What is Drinking and Driving about?
Oh man. Being asked what my book is about makes me want to answer with something pretentious, like, say: “Everything.” Or “The Human Dilemma.” Or “Le Dilemme Humain,” which is even better, being French like that.
Um, I guess mostly it’s about me almost drinking myself to death. But really, that wasn’t the interesting part to me. It took me years of writing to realize that mostly what writing is about is giving info, about selling (for lack of a better word) a vision of the world. Now I’m being pretentious again.
But, I mean, all writers are selling an idea of the world. So, Faulkner is saying that the world is like this, but F. Scott Fitzgerald is saying that, no, hey, the world is like this. We all think these little thoughts, which mostly we think while doing errands and walking to the store and being otherwise engaged. We all have ideas about life? I guess?
…The advantage of being a writer is that you get to blather directly into someone’s ear — uninterrupted — about what you think life is all about. Whereas if you’re not a writer, you get to talk to your friends about life at a bar for maybe five minutes — which is about as long as you ever get to talk seriously in real life — and they’re just laughing, and not listening, and ignoring you, because it’s loud in the bar. Can you tell that I’m an alcoholic? The first place that I thought of was a bar.
ANY-way, so-ooo, writers are, by nature, egotistical.. (Otherwise why write? And actually let’s not get into that right now?) …But as a writer, you’re egotistical, and what you’re saying to the reader is this: …Hey! The world is like THIS, doofus. And then, you’re hoping that the reader is like: Ahh, yes. You’re right. The world IS like that, and yet I never noticed! …How clever you are!
By which I (sort of) mean that the interesting parts of the book to me are not the dramatic parts. The dramatic parts happened to me in real life and hence are known to me and hence are not interesting to me. What I just wanted to do was talk about stuff; stuff that I always think about. Like about how I always want to take an Amtrak train to Montreal — which I do, I do, I really do. Or about how cops are kind of like Superman and kind of like janitors at the same time. Or about how mustaches make people look like German baronets and also like deli clerks at a 7-Eleven (except I cut that part from the book). Or just the simple joy of getting to describe a rug which always bothered me; a rug which had this bizarre pattern on it that looked like geese flying south and which always weirded me out.
But no one would have read a book where I just talked about those things, so I put these thoughts in a book about the most dramatic part of my life — the part where I almost died from drinking. Because no one would have bought a book where I just had those thoughts while walking to the store. …So that’s what the book is about? Everything? Le Dilemme Humain?
Why are you so crazy?
Wow. That’s so pejorative of you, Thought Catalog! I don’t think of myself as being crazy, but then, crazy people never do, now do they? Because how could you walk around and still function if you were like: “Yup. That’s me; Mr. Utterly Insane.”
If you want an actual answer which I recommend cutting from the interview, it’s because I got made fun of in middle school. This is probably why everything bad happens in the world. Hitler got teased in middle school and got called “Fish-Face,” or something, probably. Pol Pot, too.
…I got teased mercilessly in middle school — and high school, too — let’s face it. I had acne, glasses, braces; I was crazily skinny for a dude — like 6’1″, 135 pounds or something — and I liked reading comic books and geeky books about medieval history and I was terrible at hiding these things; and as a consequence, I was mocked and treated horribly, for years and years. Which is fine: that’s middle school and high school, right?
But I couldn’t get over it and it messed me up, and as a result I could never feel confident, no matter what. Once I slept with a model, I think. I don’t say this to get Bro Points — I’m only bringing this up to highlight my patheticness. But I slept with her and I believe she was a model of some sort, and a few minutes later, I went to the bathroom to wash up, and I saw myself in the mirror, and I was like, OH MY GOD I LOOK LIKE SUCH AN UGLY NERD, and I felt so awful, and I didn’t want to leave the bathroom. The point being that nothing could ever make me feel better about myself. I got mocked, and I lost all confidence, and so for years, I drank to make up the difference. I drank to fill the void between the way I thought of myself and the way I thought that I should be around people. So that’s why I drank and that’s why I’m crazy?
The writer Jonathan Franzen came and talked at my grad school once. And someone in the audience asked him a question, and the question was, “Wow! Isn’t it so, so great, being famous and wealthy all of a sudden, and being revered as a writer and stuff?” And I shook my head No instinctively. Somehow, I knew what was coming.
And his answer was this: “...No-oo. Not really. Not at all. No.”
And the audience dumbly gasped. And the original person was like: “Well, why not?”
And he said: “Well, a certain category of people never get past what happened to them in 10th grade. And so, I can’t ever feel differently about myself than I did in 10th grade.”
Which really, that answer — it clarified a lot of things for me. So my answer is just a rip-off of his answer. I can’t get over what happened to me in the past. I wish I could? If Obama named me his successor tomorrow or if I got named E! Entertainment Supermodel of the Year (god willing), I’d still feel… just the same. I’d still feel shy and ugly and awkward. I just try not to drink or do drugs anymore, because that was what I used to deal with those feelings, and drinking all the time like that leads to bad things… like reckless drunk driving.
Did the glass window really just explode?
You’re referring to a scene in the book, and yes: it did. It surely, surely did. It took me years to figure out why it randomly exploded, though.