The following questions are ripped from the pages of New York Magazine. The answers are mine.
In the new season of The Apprentice, the two teams are divided into “street smart” versus “book smart.” What sort of books left an impression on you? I remember swallowing tons of ocean water when I was a little and getting really sick. My dad took me to buy a Coke to settle my stomach, and then we went to a bookstore where I got Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. That led to Judy Blume books, which I loved. In high school I loved Catcher in the Rye, and in college I loved John Fowle’s French Luitentant’s Woman and Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye.
Sounds like you’re into relationship books? Yeah, not too surprisingly. Most of the things I like have a real clear coming of age character arc. If there’s not some sort of epiphany or increased understanding or something like that, I’m not really that interested. Though I have been reading a lot of non-fiction WWII stuff lately.
Did you ever consider joining the military? No way. I was at Syracuse University when the Gulf War broke out. I wanted to scale the bell tower at Crause College and hang a huge white sheet with a peace sign spray painted on it.
Did you? No, I sat on the couch, got stoned, and watched it on CNN like everone else.
What about movies? Well, I’m down with Hollywood pap on occasion, but generally my favorite films have a similar sensibility to my favorite books: coming of age stories, lots of dialogue, stuff like that. I like Rob Reiner’s early movies. I’ll watch anything by Steven Soderbergh, Wes Anderson, PT Anderson. I love Magnolia.
With Tom Cruise? Yeah, though it’s hardly his film. But I think he’s great in it. And I think his career has been an interesting one. Even if it’s Hollywood pap, he always comes of age. He’s always the Bad Boy who Learns Something. I like that. He’s like my generation’s collective big brother.
Has there been a time in your life when you’ve been interested in classical music or opera? Not really.
How about the visual arts? Painters, sculptors? Not really. I was a member at the Guggenheim for a year, but that was for a girl. I know what I like when I see it, and appreciate the craft, but I don’t really go to art museums or anything. I mean, I would, given the proper motivation. But I don’t on the regular.
Did you grow up watching a lot of TV? Not really. I mean, it was available to us, but I don’t remember watching a ton. I’m told I watched a lot of MTV when I was a teenager, but I don’t really remember. I remember watching “Tom & Jerry” and “Kung Fu Theater” after school. My brother would get all riled up and kick my ass.
What sources did you draw on for Love & Other Indoor Games? Well, lyrically, it’s pretty much ripped straight from the headlines of my own life, though the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Musically, I didn’t really draw from anything. I just play what I know how to play. Some of my models in terms of both might include Ryan Adams, Michael Stipe, Freedy Johnston.
What music are you listening to? I’ve recently been on a Phil Collins jag. I downloaded “Roof Is Leaking” and “I Don’t Care Anymore” and some of his older, post-Genesis solo stuff — before he turned into a sountrack slut. I listen to Guster, and healthy doses of REM and U2.
Is there one influence that might surprise people? I’m not sure it will surprise anyone who knows me, but Mr. Rogers has been a fairly major influence. Not his show. I didn’t really watch it all that much as a kid, or more succinctly, I don’t remember watching it. But I spoke with him a few times, and have come to really appreciate the special kind of courage and grace that he possessed.
What did you take away from knowing him? That being a man has nothing to do with bravado or muscles. That being courageous is about speaking difficult truth and being empathic. And that it’s cool not to be cool.