So you’re just coming off a crazy book tour where you did readings in people’s living rooms all over America.

That’s true. What I did was I let anybody who wanted to read a book get a copy. The only catch was they had to forward it to the next person within a week. So when I was pushed to do a book tour I contacted the 400 people who participated in the lending library to see if anyone wanted to host a reading in their home. A lot of times it wasn’t in a person’s living room. Sometimes they wanted to do the reading in a cafe, or a gallery.


Did you hook up a lot when you were on the road?

What kind of question is that? Not really.


Why not read in bookstores?

Well, for one thing I needed to sell my own books to fund the tour. But for another it’s a real relief to have someone in each town, other than me, who will be embarrassed if no one shows up. Reading in people’s homes is a lot more intimate, too. The discussions could go until after midnight. And The Adderall Diaries, the memoir I was reading from, is such a personal book that the readings felt like an extension of the text.


So you didn’t hook up?

I made out with a woman in Ft. Lauderdale. I don’t generally hook up with people when I first meet them. And also, when you’re on the road, I don’t know, it’s kind of awkward. What I long for when I travel isn’t sex, it’s intimacy. I don’t know if you can have intimacy with someone you just met. Why are we talking about this?


You’re interviewing yourself. You know that don’t you?

Yes. I’m sorry.


This is a fiction issue. Do you even write fiction anymore?

I don’t know. I haven’t written much of it recently.


So what are you working on now?

By the time this is published I hope I’ll have a better answer to that question.


You’re a fucking jerk.

Fuck you.


No, fuck you.



I hear you share a one bedroom apartment with a couple of hipsters in San Francisco.

That’s true. I think that’s accurate. But it’s a big one-bedroom. When I think of writing I think of a long term commitment to poverty. But I don’t complain. I don’t think a writer, the kind of writer I am, which is to say someone who only writes what he wants to write and doesn’t pitch articles or sell books he hasn’t written yet, is entitled to very much. Basically a small room and health care.


Maybe that’s why you didn’t hook up with anyone on your book tour.

I hooked up with someone on Ft. Lauderdale.


Was she wookin’ p’nub?



Which book is better, Happy Baby or The Adderall Diaries?

I think The Adderall Diaries. But those are my two best books.


What if I told you Jones Inn was my favorite book of yours.

I’d say you were playing devil’s advocate.


When they asked me to interview you I said I didn’t see the point of interviewing a writer. I mean, it’s either on the page or the book is a failure.

I guess I’d agree with that.


But the money was right so I said OK.

They’re paying you?



I’m not sure how long I can go on like this.


Where are you right now?

I’m on a plane, flying from Philadelphia to San Francisco.


I don’t even want to know why you were in Philadelphia. I’ve been in that Godforsaken place. The water on the streets seeping into my shoes. A city famous for cheesesteak (cheese and steak!) and cynical hookers. Hookers like oracles, incapable of lying. Or at least that’s what I thought. I found out otherwise, the hard way. Which is the only way anybody finds out anything. But I was never the same.

It was a stopover from Pittsburgh.


Well then.




Thank you for doing this interview. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with things.

I’m not…


But hopefully things will turn around. Remember, it’s not about finding someone to love you, it’s about being capable of love. You need to forget her. That wasn’t love, that was passion. And it was destructive.

I know.


Look for the common denominator in your troubles. And by that I mean look at yourself.

This is really going downhill.


You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until you’re my age.

I am your age.


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STEPHEN ELLIOTT is the author of seven books including The Adderall Diaries, which has been described as "genius" by both the San Francisco Chronicle and Vanity Fair. His novel, Happy Baby, was a finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lion Award as well as a best book of the year in Salon.com, Newsday, Chicago's New City, the Journal News, and the Village Voice.

Elliott's writing has been featured in Esquire, The New York Times, The Believer, GQ, Best American Non-Required Reading 2005 and 2007, Best American Erotica, and Best Sex Writing 2006. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and is a member of the San Francisco Writer's Grotto. He is the editor of The Rumpus .

16 responses to “Stephen Elliott: The TNB 

  1. Greg Olear says:

    The Lending Library was a terrific idea — and one that I benefited from — as is the reading-in-people’s-living-rooms. Your point about another person feeling guilty when no one shows up is something I had not considered, and there’s also the fact that six people in a living room is a cozy literary salon, while six people at the Poughkeepsie chain store, as I can tell you from experience, is…I don’t know what it is, but what it isn’t is a literary salon.

    I hope that Adderall Diaries sells well enough that you can reclaim your apartment from the hipsters. I’m sure you’re exaggerating somewhat, but that sounds like a Sartre play. I hope, for your sake, that they do not try to foist their poetry chapbooks upon you, and that their habit of using indiscriminate quotation marks does not infect your writing.

    And for the TNBers: Adderall Diaries is terrific as advertised, but I love love love Happy Baby.


  2. I haven’t read this book yet but it’s at the top of my list. So far, all the books everyone here on TNB has recommended have been amazing. Looking forward to Elliot’s The Aderall Diaries.

    • You will not be disappointed. It was my great surprise of the year–I read Happy Baby right afterwards and that’s beautiful too in an extremely tender and sad way. If I had not read The Adderall Diaries, that would be the book I’d be pimping to everyone I know right now, but I loved the Adderall Diaries so much I decided to teach it in a fiction workshop, just because I want to spend more time with it and was already talking about it to my students so much they suspected I was moonlighting as Stephen’s agent.

  3. Brad Listi says:

    But wait—didn’t you also stay with the people who hosted your readings? Like, not only were you reading in their living rooms, you were also spending the night, correct?

  4. That’s true. I stayed in their homes. Sometimes on the couch, sometimes an extra bedroom, twice on the floor.

    • Brad Listi says:

      Was it ever weird? Like, were you ever not able to sleep, because you were sleeping on the floor in some weird house in Nebraska or something, in the middle of nowhere, and it smelled like beans or something?

      Maybe I’m just neurotic, but that element of it—the slumber party element—seems particularly courageous to me.

  5. zoe zolbrod says:

    Best self-interview ever.

  6. Yes, Zoe, you have a tough act to follow now! So excited for your appearance in May!

  7. anne hubben says:

    Great interview. I’m going out to get the book now.

  8. Erika Rae says:

    A Ft. Lauderdale babe, eh? Niiiiiiice.

    Actually, I don’t know anyone from Ft. Lauderdale. Good job, though.

  9. On pg. 145 now of The Adderall Diaries. Holy shit, this book is a kick in the teeth from pg. 1. A good kick in the teeth I may add. More raw than sushi.

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