Saturday, January 14, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Dan Chaon

Dan Chaon
One of our favorite authors, Dan Chaon, has a terrific new short story collection called Stay Awake going on sale in a few weeks.  Gianna reviewed it here.  We had the privilege of meeting Dan when he was touring Texas for his last book, Await Your Reply, and yet for some reason even after meeting us, Dan agreed to answer our questions.  Luckily Dan is the type of guy who, you know, appreciates the twisted.  In addition to being one of the best writers working, he's a huge music fan and teaches at Oberlin.  He's far too cool to be contributing to our blog, but we're grateful for his slumming.

Generally Horrible Questions: Dan Chaon

1. What author or book should we all be reading?
Lint by Chris Ware. Most mind-blowing book of 2011, hands down.

2. What book have you re-read more than any other?
Probably The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, closely followed by Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (though I haven’t actually read The Hobbit in about 30 years. Maybe now that the movie is coming out I should revisit it?)

3. Favorite three bands? 
Idaho; Modest Mouse; Arcade Fire. (At least right now.) All time favorite artists: Tom Waits, David Bowie, Rickie Lee Jones.

4. I have never read ________ and I am so ashamed
Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust. (I’ve read the famous Madeline passage, but nothing else.)

5. What do you tell your writing students to never do, but sometimes do yourself?
The great Borges...
not a spring chicken even
in 1951, when this was taken.

6. Gianna or Liz?
There’s no way to answer this question. It’s like “Cake or Ice Cream?” [Our two favorite food groups! We also assume Liz is the ice cream due to her cold nature.  Also, Liz is always the correct answer.]

7. Coolest writer you’ve ever met?
Jorge Luis Borges [We are incredibly impressed.  Of course, we can't call him to verify....]

8. I have read ____ and I am so ashamed
Dude, all things must end, but we're
sorry for blowing it.
“Lostpedia—the Lost Encyclopedia” in its entirety; as well as “Bad Twin” by Gary Troup; as well as Doc Jensen’s “Lost” blog for Entertainment Weekly. I was a huge fan of the TV show “Lost” and I still feel very betrayed and bitter about how they screwed it up. I know it’s been a long time since it mattered, but it still galls me. [We feel as if we opened a huge can of worms here. Apologies.]

9. Your last name is pronounced “Shawn” which made us wonder who your favorite Shawn is. Sean Penn, Sean Combs, Shawn Carter (Jay Z to the unhip), Sean Connery, Shawn Colvin, Shawn who sat next to Liz is high school calculus, or Shaun of the Dead?
Gianna's favorite book
of 2010.
What about Sean Bean? He’s maybe my favorite Sean of the moment. But if I have to choose from your list, Shawn Colvin would be fine. As for the rest of your group…if they changed the spelling to Chaon, we could talk. “Chaon Combs:” that would be awesome. [...Or we could call you Dan Diddy?  No?]

By the way, if you do a Twitter search for “Chaon” you will find that it is an Urban Dictionary type slang word. People say that something is “off the chaon!” And that means that it is cool and funky. Right on! [We think this is going to take off way beyond Twitter, for chaon.]

10. Can you name five things creepier than twins (Liz is a twin, so think creepier)?
a. Rick Perry;
b. vegetable drawer full of forgotten potatoes that have begun to sprout tiny human eyes and fingers;
c. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, esp. Taylor; [This makes us worry for our Dan that he can name a wife…worry and love that is.]
d. the corpse of your dead grandma, somehow animated, somehow alive, rotting and crouched in your closet, a sick smell that wafts over you when you are sleeping and then you open your eyes in the dark and you can hear her breathing, wetly chewing on something with her toothless mouth, and you try to convince yourself: Grandma loved me. Grandma wouldn’t hurt me. This is not real.
e. That awful thing that is constantly staring at the back of your head but when you turn around it’s not visible.

11. What's the strangest or most awkward thing to happen to you on book tour (bonus points if you admit it was meeting Gianna and Liz)?
I don’t remember anything awkward happening when we met, Gianna and Liz. I thought we had a nice time together. Didn’t we? [Clearly Dan didn’t notice Gianna nearly going in for a kiss.]

Look for Dan's newest story
collection in stores in February.
Usually the most awkward moments on book tour have to do with no one showing up to a reading, and having to face the bookstore employees afterwards. Sitting in silence. Listening as the front door is locked and the “closed” sign is put over the door. Signing stock so they can’t return it to the publisher. That one hipster employee, straight out of Middlebury or Oberlin or Swarthmore, that guy who obviously loathes you and who has been spending his days trying to handsell Henry Miller novels, clears his throat and looks at you reproachfully and judgmentally.

Not that this has happened to me, mind you. There are always crowds upon crowds at my bookstore appearances.

12. Liz and I are starting a band; can you suggest a few names?
Cocoa Ono
Craniopagus Parasiticus!
Mamas Who Let Their Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
The Uncircumcised Girls [Clear winner…Dan must have a real sense of what our band will be like.]

Thanks Dan!  You're the chaon!

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