Why are you interviewing yourself?
It seems that no one else has asked to do it.
But there’s an occasion, right? A reason to talk to yourself about yourself?
That’s true. The paperback version of my novel, The Funny Man, became available publicly on September 25th.
Paperback version, huh? So that’s not that big a deal. It’s not like the book doesn’t already exist in physical and digital form.
Also true. Those came out last year. This isn’t that special, which is probably why I have to interview myself. The paperback is just the cheaper/smaller version of the original, though it also has some bonus material, an essay about my father not being around to see the book published and a short story related to the novel I’m working on.
What did people say about The Funny Man in its original, hardcover/digital incarnation?
Someone named “Harkius” on Amazon said, “The plot is weak. The characters are wholly unlikeable.”
What else did Harkius say?
“I get annoyed every time I see it on my bookshelf.”
How do you feel about that?
I’m excited that I wrote a book that wound up on someone’s bookshelf, someone who also gave 1-star to Hari Kunzru, and 4 stars to the Braun Silk-Epil 5280 Epilator.
You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Harkius, haven’t you?
Does it show?
Did anyone say anything nice about the book?
Someone from the New York Journal of Books said, “The Funny Man puts John Warner among the most perceptive and edgy chroniclers of an increasingly coarse American culture.”
What do you think your book is about?
It’s about a stand-up comedian who becomes suddenly, semi-explicitly famous, and then his life goes to shit. I see it as the story of someone who gets everything he ever wanted, but that still isn’t enough.
Like Mitt Romney?
Sort of. I believe this is a kind of American condition, this wanting, the willingness to do things we otherwise would not in trying to scratch this itch. We aren’t really programmed for ever believing that we have enough. It’s not the “American Way.” I think it’s as true of me as it is of Mitt Romney, or anyone else.
For example, I tell myself that it’s a privilege to be able to commercially publish a book, that this is all that matters, and I should be content, but then it turns out that I also want the Harkius’ of the world to like it and then tell me so via an Amazon customer review.
Mitt Romney runs for president so he can cut his own taxes. I write things because I want some kind of confirmation that my existence matters. Who am I to judge?
That sounds like a real weakness, on both your parts.
Or frailty, maybe. At this moment, Romney is beginning to look a bit like a tragic figure, viewed more with sadness than fear.
In my case, I’m not saying that a Harkius is capable of derailing my writing simply because Harkius thinks I wrote a shitty, incompetent book that “no one” should read, though obviously on some level I’ve heard what Harkis has to say.
Do I wish that Harkius had liked my book as much as the Charmin Ultra Strong Mega Rolls 6-Count (4 stars), or the Remington BHT 600 Body and Back Groomer (also 4 stars), or the Strathwood Griffen All-Weather Wicker Chair, which is, “All told, pretty nice”?
Of course. But I don’t require it. Wishing for and requiring are two different things.
What else do you wish for?
I would like to the NHL forge a lasting labor peace. I would like to see college football suck up a little less cultural oxygen. I wish I would finish my next book.
Have you heard the saying, “if wishes were horses, there’d be a lot of happy little girls who wanted ponies for their birthdays?”
That’s not how the saying goes.
I know, I made that up. I’m a writer.
John Warner is an author of humor, fiction, and non-fiction, a longtime editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and a teacher, currently at College of Charleston. His writing advice parody, Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice from a Published Author to the Writerly Aspirant was a BookSense pick and My First Presidentiary: A Scrapbook of George W. Bush (co-authored with Kevin Guilfoile) was a number one Washington Post bestseller. He is a co-color commentator for the Tournament of Books and an occasional one man book recommending service known as The Biblioracle.