“No one works better out of anguish at all; that’s an incredible literary conceit.”
“If I had been a straight-A student my whole life and had rapped about Jesus coming back to save us all, I wouldn’t get no media. The motherfuckers wouldn’t give a fuck about me. But since I’m telling the truth, and been through what I’m stressing and know what I’m talking about, I’m a threat.”
“It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy. No time for reflection. No time to contract before another expansion. No time to grow up. No time to fuck up. No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical.”
An interview with Maurice Sendak.
I can’t ask anything. Once in a while if I’m forced into it I will conduct an interview, but it’s usually pro forma, just to establish my credentials as somebody who’s allowed to hang around for a while. It doesn’t matter to me what people say to me in the interview because I don’t trust it.
A conversation with Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.
The evolution of an obsession.
An interview with Cobain a few months after the release of In Utero.
INTERVIEWER: You once said the novel is dead. VIDAL: That was a joke.
An interview with the novelist.
The author interviews her mother about life as a secretary at Playboy in 1960s New York City.
The director on Obama, the state of black cinema, the Knicks, the Nets, the tragedy of public education in America, gentrified New York and why he lives on the Upper East Side.
JOHN: How long have you been there, in the teepee? I mean, before you sussed the wind and everything, and you know, got your senses back? ROSEMARY: We had to put the teepee up three times before it was right. It’s like you can touch it, and it resounds like a drone, and then it’s perfect, the canvas. It’s a wind instrument that plays like a drone.
An interview with John Waters.
Real life is seeing and art is looking. If you’re successful, it’s a magic trick: you take one thing, and you put it in here, and it changes in one second, and then you can never look at that thing again the same way. That is what art is to me.
“I didn’t realize who my father was. So it didn’t make a whole lot of difference. I wasn’t there believing that I was receiving genius from on high. My father was my father.”
A free-ranging conversation between music writers Simon Reynolds and Greil Marcus.
How reality TV has changed tattooing.
Tattoos and tattoo artists have an undeniable power to attract, repulse, and intimidate. But when confronted with all this life and color, reality TV steamrolls it into the familiar “drama” of preening divas and wounded pride. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna change it,” said Anna Paige, an artist who said she’d turned down her chance at TV stardom. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna have some power.” But wait, isn’t she profiting from tattooing’s mass appeal? “I would have made money anyway.”
Watkins: And then, all of a sudden, you notice that it appears that he is falling asleep and gasping for air—like he is snoring, basically. You could classify it as snoring or as gasping for air. You see his chest moving, and then I guess very quickly—maybe two minutes in—his chest stops moving. And we stand there, I guess, for another 10 minutes, and everybody is just kind of standing there. D Magazine: In total silence? Watkins: No one’s talking. No one’s saying anything. And then you notice that the condemned, he starts to turn this bluish color. So I guess that’s when all his functions have stopped. And then a doctor walks in and takes his vital signs and announces that the person is—he looks at the clock and announces, “The person died at 6:22.” And then they open the door and we all walk out.
This interview with Kurt Vonnegut was originally a composite of four interviews done with the author over the past decade. The composite has gone through an extensive working over by the subject himself, who looks upon his own spoken words on the page with considerable misgivings . . . indeed, what follows can be considered an interview conducted with himself, by himself.
On Abbey Road studios, the Beatles, and modern record production.
The artist discusses her latest record, Biophilia, science and music education.
Up until she developed a vocal-cord nodule a few years ago, Björk made a point of not investigating how that instrument worked. “With arrangements and lyrics,” she says, squinting over her coffee, “I work more with the left side of my brain. But my voice has always been very right brain. I didn’t try to analyze it at all. I didn’t even know until I started all this voice work, two years ago, what my range was. I didn’t want to let the academic side into that—I worried the mystery would go.”
On the popular iPhone app.
Just the day before, President Barack Obama had signed on and begun sending out photos. This seemed like a real sign that Instagram had arrived. Obama already has accounts on Flickr and Facebook. He (or his people) must have seen something unique and wonderful in Instagram's audience, some way to reach people via that channel that it couldn't through others. When the President joins your network, it's news. And while it's great news, it can be the kind of thing a company isn't prepared for. But as it turns out, Obama is a fractional compared to Justin Bieber.
A profile of the artist.
"Unfortunately, death is a fact of life. I don't think it's happened to me any more unfairly than to anyone else. It could always be worse. I've lost a lot of people, but I haven't lost everybody. I didn't lose my parents or my family. But it's been an incredible education, facing death, facing it the way that I've had to face it at this early age."
An interview with the former president about the upcoming election and American consensus.
But now, being a celebrity yourself, you feel differently? I've subsequently changed my opinion. Brad Pitt doesn't have a superpower at his back. He just has some crazed fans and paparazzi. But now, having had all three, I must say, I'm not terribly impressed with the experience.
After a Chinese immigrant couple were charged in their daughter’s death, supporters say they’re vulnerable targets of the American justice system.
JW: You’ve talked about how you’ve had to explain moral lessons to your daughters, but do it in an inarticulate, catchy way. It’s almost as though you’re writing material for them. What’s the place of morality and ethics in your comedy? I think those are questions people live with all the time, and I think there’s a lazy not answering of them now, everyone sheepishly goes, “Oh, I’m just not doing it, I’m not doing the right thing.” There are people that really live by doing the right thing, but I don’t know what that is, I’m really curious about that. I’m really curious about what people think they’re doing when they’re doing something evil, casually.
The main thing that attracts me to Buddhism is probably what attracts every artist to being an artist—that it’s a godlike thing. You are the ultimate authority. There is no other ultimate authority. Now, for some artists that’s difficult, because they want to have the art police. They want to have the critic who hands out tickets and says, “That’s too loose.”
A memory of interviewing the late great songwriter Townes Van Zandt shortly before his death.
"Of course, sexuality has never only been about reproduction, obviously, with human beings, anyway. But at the moment it's almost cut free to kind of float wherever it will float. And sexuality has been mixed with many things that I think the ancients would have been surprised to find it mixed with."
Breaking the news of the Kennedy assassination, an oral history:
Wicker: [In the press room] we received an account from Julian Reed, a staff assistant, of Mrs. John Connally’s recollection of the shooting…. The doctors had hardly left before Hawks came in and told us Mr. Johnson would be sworn in immediately at the airport. We dashed for the press buses, still parked outside. Many a campaign had taught me something about press buses and I ran a little harder, got there first, and went to the wide rear seat. That is the best place on a bus to open up a typewriter and get some work done.
How the popular and controversial film critic has helped revive the film program at the L.A. County Museum of Art.
Journalists, filmmakers, random people on the street — it seems everyone has an Elvis Mitchell story. Both those who consider themselves Friends of Elvis and those whose relationships with him are sour or worse are happy to dish about him — albeit almost always off the record. Some are afraid of losing current or future jobs in the ever-more-tenuous world of film journalism. Others simply enjoy his admittedly fine company too much to risk losing it.
We have a rich literature. But sometimes it’s a literature too ready to be neutralized, to be incorporated into the ambient noise. This is why we need the writer in opposition, the novelist who writes against power, who writes against the corporation or the state or the whole apparatus of assimilation. We’re all one beat away from becoming elevator music.
GROSS: Let me stop there. You're talking about cutting yourself ... HAMMOND: Yeah. GROSS: ..with a razor. HAMMOND: Mm-hmm. GROSS: So I interrupted you. You're saying it does what? HAMMOND: Well, it creates a smaller, more manageable crisis than the one that has you gripping the carpet.
A conversation with the 88-year-old abstract painter.
PALTROW: Did you design camouflage while in the army?
KELLY: I did posters. I was in what they called the camouflage secret army. This was in 1943. The people at Fort Meade got the idea to make rubber dummies of tanks, which we inflated on the spot and waited for Germans to see through their night photography or spies. We were in Normandy, for example, pretending to be a big, strong armored division which, in fact, was still in England. That way, even though the tanks were only inflated, the Germans would think there were a lot of them there, a lot of guns, a whole big infantry. We just blew them up and put them in a field.
My mother was called to school frequently because I was yelling out things in class, quips in class, and because I would hand in compositions that they thought were in poor taste, or too sexual. Many, many times she was called to school.
An interview with the author.
"We live in a frightened time and people self-censor all the time and are afraid of going into some subjects because they are worried about violent reactions. That is one of the great damaging aspects of what has happened in the last 20 years. Someone asked me if I was afraid to write my memoirs. I told him: 'We have to stop drawing up accounts of fear! We live in a society in which people are allowed to tell their story, and that is what I do.' I am a writer. I write books."
GQ: Your relationship with your biological father seems complicated. Lil Wayne: He don't give a shit about me. And I don't give a shit about him. I know his friends be like, "Damn, nigga. That is not your son. Stop lying. Nigga, you could be living in a motherfucking ranch right now, nigga." You know, whatever your father's into, if you're rich, you're gonna get him that shit. I would've got that nigga all kinda harnesses, ranches—you know what I mean? I saw the nigga recently—I had a show in New Orleans. And I ain't afraid to put this out there, 'cause this is just how much I don't give a fuck about a nigga, and I want people to see how you're not supposed to be. I was parked at the hotel, and I saw him walking outside the hotel. Just walking back and forth. I'm like, "Look at this nigga! You gotta be looking for me." If Lil Wayne got a show in New Orleans, the whole of New Orleans knows. Basically, you're not there for nothing else but me. So I call my man on the bus. I'm like, "Nigga, that's my daddy." He's like, "Word? Oh shit. That nigga looks just like you!" So I tell my man, "Go see what's up." So my man goes to holla at him. He tells my man, "Oh. I didn't know y'all was here. I'm here waiting for this little ho to get o¬ff. Get off¬ work from the hotel." For real? That's when I was like, "Typical Dwayne Carter." So that's what's up with me and my real father. I don't want to look like his ass, but I do.
Jonathan Safran Foer It’s been an awfully long time since we last spoke. Four years? And it’s been a long time since the reading world last got new material from you. About seven years? What’s been going on? Jeffrey Eugenides I’ve been writing a book.
Recently discharged, an undocumented immigrant discusses his treatment.
In a city with a large immigrant population, it is not rare for hospitals to have one or more patients who, for reasons unrelated to their medical condition, do not seem to leave. At Downtown, where a bed costs the hospital more than $2,000 a day, there are currently three long-term patients who no longer need acute care but cannot be discharged because they have nowhere to go. The hospital pays nearly all costs for these patients’ treatment. One man left recently after a stay of more than five years.
N.K.: So when you saw the photo of Neda Soltan, what did you think? M.A.: It was incredibly sad, due to many reasons. First we have proof that that scene was staged, and she was killed later, at a later point. This footage was shown for the first time by BBC. Our security officers and officials had no information of such a thing. but if BBC makes the complete footage from beginning to end available to us, we will analyze it, we will research it because we do search for those who are truly guilty of murdering this young lady. And also, a scene fairly close to this—almost a photocopy I would say—was repeated previously in a South American country—in a Latin American country. this is not a new scene. And they previously tell those who are due to participate, they tell them that “you will be participating in making a short footage, a short movie, a short clip.” After their participation is finished they take them to some place and they kill them. If BBC is willing to broadcast this film, this footage in its entirety, any viewer would be able to distinguish whether it is as we say or it is as they maintain.
An interview with Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone writer Vanessa Grigoriadis on the finer points of celebrity profiling.
The “CEO monk” is decidedly unfamiliar with RZA, Ghostface Killah and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
An interview with Rudy Giuliani’s fresh-out-of-college head speechwriter, who wrote the eulogies for every policeman and fireman who died on 9/11, giving him “the dark distinction of probably writing more eulogies than anyone else alive.”
But you were drinking and having premarital sex, right? Isn’t that kind of an indirect way of questioning your faith? Is disobeying questioning? It can be, but I don't think I was really pondering questions of faith when I started drinking in high school, and the premarital sex didn't actually happen until after I graduated. I think looking back the answer is yes, I was looking at other options. But I didn't think about it in those terms then. I think lots of people of every faith experiment in these ways but ultimately decide to embrace their religion.
Though I will make the trip up the elevator to Janet Malcolm’s stately town-house apartment, overlooking Gramercy Park, three times in the course of this unusual interview, the substance of our exchange will take place by e-mail, over three and a half months.
The reason for this is that Janet Malcolm is more naturally the describer than the described. It is nearly impossible to imagine the masterful interviewer chatting unguardedly into a tape recorder, and indeed she prefers not to imagine it. She has agreed to do the interview but only by e-mail: in this way she has politely refused the role of subject and reverted to the more comfortable role of writer. She will be writing her answers — and, to be honest, tinkering gently with the phrasing of some of my questions.
HEMINGWAY: You go to the races? PLIMPTON: Yes, occasionally. HEMINGWAY: Then you read the Racing Form . . . . There you have the true art of fiction.
This is a litany to those of us in this field. “What more will the Negro want?” “What will it take to make these demonstrations end?” Well, I would like to reply with another rhetorical question: Why do white people seem to find it so difficult to understand that the Negro is sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to him those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America? I never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of white society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with the Negro for his freedom.
SHRIVER: Regarding your Playboy exposé, I know you've discussed this a great deal, but I'd like to ask you this: You've said that you were glad you did it. What role do you think that exposé played in your early career and the notoriety you've achieved? Is there a similar exposé that someone could do today--something that would be as shocking? STEINEM: It took me a very long time to be glad. At first, it was such a gigantic mistake from a career point of view that I really regretted it. I'd just begun to be taken seriously as a freelance writer, but after the Playboy article, I mostly got requests to go underground in some other semi-sexual way. It was so bad that I returned an advance to turn the Playboy article into a paperback, even though I had to borrow the money. Even now, people ask why I was a Bunny, Right-Wingers still describe me only as a former Bunny, and you're still asking me about it-almost a half-century later. But feminism did make me realize that I was glad I did it--because I identified with all the women who ended up an underpaid waitress in too-high heels and a costume that was too tight to breathe in. Most were just trying to make a living and had no other way of doing it. I'd made up a background as a secretary, and the woman who interviewed me asked, "Honey, if you can type, why would you want to work here?" In the sense that we're all identified too much by our outsides instead of our insides and are mostly in underpaid service jobs, I realized we're all Bunnies--so yes, I'm glad I did it. If a writer wants to do a similar exposé now, there's no shortage of stories that need telling. For instance, go as a pregnant woman into so-called crisis pregnancy centers and record what you're told to scare or force you not to choose an abortion-including harassing you, calling your family or employer. Or pretend to be a woman with a criminal record and see how difficult it is to get a job. Or use a homeless center as an address and see what happens in your life. Or work at an ordinary service job in the pink-collar ghetto, as Barbara Ehrenreich did in Nickel and Dimed. But be warned that if you're a woman journalist and you choose an underground job that's related to sex or looks, you may find it hard to shake the very thing you were exposing.
Jerry Lewis has had a spectacular sex life. On the road, of course, girls were everywhere—in his dressing room, back at his hotel. But even at home, when he was directing a film, sometimes he'd get to the set early for "a little hump," just to get the day started right. Joseph Levitch, as he was named upon his birth in Newark, New Jersey, had his first sexual experience seventy-three years ago, when he was 12. It was backstage at a club where his father, a singer and dancer who called himself Danny Lewis, was performing. The temptress was a twentysomething stripper named Trudine who lured the boy into her dressing room. "Whatever we did, I remember it took only a minute," Lewis recalls fondly. "She was a piece of work. She danced with a snake." He married his first wife, Patti, a singer with Jimmy Dorsey's band, when he was 19. They'd met after he dropped out of high school to go on the road, starting at the bottom in burlesque houses where comics took the stage in between strippers. These were the kinds of dives that were patronized by "guys in the front with the newspapers in their laps and the trench coats—a tough room, but you had to do it."
The former Perfect Strangers star cheerfully slags Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington, among others.
"Jaye and I decided we didn’t want to have children. But we still got that urge to blend, to merge and become one. I think the heart of a lot of the romance in couples, whatever kind of couple they are, is that they want to both just be each other, to consume each other with passion. So we wanted to represent that. First we did it by dressing alike. Then we started to do minor alterations to our bodies. Then we decided that we would try as hard as we could to actually look like each other in order to strengthen and solidify that urge."
Three interviews with John Gardner, author of Grendel and The Art of Fiction, conducted over the last decade of his life.
"I’m not familiar with books on style. My role in the revival of Strunk’s book was a fluke—just something I took on because I was not doing anything else at the time. It cost me a year out of my life, so little did I know about grammar."
On comics and journalism:
Now, when you draw, you can always capture that moment. You can always have that exact, precise moment when someone’s got the club raised, when someone’s going down. I realize now there’s a lot of power in that.
These were the people I lived with, these were my friends, these were my family, this was myself. I’d photograph people dancing while I was dancing Or people having sex while I was having sex. Or people drinking while I was drinking.
An interview on craft:
Writing The Subs in three nights was really a fantastic athletic feat as well as mental, you shoulda seen me after I was done...I was pale as a sheet and had lost fifteen pounds and looked strange in the mirror.
TM The only other time I saw you was in Bleecker Bob’s in the ‘70s. You walked in eating pizza and wearing aviator glasses and Bleecker Bob showed you an Ian Dury picture sleeve and you said, “I don’t listen to music by people I don’t wanna fuck.” PS (laughter) Yeah, that was me.
Today, in the electronic age of instantaneous communication, I believe that our survival, and at the very least our comfort and happiness, is predicated on understanding the nature of our new environment, because unlike previous environmental changes, the electric media constitute a total and near-instantaneous transformation of culture, values and attitudes.
There’s a price you have to pay for fame, and people who don’t want to pay that price can get in trouble. I accepted the idea of celebrity because of a French expression: “You cannot have the butter and the money for the butter.”
When I hear music as a fan, I see fields. I see landscapes. I close my eyes and see an entire universe that that music and the voice, or the narrative, create. A music video-and any other kind of visual reference-is created by someone else. For me, as a music fan, visuals kind of steal away the purity of the song.
In the past the only people who wrote autobiographies or memoirs were very important, those who had a crucial role in the history of their own country—Napoleon, Goethe—or were witness to major events or people who had singular, adventurous lives. Otherwise, it is ridiculous to write your autobiography.
An interview with McPhee on his writing process, how he got his start at The New Yorker, and why he never understood how New Journalism could be called a revolution. “Anytime I was called a New Journalist I winced a little with embarrassment.”
An interview with James “Jimmy” Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters which had recently been described by Attorney General Robert Kennedy as “the most powerful institution in this country—aside from the United States Government itself.”
Let's settle on the bald facts: Eminem has secured his place in the rap pantheon.
In 1962, Siffre spent two months living in total isolation in a subterranean cave, without access to clock, calendar, or sun. Sleeping and eating only when his body told him to, his goal was to discover how the natural rhythms of human life would be affected by living “beyond time.”
It’s like when they fucking show—I know nothing about plays and shit, but sometimes they’ll show a play on TV, and it’s fucking shit, because you’re like, “What the fuck, am I supposed to think that’s a moon?” Like it’s a cardboard moon or some shit.
The comedian and veteran of MTV’s The State on a peculiar brand of stardom. “Often people would be like, I’m such a big fan of your work. I think you’re amazing. I want to have a career like yours. And I’m like, great, can you buy me a slice of pizza?”
“The writer/speaker has certain political convictions or affiliations, and proceeds to filter all reality and spin all assertion according to those convictions and loyalties. Everybody’s pissed off and exasperated and impervious to argument from any other side.”
Six months after playing an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, a rambling Dylan holds forth on style, songwriting, and fame. “People have one great blessing—obscurity—and not really too many people are thankful for it.”
In 1998, a reporter called up Thompson to discuss the Clinton scandal and film adaptations, among other topics. The complete, previously unpublished transcript of their conversation.
The original new journalist on his start at the Times, his daily writing routine, and why he’s always taken notes on shirt boards.
Jack Nicholson interviewed at 73.
George Lois never actually worked at Esquire, he simply designed the most iconic magazine covers of the 60s as a moonlighting gig while revolutionizing (and, generally pissing off) the advertising industry by day.
“As we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money?”
“Fiction writers are good people, usually. There’s a lot of pretenders, but I haven’t met a lot of sons of bitches.”
An interview with mind behind both Five Easy Pieces and The Monkees.
The director of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours on his aversion to America, the advantages of small budgets, and the challenges of directing the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.
Jay-Z on his new book Decoded, his parents’ record collection, and the real reason rappers have a tendency to grab their junk on stage.
An interview with Douglas Hofstadter, who after winning the Pulitzer for Gödel, Escher, Bach retreated into the lab and published only sparingly in technical journals, on what it would mean if a program could generate humor and/or masterful compositions.
An interview with R. Crumb on how he adapted Genesis into comic form.
Tony Kaye was one of the biggest commercial directors of his time. Then he directed American History X and, by his own admission, completely lost his mind.
An 1992 interview with Martin Scorsese. On Goodfellas, “I figured to do it as if it was one long trailer, where you just propel the action and you get an exhilaration, a rush of the lifestyle.”
An interview with William Gibson on the “dark, dark world of marketing, advertising, and trend forecasting.”
Alex Haley interviews the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s number two - Malcolm X - in a Harlem restaurant.
An interview with Sandy Koufax on “the management of excellence.”
An interview with Greil Marcus on the songs of Van Morrison and why people are afraid of imagined things.
An interview with Lawrence Schiller, himself one of the great interviewers of his time, whose research fueled Norman Mailer’s Executioner's Song.
Bill Murray grants a rare interview and appears to admit, among other things, that he occasionally approaches strangers from behind on the streets of NYC, puts his hands over their eyes, and says “guess who.”
In January 1966–the same month In Cold Blood was first published–Truman Capote sat down with George Plimpton to discuss the new art form he liked to call “creative journalism.”
The champ is now a vegan, claims to be broke, and says he feels freer than ever before. “I have this uncanny ability to look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘This is a pig. You are a fucking piece of shit.’”
A interview with David Mitchell, author of the recent The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Cloud Atlas, on stretching a fictional universe across multiple novels and centuries of real history.
An interview with New Yorker critic Alex Ross about his book The Rest is Noise and why there’s really no such thing as “classical music.”
An email dialogue between David Gates and Jonathan Lethem on writing fiction in the age of online experiences.
“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.” –Steve Jobs, 1996
A 1992 Q&A with Woody Allen, conducted in the midst of the media swarm around his newly public relationship with Soon-Yi.