What books are on your night stand now?
I don’t have any books on my night stand. There’s no room, because that’s where I keep my 8×10 framed glossy of Adlai Stevenson. I’m not a big fan or anything. It just helps me nod off. There is an entire Great Books collection in a bookcase behind him in the picture, I think, if that counts. You may be interested to know that I’m contemplating writing a book about my night stand, which I’m quite proud of — the night stand, that is. It would be in the vein of Henry Petroski’s books about such things as pencils and toothpicks, or that book I once saw about the making of a Steinway concert grand. I already have the perfect title: One Night Stand. Actually, I have a lot of good titles in mind, but no books yet.
You’re having a literary dinner party. What three writers are invited?
Amanda McKittrick Ros, William Topaz McGonagall, and Roger Bloomfield, who won first prize in our school’s sixth grade fire safety essay contest even though he didn’t deserve it. I’d invite them because that would make me the smart one in the room. I might have to keep Suzanne Somers warmed up in the bullpen though, just in case — and, yes, I do have a bullpen, out behind the greenhouse. It was there when I bought the place. Weird, huh? Anyway, if this dinner party ever did come to pass, I can guarantee you one thing — Roger Bloomfield is going down!
If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?
Essential CPR and First Aid. Not only because it’s important for everyone to be informed about CPR and first aid, but also because, if he’s lucky, it could earn him hundreds of thousands of votes somewhere down the line, if you catch my drift.
What books might we be surprised to find in your library?
A book on DIY plumbing in the Malayalam language. I have no idea how it got there, so it still surprises even me.
What kind of reader were you as a child? What were your favorite childhood books?
Oh, I was a voracious reader as a child! I couldn’t ever read without stuffing my face at the same time–licorice, Milk Duds, Jujubes, anything. I was a big Stephen King fan, but my parents wouldn’t let me read The Stand because they were afraid they’d end up having to push me about in a wheelbarrow. My favorite childhood books were a series of baseball books by Duane Decker about a perennial championship baseball team called the Blue Sox. I started reading them hoping there was going to be a lot of dirty talk. But I guess he chose to name them the Blue Sox because Red, White and Black were already taken, and Green Sox sounds like a Rookie League team.
What is the worst book you ever read?
Animal Farm by George Orwell. Anyone who knows anything knows that ducks are more suited to lead a rebellion than pigs, sheep are more pranksters than rebels, and cats, while they may be schemers, are notoriously inept ones. How could an indisputably intelligent man like Orwell have gotten so many things wrong?
What book are you embarrassed not to have read?
In college, I didn’t read The Education of Henry Adams for my American Literature class because I didn’t think we were going to be tested on it. As you can imagine, I was mightily embarrassed, to say the least, when I found out I was wrong. And still am, sort of.
Last book that made you cry?
War and Peace. About a year ago, I accidentally knocked it off my desk and it landed on my big toe while I was in my stocking feet. I cried like a baby.
Last book that made you laugh?
Also War and Peace, when the same thing happened to my brother. Which just goes to show that Mel Brooks was right about the difference between comedy and tragedy, apparently. My brother thinks I knocked it off my desk on purpose that time, but he’s dead wrong. At any rate, I’m not using War and Peace as a paperweight anymore.