20 Questions: Gene Weingarten

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.