did they realize old age would come and they might need your for something?
MS: Yes, this was their plan all along. They are savvy, my parents. But my original name was Fuck Wadd, so I guess I did okay in the long run.
LD: This is your second book to come out in the past five months. Must you always be the center of attention?
MS: Yes. I’m like a junkie. I must be the center of attention at all times. You think Lady Gaga has an ego? Or Charlie Sheen? I walk around, strutting like a big ol’ fancy peacock. Hey, ladies! Take a gander at this bad sumbitch! You like what you see? I’m yours for the taking! All I ask is for a home-cooked meal of meat-pockets and an extra-large cup of grape soda from WaWa’s.
LD: In “Famous Philosophers and How They Were Discovered”, you report Benedict Spinoza “…auditioned. Simple as that.” If you’d been at the casting call, would your views have helped shape the Enlightenment? What if you’d had to beat him at pie-eating?
MS: Benedict Spinoza was an asshole. I would have beat him at anything, even at a pie-eating contest. Actually, I take that back. He would have beat me at that sort of event, but I would have definitely won a matzoh ball eating contest or a 100-yard nude dash.
LD: Test your psychic abilities: what I am about to ask you right now?
MS: If I was ever in the Marines. The answer is yes, but with a caveat: I played the knee cymbals in their official marching band. Look for me on YouTube.