Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interview with Dan Wilbur, author of How Not to Read

Yesterday I reviewed bookseller and comedian Dan Wilbur's book How Not to Read. Today I have our conversation on books, reading and literary culture.

How Not To Read started with your blog, Better Book Titles. What gave you the idea to create Better Book Titles? Didn’t you have anything better to do?
I was in stacks at Columbia University and I met the famous librarian ghost who lives there. She asked me to teach her how to use an iPad. I obliged, though her ghost-hands made it hard to tap the screen. She then asked me if I would father her ghost progeny. It was really weird, but when I woke up surrounded by ghost-babies it reminded me that I would have to teach them everything I'd ever read in books. Although we all know ghost-babies live forever, I am sadly mortal. So I designed this blog to help them understand books faster by summing up each one in a concise image. The results were funnier than intended.

The real answer: I was playing a game called "Assassins Creed" where you kill the Pope at the end, and I thought: "They should have called this 'Kill The Pope'" It would have been so controversial!! Then I looked around my apartment and realized there were many books from college I could sum up easily, and I started with the very first one I posted: "Teddy Roosevelt Solves Tranny Murders" for "The Alienist." It's a great book and needed a better title. 
It says on your bio that you play a lot of video games. What video games are you playing now? Do you play video games while you write? Cause it kind of seems that way.
 Hah! It does seem like I write while playing games. I certainly played a lot of Words with Friends while I should have been writing. When people ask how long it took to write the book, I say "a year, but to you it will appear as though I wrote it in one sitting!" That's probably because I played too many games. Right now I'm between Batman: Arkham City, Chrono Trigger (an RPG for Super Nintendo where you constantly time-warp!), and I just bought a game called Starhawk which features a big online community of angry teens to challenge. Those are the games I like most now. Where I can make a teenager angrier for ten minutes by beating him. It's a good way to get out the spite I feel for my own fifteen year old self.

I think we’re all sick of books and reading. I mean, really. Whatever, right?
Totally. It's like: wow, books! What's your deal? Why don't you make music and cool colors and cost less money? Every time I see a bunch of books on the curb, I think: "Good. More space in that house for Bed, Bath & Beyond paintings and Laserdisc collections! Good job, house dweller!" Next book I see I'm gonna take down a peg by heckling it. HAH!! WHAT NOW, BOOK?! Think you're better than everyone else with your beautifully-wrought imagery and suspense? You're nothing to me! Anyway, I'm reading Gone Girl right now and it's great.

What are you so glad to have finished recently?
I'm glad I finished writing my book so I can relax and collect all that SWEET CASH.

Best book I finished in the last few years: Skippy Dies. lots of themes juggled from drugs, catholic cover-ups, ghosts, time travel, more drugs, and death. Paul Murray ties it all up nicely at the end. Really sweet and funny. Other than that: Pulphead, I reread Adam Ross's Mr. Peanut and still love it. I also tried a third time to read Ulysses, and I'm proud to say I quit because I was getting nothing from it but the sad-people jitters that come from the self-flagellation of voluntarily reading Joyce.

I have to say, your book did not help me stop reading. On the contrary, it made me want to read some of the books you mentioned. What do you have to say for yourself?
OH NO!! I've failed! Maybe next time I'll write a book with fewer literary references. Oh no! It's like these signs on the subway to stop people from eating junk food or doing cocaine, but there's cocaine and junk food on the sign! I've become what I hate most. A reader-inspirer!

Thanks for answering my questions, Dan!


bermudaonion said...

Fun interview! I love that Wilbur doesn't take himself too seriously.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Wow, what an interview! Definitely creates interest in the author!