20 Questions: Simon Van Booy

We often hear the phrase, ‘incurable romantics’ ascribed to some whom we may also deem ‘delirious’, to varying degrees. But think about it: Why would those who experience life with such lush feeling want to be cured? Whether you suffer (gladly) from this so-called affliction – or only wish you did — Simon Van Booy’s recent novel, Everything Beautiful Began After (July 2011, HarperCollins), will help carry you away this summer. Winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, engaged in the arts and philosophy, Van Booy, is a compassionate, talented intellectual, one whose prolific work incurable romantics, and wannabees, will want to become closely familiar.

Read here on PopMatters who this romantic would take a bullet for.

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

Captain Kitty’s First Adventure is a book about a cat that becomes a sea captain, despite being scared of water. That book made me cry, not only because it’s first rate story telling and illustrating, but because my daughter wrote it and bound it with string as a Father’s Day present.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Oh, what a glorious question. I’d have to say Jean Valjean, from Solomon Cleaver’s 1935 novel. I aspire to be him, to greet the person who tormented me the most in my life and then bow with gratitude.

3. The greatest album, ever?

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. It’s the only album I held on to. Even the cover is amazing. I think John Coltrane is one of the great American heroes, like Abraham Lincoln and Emily Dickinson.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars because of that weird bar scene with all the different species of alien from across the universe.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Marcel Proust, Yves Saint Laurent, walking in a park or a visit to any library where I can lose myself in sections such as geology, Moroccan design, Edwardian bustles, Japanese tea ceremonies, or the history of 18th century military carriages.

Libraries are the ultimate restaurants for brain food. I sleep better knowing there are libraries. I would take a bullet for a librarian.

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

I once saved someone from drowning. 

7. You want to be remembered for …?

I don’t want to be remembered, it doesn’t mean anything to me. I wish to leave behind great joy that seems without beginning or end.

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

We’ve forgotten them–that’s exactly how important they were…what they taught us is now such a seamless part of our lives that it seems like it was always ours, and it always was, but before them was hidden from us.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

I don’t know, there’s nothing I wish I had done.

10. Your hidden talents …?

Amateur magic. And yes, I’m for hire. Seriously.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

”Unhappiness is a vital part of our happiness,”
from the late, great, and immensely talented artist, Sebastian Horsley. 

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

For Christmas one year when I was very young, my parents bought me a little racing bike with dynamo lights, which they told me was safe to ride at night. Can you imagine? 

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

Someone’s arms, whether I admit it or not.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

The nearest 20 people with an appetite. I find hunger more interesting than accomplishment.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

To a time when there was no machine noise. Consistency and uniformity is exhausting.

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

I clean, polish, sweep, sew, and tidy up. I call it the Cinderella Plan.

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


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

I dream everyday of rolling hills and meadows, a garden gate with climbing roses where I can chat to passers — by and give their horses a drink — somewhere rural, where I could garden in suit and an apron. Any suggestions?

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

Remember that the people who seem the most destructive to us are suffering in a deep and complicated way.

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

I’m trying to imagine my life and live it at the same time.

Simon Van Booy grew up in rural Wales. He is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books, titled Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, and Why Our Decisions Don’t Matter, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian, and on NPR. His debut novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, published 5 July by Harper Perennial. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts and is involved in the Rutgers Early College Humanities program for young adults living in underserved communities. He was a finalist for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, and his work has been translated into 13 different languages.