RRM: Does the title of your upcoming book (Girls! Girls! Girls!, So New Media) have anything to do with the rumored Claire Zulkey, Motley Crue, Elvis Costello, and Elvis Presley cube? Why do these things usually happen in triangles?
CZ: Did you have to bring up Elvis Costello? He just got married, which made me really upset. Not just because he’s on his third marriage and that seems a bit “Hollywood” for my former angry young man, but also of course it means he’s off the market to me. But also, that was the first title that popped into my head (other than XXXX, really) and I felt too lazy to come up with something better.
RRM: In an analogy to rowing- could you tell us how often you tend to write and with what vigor?
CZ: It depends on what I’ve got going on. If I don’t have anybody filling in for me for the day on my website, then five days a week for sure, since the website keeps me going. If I have a freelance assignment, then I work on that too. I haven’t been quite as prolific as I was a year or so ago, when I’d have probably a few projects going on a week, but still once in a while, on my own I’ll have an idea pop into my head and I’ll work on that. Vigor is an unusual word to describe it, I suppose…I often look at the freelance or the website as an assignment, which means that I can tend to drag my feet. I’m not exactly sitting up late in the night, eyes wide, chain smoking, thinking “This is it! This is genius! I can’t stop now!”
RRM: Rushmore is indeed an excellent flick- besides Fischer and Blume who is your favorite character and why?
CZ: Margaret Yang, for sure. It’s hard not to feel empathy for the geeky girl, plus she has really cute outfits in the movie. I like that she stands up to Max and tell him truthfully that he treated her like a jerk. Also, have you noticed that a lot of the names have botanical type roots? Herman Blume. Rosemary Cross. Rosemary Appleby.
RRM: So can we get a juicy exclusive excerpt from the “Ben Brown loves Claire Zulkey: A Confessional” email or what?
CZ: This, I swear to god, is totally unedited:
“I might as well just dispense with the uncomfortable bits up front. I love you. There. I said it. My wife doesn’t know, and I’m hoping to keep the whole thing on the DL, if you know what I mean. She didn’t like it when I expressed my love to Neal Pollack, and she won’t like it now. But I can’t hide it any longer. Your web site makes me hot.
Hot for literature. ‘Fat: The New Thin’ is the funniest thing I have ever read on the internet. Ever.”
Thus started Ben’s and my tawdry non-affair, which resulted in a divorce and a breakup, both not as a result of the non-affair.
RRM: A bearded man (we’re talking full-on beard action), possibly Jesus, sipping a Coca-Cola Classic (as opposed to Pepsi) suavely and genteelly suggests that you and him could make beautiful babies- your reaction?
CZ: It totally depends on the beard. Is it clean? Neatly combed? What’s the color like? Does he dye it? Does it match his eyebrows? Is he Saddam Hussein? Is it my Dad’s brother? My boyfriend wearing a fake beard? These all depend on whether my reaction is to acquiesce, make a joke or get really nervous and leave the room.
RRM: You really make yourself quite accessible to your audience- do you feel it’s a good writers responsibility to create a sense of personal familiarity with their readers?
CZ: It’s funny because the first few time I ever received complimentary email, I didn’t respond, since I didn’t know what you did. Then a friend of mine told me that one of those emails wanted to know, “What’s up with Zulkey?” So I respond because I don’t want to be a jerk. But yeah, I think it’s just politeness that if somebody says something nice to you, you say “Thanks” back. I don’t know if it’s a responsibility, though. If your favorite author is a big shot and you write to them telling them so, I don’t know if it’s their responsibility to be in touch. Actually, maybe I’ll be taken much more seriously if I start acting aloof and snotty. This interview is over.
RRM: Do you consider yourself good or evil or a ratio thereof? What are you doing for the holidays?
CZ: I think and say a lot more evil than I do evil, so I guess I’m maybe 70 or 80% good, although I don’t do that much for the community, so maybe it’s like 70% good, 10% evil, 10% nothing. For the holidays, I’m doing what our family usually does: my dad and brother and I have breakfast together Christmas Eve (when we were young we’d brave the crowds at Marshall Field’s and go eat under the big tree at the Walnut Room but we decided that that’s not worth it. Then we go to church and my mom makes a really fancy dinner and we open presents. Christmas morning my dad makes scrambled eggs with Polish sausage and then we open Santa gifts (yep, Santa still love me, so I guess I’m not all evil) and we head out to my aunt’s in the suburbs and scratch off lotto tickets and eat pierogis.
RRM: What is the closest you have ever come to enjoying a listen of Revolution 9?
CZ: I think maybe taking some pleasure in listening to anything that sounded like George Harrison. Otherwise, I’m not even sure I’ve listened to the whole thing in its entirety.
RRM: You’ve obviously produced a ton of brilliant material over the last few years- any other short story collections in the works?
CZ: Not as of yet. I need to get writing some more longer prose I think, the kind of stuff that you see in Girls! Girls! Girls! I’m trying not to put the horse in front of the cart but it would be great to do something with all my interviews.
RRM: In your Onion interview with Nathan Rabin you claim: “it will rock the kangaroo’s ass.” I couldn’t help but notice you have a picture of a kangaroo on your website- there does indeed to be something coming out of it’s ass. Is it a rock?
CZ: It’s a little baby joey. My kangaroo has a kind of screwed up reproductive system, so instead of carrying her offspring around in her pouch, she carries it…there.
About the author:
Ryan Robert Mullen is the author of Naughty, Sweet Boy (Word Riot Press) and a columnist at Get Underground. He maintains a website at ryanrobertmullen.net.