I’ve been contemplating the nature of Stephen Elliott’s appeal.  The author of several books of fiction, including the acclaimed and popular Happy Baby, it was his memoir, The Adderall Diaries, that seems to have catapulted him to the status of a literary “cult hero.”  Many critics have lauded Adderall Diaries as a work of genius–an assessment with which I so strongly concur that I have felt, at times over the past year, like Elliott’s pimp I seem to rave about him so frequently in public forums.  In fact, I might even feel a little creepy about it were it not for the fact that everywhere I go, I meet people who have been as deeply impacted by his work as I, and who are similarly shouting it from the rooftops to the point that they (such as the novelist Karen Palmer) profess to a similar groupie-like embarrassment.

So what’s with this guy?  Why are so many people obsessed with him?  To describe his writing style as “intimate” would be inadequate (he is, perhaps, the most intimate writer I’ve ever read) and yet he possesses an acute sense–deeper, in fact, than that of many writers who divulge much less about themselves in their work–that writing cannot merely be about the writer’s demons, whims or confessions.  It’s an intriguing combination that seems to help Elliott function simultaneously as a spokeswriter for the disenfranchised who have traditionaly existed on the fringe of artistic culture–runaways, sex workers, addicts, masochists–and yet also as a general literary “therapist,” not unlike The Rumpus’ earthy and wise advice columnist, “Dear Sugar.”  For Elliott’s obsession, more so than with any sexual fetish or drug, seems to be the pursuit of truth and art, with living a life of integrity, with the rights of children, and with what it requires to achieve true human connection.  This is the fodder of his work, never in a sanctimonious or distant way, but from the perspective of a desperate, sometimes-drug-addled, dominatrix-hiring seeker whose voice (despite being quintessentially unreliable for obvious reasons) we simply believe.  Reading Elliott–whether in one of his books or in his Daily Rumpus emails–the reader cannot help but be reminded that writing is, first and foremost, a form of communication.  I am not sure I have ever encountered a writer whose body of work–fiction, non, and blog-like–seems to illustrate this more than Elliott’s.  Daringly open, deeply engaged, and equipped with an eerie insight that was hard-earned on the streets and in group homes, one of Elliott’s favorite topics is his own fucked-up-ed-ness, but I’ve got to admit that if I didn’t know so many people who know him much better than I do and promise me this is not some kind of marketing schtick, I might almost disbelieve it because he is so damn wise.  There is a “Physician, heal thyself” paradox about Elliott, but in the end this duality of the artist as a wounded boy-man haunted by demons he makes no effort to hide, yet at the same time the smartest and best (indirect) advice-giver you may ever encounter, is only one of the many intriguing aspects of Elliott’s persona and his work.

I’ve read with Stephen at Chicago’s one-of-a-kind queer indie bookstore, Quimby’s; he blurbed my collection Slut Lullabies; we’ve exchanged the odd email here and there and once spoke on the phone.  But I am such a fan that when Brad Listi approached me and asked if I’d like to interview him to celebrate the release of Adderall Diaries in paperback, I basically nearly wet my pants in excitement, and had sent him these long-winded questions within a couple of hours.  Busy as he is, I figured I might hear from him in a week or so.  But because Stephen is about as manic as I am, instead I had the answers in less than 48 hours.

By the way, Stephen himself suggested that I include the Q&As that he “couldn’t really answer.”  But I’d already planned to do that, because his non-answers are answers of a sort, too, so I wouldn’t have had it any other way . . .


GF: The Adderall Diaries deeply examines the concept that no one person owns The Truth, and that everyone has his or her own truth.  In the book, you explore the ways your father’s truth differs from your own.  The way you come to accept your dad’s ownership of his version of events feels awe-inspiring and redemptive to the reader, and appears to have been transformative to you as a writer/person.  Can you talk about your process in coming to forgive your father despite the many real abuses done to kids who cannot defend themselves?  In other words, what is the relationship between the subjectivity of “truth” and the real existence of “right” and “wrong” in the actions we perpetrate on others?

SE: Jesus, this is tough question to start with. Here’s the thing, you have to look at this from two places.

From the point of society we need to do a much better job at protecting children and much of that is about money. We need better staff to child ratios in the group homes, better paid teachers in public schools. We need to give more chances to abused children. In other words, more than one chance. They need the kind of multiple chances that children in better homes get.

But from the point of the individual it’s hard to heal without forgiving. It’s not about right and wrong. Your anger might be fully justified but who is it hurting?

Despite the revelation of many intimate details of your life and psyche in The Adderall Diaries, the narrative never feels insular or narcissistic, but rather passionately engaged with the wider world.  Talk about your decision to weave in outside plots, such as the murder of Nina Reiser, and how this may have changed your writing process and the end result of the book.  How do you advise young writers to ensure that their work is “bigger” than a mere confessional tell-all while still being honest?

I appreciate that. But writing a memoir is always narcissistic. Most art and writing is narcissistic. Of course, that’s different from feeling narcissistic. As a writer you have to always remember the reader doesn’t give a shit about you. If you’re not offering the reader anything they’re going to put the book down.

The reader is the most important person with a book. The reader is doing the writer a favor. So any decision that doesn’t take the reader into account is a bad decision. Holding back information because you’re uncomfortable is just as bad as providing too much information because you want to get something off your chest. Everything has to serve the story.

Of course, there is no such thing as a book that everybody likes. The goal is writing your reader’s favorite book.

The thing to remember about honesty is that it’s much more than just not lying. Honesty is bordered by self-knowledge. It’s a goal, but it’s not actually attainable, because to be perfectly honest you’d have to have perfect self-knowledge, and for that you would have to be a person that never changes.

I don’t remember your exact wording, but you wrote once in a Daily Rumpus that the world does not owe artists/writers a living for following their passions and creating the art they want to make . . . I was very struck by this and have brought it up in recent interviews I’ve done about my own work.  I think what you meant is that most of the world doesn’t get paid to do something they love or that is their singular passion, and that artists can’t expect that either–that the economic world is quite separate from the artistic world, and that if you choose not to compromise and get a job that the culture rewards financially, you’re making a choice and have to accept responsibilities and the consequences of that choice.  I deeply agree with that sentiment.  Yet I also believe that it’s unfortunate–even tragic–that art is so devalued by most people, and certainly those in power, and I think you would probably concur.  So I find myself with this paradox: I believe artists “deserve” to be paid, and that their work has true value . . . yet I also believe that refusing to conform to the existing cultural norms of having a work-a-day job is a choice (sometimes a luxury), whether those norms are right or wrong.  Hmm . . . I’m not sure where the question is in here . . . I guess that, in a sea of writers who seem to be constantly be belly-aching about being underpaid, I was very intrigued by someone–especially someone who doesn’t have much money–being bold enough to say that we’ve made our own beds and should perhaps stop whining.  Am I understanding your views correctly, and can you talk more about your philosophy of art vs. commerce?

I think you’re understanding my views correctly. I’m in favor of more funding for the arts in a very general sense. But who would get that funding? And people would still complain that they weren’t getting the scholarships, grants, etc.

I was awarded a Stegner Fellowship that funded me for two years and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Still… I had already written three books at that point, and continued writing books after the funding ran out.

I understand journalists who are upset because they can no longer afford to do in-depth stories but I don’t understand writers who think they are owed a living for writing a novel they want to write. And I actually think it’s a very negative space to be in, since everybody (or almost everybody) has a job when they write their first novel. I think what happens often is people associate the money they’re paid for their art with the value of their art, and that’s a disaster for the work.

When I finish writing something I always try to get as much for it as I can, but I never (or almost never) write it for that reason. I’m able to write whatever I want because I keep my expenses extremely low. I don’t have children; I pay cheap rent. Sometimes I worry about my financial security, but never in terms of writing. When I think of how I’m going to scrounge some money I never think, “I should write something.”

Speaking of money: we both grew up in Chicago, around the same time, in neighborhoods where being a writer was basically unheard of as a profession or aspiration.  It never occurred to me to major in Creative Writing in college because that seemed like something a kid with a trust fund would do, whereas my parents were below the poverty line, and my dad had never finished elementary school . . . now you, of course, have a background of economic hardship–living in group homes or on the street–that even far surpasses mine.  Can you talk about your process in coming to identify as a writer/artist and whether you found your “class” background to be a barrier, an asset, or both?

Well, that’s tricky. I left home when I was thirteen and slept on the streets for a year and then I was made a ward of the court (full story on that here: http://therumpus.net/2009/04/where-i-slept/). I spent the next four years in group homes and went to college on a scholarship. But before that I lived in a nice house. We weren’t rich, but we were certainly middle class.

All I’m saying is it’s not a competition.

I never really identified as a writer. I was a history major in college. But I always wrote a lot. I never imagined it as something I could do as a profession, and I guess I was right about that. I did start publishing at some point, and then I got that fellowship, and it was all really kind of sudden. Like, I sent these two novels to the slushpile of a new publisher (MacAdam/Cage), and they bought both of them for $18,000 a piece, and I got the fellowship to Stanford a month later.

I think traveling across many social classes has mostly helped me as a writer and a person. Middle class, group home, Stanford. I think that’s mostly an asset, on the whole.

In The Daily Rumpus as well as in your books, you write a lot about love, desire, loneliness, attachment and sex–to say that you have a romantic temperament would, I think, be a distinct understatement, and I mean that in a good way, the way it’s also true of, say, Steve Almond.  Yet you’ve indicated in some of your writing that you don’t think you’re really cut out to be in a long-term relationship, and that you remain immature for your age.  Given that commitment can come in all shapes and sizes, can you talk about what it takes, in your view, to be in a successful longstanding relationship and what constitutes the “maturity” for this to be possible?

I don’t think I can.

Your book tour for The Adderall Diaries was one of the most unusual and comprehensive in the history of book tours–it would probably be fair to say that you may officially be the “go to” guy now on the topic of touring!  What do you counsel all new writers to do when their books come out?  Is there anything you did that you wouldn’t do again or feel was either not successful or was more trouble than it was worth?

I don’t think I would do any of it again because I’ve already done it. When people ask me how to market their books I usually say they need to do something that nobody else has done. If it’s the thing you’re supposed to do when marketing a book then people are already doing it and it’s probably worthless.

The most important thing is to write a great book. That’s 50%, at least. If you can do that you have a chance. If you can’t do that the odds get longer.

How has launching The Rumpus and writing The Daily Rumpus impacted your life?  Discuss the rewards of The Rumpus and what, in general, drives writers (outside of any economic impetus) to take time away from their own work to help other writers, generate cultural dialogue and foster community.

The Daily Rumpus email was supposed to be just a bunch of links to interesting things on The Rumpus. Instead it became just a free-write, where I just write about whatever I’m thinking. Sometimes I make up stories. Often I think about things like marketing, connecting, relationships, love. A little about sex. Or I review things I’m reading and seeing. It’s gotten to the point where I spend two or three hours on it every day. It’s replaced long form writing as my creative outlet. For a while I fought against it, but now I embrace it. I just love writing them. It feels so fulfilling. I don’t know what they’re going to mean in the larger picture of my “career”, but that’s also because I don’t know what shape literary writing is going to take. It feels like a whole new form. I don’t know if anybody else is sending out an email of new literary writing every day.

As far as what drives writers to foster community, to take on editing projects and create publishing houses, I think it’s all of a piece. Those that are pushed to do those things are probably also gaining some creative substanence from doing them. But hell if I know.

What are you most excited about right now?

I’m excited to see Animal Kingdom tomorrow night. But you’re asking something else. I’m definitely curious to see how all of this turns out.

For those readers who don’t subscribe to The Daily Rumpus and may not have heard you wax rhapsodic about Roberto Bolano, whose Savage Detectives knocked me on my ass as well, will you riff a little here on why he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and everyone should go out and read him immediately?

I was talking with a writer about Bolano’s 2666. He hadn’t read it but said he heard it was so good it made you not want to write. I told him it was the opposite. It was so good it made you only want to write. It also made you aware of what would be required from if you were to do that.

Elaborate on this line from The Adderall Diaries, and the way this fact impacts your own life, identity and choices as an artist: “The books of our time have little to do with the destruction of the self.  We expect our bards to survive, to figure things out.”

I guess what I was saying is I’m a mess.

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GINA FRANGELLO is the fiction editor of The Nervous Breakdown. She is the author of three books of fiction: A Life in Men (forthcoming from Algonquin in Feb 2014), Slut Lullabies (Emergency Press) and My Sister's Continent (Chiasmus 2006). She is also the Sunday Editor at The Rumpus, and was the longtime editor of the literary magazine Other Voices, as well as the co-founder and executive editor of its book imprint, Other Voices Books (now an imprint of Dzanc Books). Her short stories have been published in many lit mags and anthologies, including A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Connection, Prairie Schooner, StoryQuarterly, and Fence, and her essays, journalism, reviews and interviews have appeared in such venues as the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post and the Chicago Reader. In her nonexistent spare time, she runs a writing program out of Mexico, <a href="http://www.othervoicesqueretaro.com/" Other Voices Queretaro.

43 responses to “The Most Together Fucked-Up Guy in the Universe: A Conversation with Stephen Elliott”

  1. Katherine T. says:

    Beautiful job, Gina! It was great to find out more about those daily e-mails of Stephen’s, which are such a gift of art and community each day. And I love the “no comment” on your giant question about maturity, relationships, romantic temperament. Thank you, S & G.

    • Thanks, Katherine. Yeah, I’ve actually read Stephen’s thoughts on the fodder for that question in other forums and had hoped to prompt him to say some of it here, for the TNB audience . . . but one thing I noticed in this interview is that Stephen does not like to repeat himself–which is to his credit. He has had quite a lot to say about what it takes to love and to commit, but his non-answer was kind of provocative too, in that it speaks to how elusive any real “answers” on that matter really are.

  2. zoe zolbrod says:

    I am now refreshing my email obsessively waiting for today’s Daily Rumpus.

  3. This interview is gorgeous and revelatory and reminds me why I admire both of you so much.

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Great interview. So much material to think upon.

    I think the question of artists ‘deserving’ to be paid is an interesting one. The romantic writer side of me agrees and thinks ‘Why shouldn’t society pay painters and writers and filmmakers to produce their art and pay them well?” and yet the more practical side of me agrees with Stephen – that what you are paid for your work doesn’t define its value.

    In New Zealand, under the last Government, there was a scheme introduced whereby unemployed artists got paid a weekly wage by the govt so they didn’t have to go out and find a paying job. In theory, I supported this, but then I thought well ‘Well, why just artists?” Other people in other professions enjoy their work just as much – so why is there this idea that artists are the only people who have passion for what they do?

    It makes for interesting debate.

    • Zara, I had a long chat with a friend of mine a couple nights ago about this very issue. She is not a writer, but for many years was a successful attorney. Then she stopped working to stay at home with her kids, and when she returned to the work force, in a manner of speaking, she changed careers and is now an actress, mainly for commercials, forever going on auditions. This is something she enjoyed earlier in her life but I suppose knew wouldn’t pay the bills. She is from a successful Indian family where being a doctor or lawyer were mainly your only options for parental approval, and she had jumped through every proper hoop and had gotten to the point where she was well-paid, at a prestigious firm, etc.

      Her take on this is that the arts are the one area where obtaining a top rate education and busting your ass–and even having a lot of talent–just in the end does not correspond in any direct way to your ability to actually become “successful” in an economic way. Her point was that people in other careers, whether doctors or teachers or nurses or administrative assistants or florists, whatever, do what they need to do to “become” a member of their profession, pound the pavement for a job, obtain said job, work hard, and that if they are good and hardworking they will be rewarded with success. Success, of course, being quite different for a construction worker or florist than for an attorney . . . but that you get what you “expect” and what you work towards.

      In the arts, many people who work hard for years, who have talent according to their peers, who apply to the best schools and study, who labor over their craft, continue to be unable to make anything approaching a living wage. In many cases (my own, for example) this is true even after publishing a couple of books. I could make a living wage as a professor, but I cannot make one on my actual WRITING. Only bestselling authors (or truly famous painters, or Brad and Angelina–basically sub-in-name-of-successful-person-in-your-art-form-field) can do that. Most of us, even those who attain “critical” success, continue to strive on with almost no salary.

      So I think the concept behind the Kiwi policy was a noble and good one, in that I do believe the arts truly are different from other fields in their economic predictability.

      BUT (and this is a big “but”): I also think that theoretically a policy such as this one could result in people who are crap . . . who don’t work hard, who have no talent, who barely even practice their art form but rather maybe sit around all day pontificating about it while smoking a fattie . . . could sponge off the government and call themselves “artists.” And it is indeed true that this would hardly seem fair to people in other professions.

      So it’s a complex issue, indeed.


      • Zara Potts says:

        Good points! And ones that I hadn’t actually stopped to consider before – Yes, it’s true that in other professions there are automatic stepping stones or pathways to ‘success.’ Whereas, I guess in the Arts it can, a lot of the time, depend on simple luck or good timing.

        It’s also so subjective. If you take painting for example – you could theoretically be the best, most technically adept painter but in order to succeed you must have the buy in of the art critic or the gallery owner and it staggers me that so many wonderful artists are never recognised. We have a national art prize here in NZ and every year I am dismayed and disappointed at the work that is selected. It never seems to be on actual merit, more on the subjective and elitist taste of the judging panel. Maybe I’m just being naive!

        But yes, I agree with the ideals of the Unemployed Artist’s Benefit that we have here. In theory it’s a noble one but as you say too many people use it as an excuse to sit around getting stoned and mucking about with string and paper. Then again, I’d rather we have it than not.

        • I’m with you. I’d like to have something like that here. Instead, here if you don’t write (or paint, or record) what is “commercial,” pretty much I think the dominant culture considers you a delusional career-masochist, ha.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Great interpretations and summations, Gina and Zara, of THE debate for art and artists in our countries.

          I got some giggles and revelations from these paragraphs, Zara:

          “We have a national art prize here in NZ and every year I am dismayed and disappointed at the work that is selected. It never seems to be on actual merit, more on the subjective and elitist taste of the judging panel. Maybe I’m just being naive!”

          “But yes, I agree with the ideals of the Unemployed Artist’s Benefit that we have here. In theory it’s a noble one but as you say too many people use it as an excuse to sit around getting stoned and mucking about with string and paper. Then again, I’d rather we have it than not.”

          Off the cuff, I’m thinking that YES (agreed!) public monies given to artists is cool, though ’twill never be enough…..ever….

          And private monies—–by far the bulk of what keeps a miniscule number of artists solvent——is so exclusive (excluding), the fundds “judged” for dispensing by so few who (understandably) follow their own tastes, that 99% of practicing artists are unknown by The Judges.

          Answer? Groups of artists doing what working folks have done for years: unionise.

        • Yes, that’s interesting . . . part-time, adjunct college instructors unionize, but fiction writers (or writers in general, or artists) do not, generally speaking (I’m not sure if some do, elsewhere, but not here, not that I know of.) This sounds like both a bloody good idea, and a bit of a nightmare, in that attending organizing meetings would be one more thing “to do” that would take time away from my writing, and I would probably be the asshole who didn’t attend the meetings or bother to fill out the right forms. Which absolutely does mean that I’ve got no right to bitch, eh?

      • Art Edwards says:

        I agree with you both–great conversation–but I’d like to add one thing about writing that I think falls on the good side.

        Unlike those in more predictable professions, writers can delude themselves with the fact that the ceiling for being a professional writer is way, way high. No one, and I mean no one, will ever be as over-the-top successful as King, Franzen, Morrison, Rowling, or any writer playing at the top of her genre, right? But then, as I name them, it’s quite apparent that King, Franzen, Morrison and Rowling were as successful as King, Franzen, Morrison and Rowling.

        To believe any of us is ever going to play at that level is absolutely foolish, but isn’t it always there, whether we want it to be or not? Other writers have been as out-in-left-field as we are, and then they became wildly successful. I’m not saying any of us even wants that kind of success. I’m saying perhaps this delusion allows us some hope.

        • dwoz says:

          the other side of that coin is to ask, what exactly is there in the writing of King, Rowling, or (He Who Must Not Be Named), Dan Brown? Sprinkle in some Stephenie Meyer to taste.

          Is their prose so utterly transcendental, so clearly in a different echelon, than any of you? Do they “play their instrument” any better than you do?

          Being a rhetorical question, the answer lies in externalities…the ability to catch the eye of a film producer/screenwriter…the ability to spin a yarn and hold suspense. The ability to paint a “true” character, be it lovable or horrific.

          Believe me, the People Who Throw Investment Money At Culture are this moment looking for one of you to stick your head up above the ocean of noise and become the next name on everyone’s lips.

        • Art Edwards says:

          Exactly. There’s always that chance, and that feeds writerly hope.

  5. Judy Prince says:

    I enjoyed this, too, Gina, ruly respected your introspective questions, your pre-interview rave, and your attention to writers’ anguished self- and other-debates.

    I also enjoyed that Stephen didn’t go on like most freed-up-by-the-seldom-opportunity-to-rabbit-on authors inevitably do. For example, his answer to one of your magnificent queries: “I don’t think I can” (answer the question). HA!

    You can tell him, though, that his last response (“I guess what I was saying is I’m a mess”) was a bit precious, given that his words from his book, which you quoted, were brain-pumpingly delightful and hope-filled: “The books of our time have little to do with the destruction of the self. We expect our bards to survive, to figure things out.”

    I’ve thought of several people I’d want to read his book—-starting with me.

  6. Gloria says:

    …because to be perfectly honest you’d have to have perfect self-knowledge, and for that you would have to be a person that never changes. Okay. So. This just blew my mind. Right on, SE!

    This is a really great, inspiring interview. I kind of want to sit down with Stephen Elliot and swing on a porch swing and chat for a while.

    Really great.

  7. Jeffrey Pillow says:

    Nice interview Gina. I love interviews with interesting people, and this is surely one. I haven’t yet read Happy Baby but did knock out The Adderall Diaries in less than two days. It is a seriously engaging read.

  8. Very, very cool. I love it that he thinks writers should write and not expect to get any money. Most people write because the are compelled to tell a certain story, not for money. Writing a novel, once you have, and spent months and years on drafts and edits–you realize it’s kind of a crazy thing to do. It is crazy, but fufilling. Awesome interview!

  9. It’s true, Brian: while I believe writers should be better paid, I also feel like anyone who writes remotely “for the money” is of a completely different species of writer than what I relate to in terms of that fulfilling, half-crazy obsession I recognize and wouldn’t trade for anything.

  10. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Wonderful interview. So many illuminating points made here. This one for example: “Holding back information because you’re uncomfortable is just as bad as providing too much information because you want to get something off your chest. Everything has to serve the story.” I need to write this on a note-card and tape it to my computer as I always err on the side of “holding back.”

  11. Lenore says:

    gina, i love your long-windedness. it makes me happy that every time i see a block of text on TNB, there’s a pretty good chance you created it. and this interview was great.

  12. Ha! If it’s not me, Lenore, it’s generally Duke . . . which reminds me that I forgot to respond to one of his fabulous long responses (to one of MY long comments!) on another comments board!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ll have you know, Gina, that Simon has, on occasion, left some very long comments as well.

      Meanwhile, I enjoy that Stephen Elliott was excited about seeing Animal Kingdom. I mentioned seeing it in the piece with Zara. I liked it quite a bit, though I’m not sure I loved it.

      Also, I remember Mr. Elliott very well from a documentary entitled DIY or Die, which was directed by a mutual acquaintance (and former SF resident, as well as a former resident of LA). When I started to hear a great deal about SE, I knew the name seemed familiar, and finally I thought, “Oh, shit, he’s that guy in Michael’s movie!” I was a bit jealous of him, seeing that he was the only writer to be included in the doc. Now, of course, I have a multitude of reasons to be jealous.

      • Oh, I’ve never heard of DIY or Die, but now I totally want to see it! Thanks for the tip!

        And now that you mention it, I’ve had some long-winded comments from Mr. Smithson in my time, indeed. (It’s just that we all have quite a bit to say. We can’t help it that the rest of the world may not be as scintillating as ourselves =)

  13. Irene Zion says:


    I loved being one of the people that got a secret package and read it and sent it on to a mystery person. I hope Stephen Elliott does it again!

    (It seems as though you are shouting at him because your print is so big.
    And he seems cowed by you since his print is so tiny.

  14. You know, Irene, I thought of that too–I used the same format (font sizes) that are used for TNB Self-Interviews, which I guess are used to distinguish Q from A since the interviewer and interviewee are the same person . . . I thought I should go with TNB style uniformity, but it did made my (already long) questions take up about 90% of the page, which makes it seem like I am the “essay question” Stephen is answering for the test or some such. Yikes.

  15. dwoz says:

    My personal take on the “getting paid” thing:

    “Writers and artists are creating the new universe. Everyone else is either washing the universe’s dishes or doing the universe’s laundry.” (…ariadne, in “Mother Diaspora” a new novel coming in 20XX.)

  16. Just like the way Reese’s brings together two of my favorite things–chocolate and peanut butter–this piece has done something quite similar. It has brought together two of my favorite writers: Gina Frangello and Stephen Elliott.

    Gina, thanks so much for this Q&A with Stephen. Not only is he one hella badass writer, but he’s also a very kind and generous human being. I had the extreme honor and pleasure to perform at one of his S.F. Rumpus events back in June. It was absolutely one of the best performing experiences of my life.

    So here’s to the new and improved Reese’s: Gina and Stephen.

    I’ll let you two decide which one wants to be peanut butter, and the other chocolate.

  17. Now THAT is a question worth pondering, Rich . . . I believe I may be speechless with the possibilities . . .

    (And you at a Rumpus event is another Reese’s-worthy combo–wish I could have been there!)

  18. Very astute interview by Frangello and nice chemistry between these two. I enjoy anyone who can ask the impossibly squirmy questions with grace and Stephen never fails to deliver raw honesty. That said, I’m going to read “Slut Lullabies.”

  19. Thanks, Antonia–nice to see you on the board: I love your work on the Rumpus.

  20. Simon Smithson says:

    I have yet to read any Elliott, but people have very good things to say about him. It was a good interview, Gina – a good balance between the personal and the professional, which seems to be when TNB is at is very best.

    As an intro to Elliott, what would you recommend?

  21. Simon, Happy Baby is a great starting point. It’d deceptively simple, a quick read. The Adderall Diaries is his best book, but meatier.

  22. Aaron Talwar says:

    This is great interview Gina. I love what Stephen is doing- that article on the DIY tour in the times was just a great approach to getting people involved and feeling like they are apart of something.

  23. Now I have someone new to read, this is great! Really enjoyed the interview. Interesting all the way around! Good questions, interesting answers.

  24. Chiropractor in plano…

    […]Gina Frangello | The Most Together Fucked-Up Guy in the Universe: A Conversation with Stephen Elliott | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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