Books

20 Questions: Gene Weingarten

Photo (partial) by © Bill O'Leary

Gene Weingarten, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, nationally syndicated humor columnist and writer for The Washington Post, and now one-half cartoonist, has a new book out. More importantly, he answers PopMatters 20 Questions.

Gene Weingarten, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, nationally syndicated humor columnist and writer for The Washington Post, and now one-half cartoonist (the other half is his talented son), has a new book out. Well, of course he does.

Book: The Fiddler in the Subway: The True Story of What Happened When a World-Class Violinist Played for Handouts... and Other Virtuoso Performances by America's Foremost Feature Writer

Author: Gene Weingarten

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication date: 2010-07

Format: Paperback

Length: 363 pages

Price: $15.99

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/columns_art/f/fiddlersubway-cvr.jpgThe Fiddler in the Subway (Simon and Schuster, July 2010) is a collection of essays -- ranging from the wonderfully ridiculous to the truly heart-rending -- previously published in the aforementioned newspaper. It comes highly recommended by PopMatters. (Happy to help you out, Gene).

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages: 1851-2008. I read it every night in bed as I drop off to sleep. It weighs 11 pounds. A few days ago it hit me in the eye. True story.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Thing Two, from The Cat In The Hat.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Don’t make me choose. There are so many fabulous polka bands.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek, the TV pilot episode, where Spock shows momentary panic. It’s so wonderfully… wrong. It’s disorienting, like the feeling you get when you walk onto a broken escalator and have to take those mincing stutter-steps.

5. Your ideal brain food?

I have two favorites: Reading Kierkegaard while listening to Mozart’s Piano Concerto 9 in E Flat Major, and reading early Bazooka Joe comics in Hebrew.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

When she was too young to resist, or even to understand, I turned my daughter into a lifelong rabid Yankees fan.

7. You want to be remembered for...?

The only man to have won two Pulitzer prizes and had sex with Natalie Portman.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

There is something profoundly wrong with the syntax of the question. I refuse to answer it.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The incorporation papers for Google.

10. Your hidden talents...?

I am the most skilled parallel parker the world has ever known.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

When you mix heroin and cocaine into a “speedball”, make sure to inject it slowly. (Note to editors: This is true, but if it is considered excessively unwholesome, you can replace the answer with: "Duck!" Or, if you wish, you can keep the original answer, as well as this parenthetical.)

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

For $60, I once bought a neck massage at a “massage parlor” that advertised in The Washington Post. I was determined to prove, for the record, for a column, that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it wasn’t a whorehouse.

So I got a giggly half-hour back rub from a very pleasant but extremely puzzled young woman in a slinky cocktail dress and no underwear.

Book: I'm with Stupid: One Man. One Woman. 10,000 Years of Misunderstanding between the Sexes Cleared Right Up

Author: Gene Weingarten, Gina Barreca

Publisher: Simon & Schuster [reprint]

Publication date: 2006-10

Format: Paperback

Length: 256 pages

Price: $11.95

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/columns_art/w/withstupid-cvr.jpg13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

Natalie Portman, I bet.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Natalie Portman.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I would go back to September 10, 2001 and order a slice of cheesecake at Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Junior’s used to have the best cheesecake in the world but has changed the recipe a little.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

It’s a tossup between a morphine pump and Natalie Portman.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

Hot sake and cold unagi. Is there anything more sublime?

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I would take the map, affix it with pushpins to the wall of my study, then stand 20 feet away with a dart. I would throw the dart and see where it lands. Then my wife would yell at me for making holes in the wall.

I would regain the upper hand by pointing out that I don’t even have a study. We’d go back and forth on this for a while, the way spouses often do. We’d probably wind up making out.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

It would be a question: "Who has been the most influential political theorist in your life, Karl Marx or Leon Trotsky?"

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

This is a trick question. Anyone who doesn’t say “this questionnaire” is a liar – worse, a self-promoting liar trying to get publicity for some pet project. So, my answer shall be the truth: “This questionnaire.”

Only after I'm done with this will my son and I get back to writing the next episode of our new comic strip, Barney & Clyde, which is available to the finest newspapers at surprisingly affordable prices.

Thanks, Gene.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image