All this happened so it must be true

Mostly stories, plus other odds and ends

Month: March, 2009

Michael Chabon interview (2000)

[Michael Chabon is the author of “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”, “Wonder Boys”, “A Model World”, “Werewolves in their Youth” and “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”, among others. I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with his work since, ooh, at least 1988. This interview followed the release of his third novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”]

OB: “Kavalier and Clay” is an epic novel – which might surprise readers more used to your more self-contained previous novels and short stories… were you ever concerned during the writing that book was getting too big – that you’d set yourself an impossible task?

MB: Roughly every three and a half weeks. There were days when I felt completely in control, not only of the material but of the English language and of the very neurons and dendrites of my brain. And then there were times when the whole thing felt like a big, sodden, half-boiled mishmash. Enjoying regular waves of paralyzing self doubt has always been one of the fun things about being me! Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Rhodes interview (2001)

[Dan Rhodes is the author of the short story collections “Anthropology” and “Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love”, and the novels “Timoleon Vieta Come Home”, “The Little White Car” (as Danuta de Rhodes) and “Gold” (released March 2007). He was named as one of Granta’s “Best of Young British Novelists” in 2003. This interview is from 2001, when I was accidentally working in the book business.]

OB: The last time I spoke to you, “Anthropology” was just about to be published. A year later and you’re a famous writer, respected by your peers and pursued by some of the world’s most desirable women. How has success changed you?

DR: I’ve had to have my number changed a few times – Sabrina The Teenage Witch just wouldn’t take no for an answer. But, disappointingly, my life isn’t like a non-stop Dave Lee Roth video. My days are drifting by in much the same way as they were a year ago – I’m still struggling along with my third book, and I haven’t come close to earning out my advance (which I spent on drink and shelving a long time ago) so I’m still keeping the wolf from the door by unpacking boxes at a bookshop. I don’t mind the work, though. The money’s a joke but I can wear jeans, listen to my own music and use foul language without being fired, so as jobs go it’s not too bad. I took most of the summer off, but ended up watching Wimbledon and Big Brother and listening to records when I should have been writing. The Rhodes 2001 tour kicks off soon though, which should be good – so far I have one date in London, a possible reading in Aberystwyth and a two-week tour of Belgium to look forward to. Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Dawkins interview (2000)

[Richard Dawkins is the author of “The Selfish Gene”, “The Extended Phenotype”, “The Blind Watchmaker”, “The Ancestor’s Tale” and “The God Delusion”, among others. This interview followed the publication of “Unweaving the Rainbow”.]

OB: Your main argument in “Unweaving the Rainbow”, and in your recent lecture with Dr Steven Pinker, was that far from ‘killing the soul’, you believe that science ‘awakens the imagination’. Are you encouraged, then, by the popularity of your works and of science writing in general? Do you think there’s been a general change in the way science is perceived in the last few years?

RD: I’d like to think so, and people are constantly telling me so. I certainly get very encouraged at lecture meetings – like the one you refer to – and my book sales are certainly encouraging. What’s less encouraging is when you actually go into bookshops and try to find science books. We are told in the papers that people are buying science books like hot cakes, but where are they? I never see any in the shops! I see political biographies, I see cookery books, I see gardening books, I see astrology books, I see religion books… but science books you really have to dig for. So it may be that the book buying public has got the message but the book selling trade hasn’t! Read the rest of this entry »

George Pelecanos interview (2000)

[George Pelecanos is the author of the novels “A Firing Offence”, “The Big Blowdown”, “King Suckerman”, “The Sweet Forever”, “Shame the Devil”, “Right as Rain” and “Hard Revolution”, among others. He was also a writer and producer on the HBO television series “The Wire”. You’ve probably heard of it…]

OB: You recently worked on a television show, but it didn’t work out too well…

GP: Well, I went up to New York to work on a hospital show called “Wonderland”, but when I got up there I realized it wasn’t going to work for me. I missed my family – I’ve got three kids – and I knew that I’d have to live away from them for six months, pretty much. Of course, I had to get up there to find that out! Then it got dicey, because I had to get out of the show and I had a contract, but in the end they let me out after two days. And it was an intense two days man! They gave me free range of the prison hospital for the criminally insane, and I’d go in and talk to these guys, and it was rough… Anyway, the good thing was that I came home and immediately got a rewriting gig on a Miramax film. So it worked out fine in the end. Ultimately I’d like to be able to do films and books – it’s all about getting the control to do what you want. Read the rest of this entry »

Apostolos Doxiadis interview (2000)

[Apostolos Doxiadis is the author of the bestselling novel of mathematics and obsession, “Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture” (and, more recently, “Logicomix”). I’ve been to his house. It’s very nice. ]

OB: First things first: what is Goldbach’s conjecture? And why is it important?

AD: Goldbach’s Conjecture is the hypothesis that every even number greater than 2 (like 4, 6, 8 etc. ) can be written as the sum of two primes, i.e. two whole numbers whose sole divisors are the number 1 and themselves (like 2,3,5,7,11,13, etc.) This was first conjectured in 1742 by the German mathematician Christian Goldbach and, although it has now been checked to be true up to truly enormous numbers (at least up to 1014), no one has been able to find a general proof. And, the even numbers being infinite, we definitely need a general proof to call it a theorem, to be sure that it is a full mathematical truth. As to its importance: it seems to reflect (if true) a very basic insight about the way the primes (the building blocks of the number system, through multiplication) are distributed. Although Goldbach’s Conjecture sounds so ridiculously elementary it is so notoriously difficult — this certainly gives us the feeling that a truth of enormous importance lies concealed somewhere behind it. Read the rest of this entry »