Sunday, May 30, 2010


If you're too young or too old, you really can't appreciate the game-changing power of a little indie film called "Easy Rider." Now it seems dated, just more hippie baggage for the baby boomer time capsule, but at the time this film radically changed everything--including the film industry. At the time, Hollywood was a dying dinosaur whose bloated corpse (think "Cleopatra," the most expensive bomb of all time) was no longer attracting an audience, but outside--in the streets--weird new forms of experimentation were gripping the Arts--a counter-culture was making itself known in hip new music, fashion, painting, and cinema--especially the films coming over from Europe by Goddard and Fellini--films that were often grainy and rough-hewn, but personal, tossing convention on its head.

The tired old tropes weren't working, the studio system was collapsing, and here at home a perceptive new bunch of artists--mad about film--were aiming peashooters across the boughs of Hollywood's sinking battleships. Timing was everything. "Easy Rider" came along and shocked everyone with a tale of longhaired hippie bikers hitting the road on choppers and getting blown-up by shotgun-wielding rednecks in the Deep South. More important, in the history of cinema, is that a low-budget, rough-edged flick--not that dissimilar from the rash of Roger Corman biker exploitation flicks such as "Wild Angels" (which also starred Peter Fonda)--could make a lot of money. Cheap to make, and raking in the dough, it became a symbol of something new and all the fat cat, cigar-chomping moguls rushed to replicate it.

This pivotal moment in American cinema is delineated in Peter Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood," and more recently in "Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood" by Mark Harris)," two excellent studies of the era.

To us longhaired kids, it was personal. We had never seen a movie with a soundtrack playing cool songs and not some schlocky score (mind you, this was long before "Mean Streets" and "American Graffiti" garnered attention for doing the same thing--and long before pop songs became a mainstay of movies and advertising ). "Easy Rider" gave us a shock of recognition. We were delighted to see hippies up on the screen (as opposed to hippie stereotypes quite common on "Dragnet" and other square mainstream entertainment) smoking dope, philosophizing, dodging rednecks (as we longhairs had become good at) and riding cool choppers (customized Harleys with Panhead engines on hardtail frames--one replete with an audacious American flag paintjob, shocking in it's day). They were not Good Guys in White Hats--in fact, their whole road adventure begins when they sell drugs in the first scene (something that convinced my parent's friends they were bad and deserved to die...Why glorify these scroungy dope pushers?).

Nearly everything about the little film has become commonplace now, so it's hard to imagine the impact. Nowadays, every film has a pop soundtrack and TV commercials are jam-packed with jumpcuts and flashbacks and flash-forwards, and every subculture is represented onscreen as a marketing ploy. Now it's hard to imagine how weird and cool "Easy Rider" seemed, and how unusual--to see these stoned-out, irreverent freaks in stinky biker leathers and American flags sauntering through America--"looking for America"--at the height of America's gung-ho patriotic commie-killing frenzy in Vietnam, a time when America was square as a box of Apple Jacks and the war-supporting hawks made present-day teabaggers look downright civilized. You could get shot wearing longhair in some of those rural towns back then, or at the very least beat-up and subjected to an impromptu haircut by scissor-happy cops and cowboys. John Wayne was alive and well, and not in some revisionist arty appraisal of "The Searchers," but in the hard-charging Green Beret action figure with a string of VC ears around his neck and a camouflaged cameo of Richard Nixon in his heart.

So, picture yourself in that country. You go see some biker movie hoping for action and it has a cool rock soundtrack and you hope these hippies win--but you got a nice reality sandwich instead. Blam-o. My friend Shane Riley saw the movie in a theater in Blackfoot, Idaho, and when the longhairs finally got shot in the last reel the rednecks cheered. That was America back then, not some simpering emo-core, iPod-slinging, Pinot-drinking, sensitive acceptance of all-things while wearing stylish glasses and skinny jeans world. No-siree. Back then America was rough and rusty and stank of machine oil.

"Easy Rider" was directed by Dennis Hopper, who died yesterday after a battle with cancer. Hopper also played Billy, a scruffy longhair with a droopy mustache, sidekick to Wyatt, otherwise known as Captain America for his Old Glory bike and leathers, played by Peter Fonda, and a drunken civil rights lawyer they meet in jail, George, played by Jack Nicholson. Together, they rode their bikes looking for the American Dream--all that corny shit that really hit a nerve back in 1969.

As people pay their tributes to Dennis Hopper this week, this old biker film comes to mind. You may remember Hopper for his brilliant, chilling turn as Frank in "Blue Velvet," or as the zonked-out photographer in "Apocalypse Now," or as a jumpy juvenile delinquent in "Rebel Without a Cause" with James Dean, but I think first of Billy, a drifter with a chopper instead of a horse, a long rider who can't be fenced in. It's all about freedom, man.

In the following scene, the theme is played out in a stoned conversation between George (played by Jack Nicholson) and Billy (played by Hopper).

Billy: Huh. Man, everybody got chicken, that's what happened, man. Hey, we can't even get into like, uh, second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel. You dig? They think we're gonna cut their throat or something, man. They're scared, man.

: Oh, they're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

: Hey man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody needs a haircut.

: Oh no. What you represent to them is freedom.

: What the hell's wrong with freedom, man? That's what it's all about.

: Oh yeah, that's right, that's what it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it - that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. 'Course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.

Billy: Mmmm, well, that don't make 'em runnin' scared.

George: No, it makes 'em dangerous.

So long, Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Baffler is back. The magazine, started in 1988 by Thomas Frank, the lefty intellectual who wrote "What's the Matter with Kansas?" and "The Wrecking Crew," came to a halt in 2007. Since then, we've read our Frank in book form, and within the austere pages of the Wall Street Journal where he publishes a liberal column behind enemy lines. The magazine was sorely missed. Fortunately, Frank resurrected it--with new publishers, new editors and a new design--and a brand new issue is finally on the newsstands. We're delighted.

Thomas Frank, not so crazy after all

We're big fans of The Baffler, and Thomas Frank. For years, Frank, a whip-smart rebel with a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, worked tirelessly as an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and his Texas landgrab philosophy of cronyism and unregulated capitalism. In those deeply stupid years, his cool logic was like a glass of ice water in the desert. In spite of impeccable credentials, Frank was definitely on the outside, if not an outright enemy of Bush and Co.

"Our views used to be considered flatly unacceptable," Frank said recently in Paste Magazine. Now--after a sea change in the economy and the White House--Frank finds himself much in agreement with President Obama. "We're not regarded as blasphemous or heretical anymore."

Things change. Now even some of the loudest Free Market types have shut the hell up. You can hardly blame them. With their help, the economy took a nosedive unparalleled since the Great Depression. Now the landgrab is over and people are suffering. These days, Frank finds himself in a strange position for a rebel. With a president who believes in regulation that protects the average citizen, he's not such an outsider anymore. Funny how that works.

Read Thomas Frank's column in the Wall Street Journal, or read his journalism here. Be sure to check out the new issue of The Baffler on the newsstand, or on their website. (Be sure to read Matt Taibbi's article on Blago's memoir--it's a hoot) The Baffler.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Anita Sarkeesian presents a handy litmus test for women in film. Created by cartoonist Allison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test invites us to think a little deeper about the movies we watch, and to analyze the subliminal messages woven into the fabric of pop culture. Great little clip.

Anita Sarkeesian has a great website, Feminist Frequency. Dispense with your stereotypes and check it out. Ask Anita questions about pop culture here.

"One Million Years B.C." would probably fail the Bechdel Test

Monday, May 24, 2010


Today is Dylan's birthday, and we're posting a killer set from 1965.

A page from Dylan's high school yearbook, 1959, shortly before he changed the world. That's him, top row, second from the left. (click to enlarge) Too bad we didn't see much of each other this year. Thanks for letting me sign your yearbook. Good luck!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Mark Ryden paints weird and enchanting scenes from imaginary, symbol-laden worlds where dreams rule, logic is upended, and pop artifacts vie with archetypes for your short attention span. Enough artspeak. In layman's terms, Ryden is a good painter who sells his paintings for astronomical amounts of money. (One painting from "Tree Show" sold for $800,000 before the exhibit opened.) Ryden's well-rendered, old fashioned illustrative work has been labeled (by others) as Low Brow, Pop Surrealism, Neo-Baroque, and Craptastic Dream Clusters from Planet Zeon. Who cares what they call it--the work speaks for itself.

Mark Ryden, American Artist

In the clip above, Ryden paints the Great Emancipator for "The Gay 90's - Olde Tyme Art show," a current exhibition at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City. The Intro is from Disney's "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," and the "Abraham" song is by that old crooner of pop surrealism himself, Bing Crosby, from the movie "Holiday Inn" 1942.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Craig Venter & Co. have created life. More precisely, the American biologist and his team of genetic engineers have created the world's first synthetic organism. According to Newsweek, "Venter's lab typed out the million letters of DNA that comprise the M. mycoides genome, had them translated into 1,000-letter chemical chunks, glued the chunks together using yeast and E. coli, and transplanted the result into the empty shell of a related bacterium (M. capricolum)."

Mycoplasma mycoides aren't as awe-inspiring as snow leopards or tiger sharks, but God has a knack for this sort of thing and Venter has only been at it for a few years. Even so, he created a brand new--or should we say brave new--living organism. Kudos. Bioethicists take note.

Snow leopard


Blind Faith was one of the first supergroups, with Stevie Winwood (from Traffic and Spencer Davis Group) and Eric Clapton (from Yardbirds and Cream) and Ginger Baker (from Cream) and Ric Grech (from Family). Quite an impressive pedigree. They didn't last long but they put out some great music. Here they perform one of their hits at an outdoor festival in 1969.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Andrew Carmellini is the chef-owner of Locanda Verde, a massive monument to haute cuisine in the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca. Before that, Carmellini cheffed A Voce, Lespinasse, and Café Boulud, and is known for possessing some of the most respected French technique in the business. In this episode of Munchies, the chef took three dons of Italian cooking on a gala trip after hours. After hitting Matt Greco’s Char No 4 in Brooklyn, Carmellini and the gang made their way to Torrisi Italian Specialties, where renowned chef Cesare Casella was joined by Mark Ladner, the chef behind the Mario Batali empire, for some excellent food and jokes. Afterward, Carmellini took everyone back to Locanda Verde, where he and protégés Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone made their way through a drunken late-night serving of tripe and eggs.

Cooks who party--that isn't news. It's part of the bad boy (or girl) image, right? There is something mythical--archetypal--about the hard-drinking, battle-scarred cook unfolding his bag of sharpened chef's knives like a pool hustler assembling his own cue-stick. It's part of the myth: carousing after hours, tattooed and leather-clad, getting hammered to obliteration yet cooking brilliantly the following day. Well, sometimes it's more than a myth. Apparently, sometimes the partying is part of the process.

In a fascinating story, the New York Times reports that a certain herb is influencing the fanciest foods we eat, and it's not basil or oregano. In the article, Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture (May 18, 2010), we learn that "in professional kitchens, where the hours are long, the pace intense and the goal is to deliver pleasure, the need to blow off steam has long involved substances that are mind-altering and, often enough, illegal."

Anthony Bourdain made a career of it

“Everybody smokes dope after work,” says Anthony Bourdain, the author and chef who made his name chronicling drugs and debauchery in professional kitchens. “People you would never imagine.”

Falcinelli and Castronovo: more than just pipe dreams

"The chefs and restaurateurs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo said most of their projects — going to Sicily to import olive oil to sell at their two Frankies Spuntino restaurants; the concept for their Brooklyn restaurant Prime Meats; even a new restaurant planned for Portland, Ore. — were conceived with the creative help of marijuana."

Just as these high end chefs (and foodies in general) rhapsodize about local vegetables, fresh fish just pulled from the sea, and the terroir of fine wine, they also seem to appreciate the provenance and quality of good cannabis. "The sensibility extends to the latest wave of coffee culture," says the Times. "Coffee geeks are as infatuated with their Pacas varietal beans from Central America as pot users are with their sticky sinsemilla from Humboldt County in California."

Should we be surprised? Medical marijuana is often proscribed to restore weak appetites, so it makes sense that people who live by their appetites--the chefs--might enjoy this well-known effect of the often maligned weed. More than just an after-work chiller, or the equivalent of drinking a cocktail to relax, these foodies enjoy a couple puffs of pot for its well-known ability to enhance the appreciation of food (not to mention music and sex). Call it "the munchies." While some stoners with the munchies wolf down Cool Ranch Doritos or Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, these serious chefs take the munchies to the next level.

Falcinelli agrees. "The quality of marijuana you’re getting, just like the quality of booze you’re getting and the quality of food you’re getting, is better,' Mr. Falcinelli said in the Times. “It’s like getting the best cheese...I have like four or five different types of marijuana in my refrigerator right now.”

As odd as it sounds, for these chefs pot may be a performance-enhancing drug. Of course, it's one thing to eat and another to cook, and anyone working the line in one of these fast-paced, crowded, high-powered kitchens would be foolish to show up stoned.

Read the New York Times article HERE.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Exile week continues. We're celebrating the imminent release of the Exile on Main Street deluxe box set, remastered, with additional tracks culled from the murky, bluesy sessions that produced that classic. Let's start off with Jimmy Fallon giving Mick Jagger directions on how to be Mick Jagger. Mick, the perfect gentleman (he's so respectable) tries to comply but it's hopeless. Being Mick takes practice. Even for Mick.

In case you think it's easy being Stones, here's a rare clip of the Exile band rehearsing backstage in 1972. Keith Richards leads the band in a loose blues jam, Mick Taylor plays rhythm, and that's Nicky Hopkins on the ivory keys. Then they jump into Slim Harpo's classic "Shake Your Hips." You might recognize the one-chord boogie from Exile (released in 1972, a year before ZZ Top came out with the similar sounding "La Grange" on Tres Hombres; More info in comments) And you thought being a Stone was mostly just indulging in drug-addled backstage debauchery. Well, it's also a lot of work! Rehearsals and practice! Step lively, lads! No rest for the wicked! It's like the old joke: Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!

Friday, May 14, 2010


Gabriel Rucker, executive chef of Portland's Le Pigeon, is a culinary rockstar--in fact he looks more like a rock star than a nationally-recognized chef. For one thing, he wears a ball-cap instead of a toque, and for another, there are the tattoos; his arms are covered with birds, sharks, even a pigeon...Le pigeon? In all the glowing reports of the restaurant, and there have been plenty, everyone mentions the tattoos, so it's tempting to ignore them, but there they are, larger than life, running up and down his arms. Rucker comes to our table and chats even though it's a crowded Saturday night. He seems genuinely friendly, with none of the aspiring-to-Michelin self importance and stuffiness one might expect in a culinary whiz kid, and even though he looks like he'd be more comfortable with a Stratocaster than a Couscoussier, Rucker is the real deal, a first class chef. We watch him in the open kitchen with his sleeves rolled up--yes, see the tattoos again--cooking like a demon, pouring, scooping, stopping to taste a sauce. The kitchen area is very small and totally exposed to the diners, foodies, onlookers, people who managed to get a table on a busy Saturday night, so there is no five-second rule, no backstage trickery. Rucker may look like a slacker, but he doesn't leave the real cooking to the sous chef like some Food Network diva. Nope, he's a cook. That's what he does.

Erik Vankley, Su-Lien Pino and Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon. (courtesy of the NYTimes)

In this video, Rucker cooks a hamburger--one of five he'll serve on any given night--made with Tillamook extra sharp cheddar and Strawberry Mountain ground chuck. The rest of his food at Le Pigeon is French, or French-inspired, and it recently earned him a third James Beard Rising Star Chef nomination. He didn't get it this time, but he was in the final four. Better luck next time. By the way, though the burger looked good I opted for the Boeuf Bourguignon made with beef cheek, and it was delicious. I also had Foie Gras with Bacon, but don't tell the vegans.

Read the NYTimes article about the Portland food scene here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Mouly discusses the history of comics, the value of cartoons, The New Yorker, RAW Magazine, and her list of recommended reading.

Françoise Mouly has been art editor of The New Yorker since 1993. Since then, she has been responsible for over 800 covers, including the magazine's most memorable in recent years: the September 11, 2001 black cover (which she created with her husband, cartoonist Art Spiegelman) and the controversial "terrorist fist bump" cover by Barry Blitt during the 2008 election. For the 85th anniversary of the magazine, in 2010, she did a 4-part cover by Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine and Ivan Brunetti. Very cool.

2001: Black on Black, The September 11 cover

2008: "The Terrorist Fist-Bump"

In 2000, Mouly published “Covering The New Yorker: Cutting-Edge Covers from a Literary Institution,” and launched a RAW Junior division to publish books of comics for kids. In 2001, she was named chevalier in the order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Back in 1980, she and her husband Art Spiegelman started the new wave comic anthology RAW, which showcased a wild crew of post-mod cartoonists from Europe and the United States. Some saw it as the artsy, intellectual, New York counterpoint to Robert Crumb's Weirdo anthology, but Crumb himself published work in its oversized pages--and he wasn't alone. RAW artists included Gary Panter, Chris Ware, Justin Green, Julie Doucet, Charles Burns, Bill Griffith, Sue Coe, Kim Deitch, Lynda Barry, Robert Sikoryak, Ben Katchor, Kaz and many more. RAW first published Art Spiegelman's MAUS, the graphic story of his parents' experiences in the Holocaust, which later won the Pulitzer Prize.

Mouly and Spiegelman back in the day

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


"Saturday Option," by Lambchop (with the late Vic Chesnutt)

We've always liked the strange, atmospheric countrypolitan band from Nashville, Lambchop. Frontman Kurt Wagner leads the loose music collective with gruff half-spoken singing that cuts through the swirling loungesmoke of pedal steel guitar like a half-drunk barfly heading for the john. When it works, and it does most of the time, the effect is stunning. It's like soundtrack music for fragments, short stories, poems, mood pieces--definitely not your Daddy's country and western but somehow related like a second cousin, twice removed. Do the shabby thing/ With you/ Separate the wood/From the screw...What does that mean, exactly? I kind of know, and so do you. It's like language from a dream, and it has that dream logic that makes perfect sense until you wake up and it fades away. Listen to what Lambchop brought back from dreamland.

"The Old Gold Shoe," live at the AB Brussels


To make this cultural classic more inclusive, German designer Konstantin Datz came up with a Braille Rubik's Cube.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Sunday is Mother's Day, so do something for Mom. People have been celebrating Mothers Day for quite a while, at least as far back as the ancient Greeks when children brought Mom offerings of honey-cakes and fine drinks and Hallmark Cards. (Just kidding about the cards) The Romans built a temple to Magna Mater (the Mother Goddess of all Mothers) where people gathered in her honor on the Festival of Hilaria. The Brits celebrated "Mothering Sunday" in the 1600s, on the fourth Sunday of Lent. And so on.

According to the Legacy Project, the modern Mothers Day owes its origin to the peace and justice movements. "In the United States, Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), a Boston writer, pacifist, suffragist, and author of the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, first suggested a Mothers' Day in 1872. She saw it as a day dedicated to peace."

Responding to the suffering after the Civil War, Howe asked "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?"

Anna Jarvis

"The official observance of Mother's Day in its present form is credited to Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) of Philadelphia, PA." Jarvis wanted to celebrate the life of her own mother, a social activist who organized Mother's clubs "to combat the poor health and sanitation conditions that existed in many areas and contributed to the high mortality rate of children. The social action brigades provided medicine for the poor, nursing care for the sick, and arranged help and proper medical care for those ill with tuberculosis."

"At the heart of the traditions around Mother's Day are themes of honoring mothers, compassion, peace, reconciliation, and social action."

Research courtesy of The Legacy Project, "a literacy and life education project for the twenty-first century. It takes a big picture approach to creating your life, connecting with others, and changing the world. It builds on and enhances the education children receive in school, and provides avenues for lifelong learning for adults."

Visit The Legacy Project

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Here's a rare interview with award-winning writer Tim O'Brien, author of Going After Cacciato (which won the National Book Award in 1979) and The Things They Carried. Tim O'Brien is a writer's writer. I spent over two weeks in a workshop taught by O'Brien and writer Amy Hempel, and enjoyed his comments on my own fiction. It was summertime in Tennessee, and we students from all over the country sat in rapt attention as Tim paced the classroom waving his arms and brimming with writerly wisdom, declaring the difference between truth-truth and story-truth, slaying dragons and occasionally tilting at windmills. His work was brilliant, of course, and we were in awe of the man, so we clutched our manuscripts with a mixture of fear and exhilaration. Over the course of two weeks, our fiction would be analyzed and dissected and scrubbed with a wire brush.

I recall a pivotal moment. We were workshopping a fellow student's manuscript, and Tim disagreed with the writer's decision to interrupt a stick-up with a flashback. Flashbacks stopped the forward motion of a story, and this was no time to employ one. The writer held his ground, but Tim insisted--in real life, no one would drift back in memory with a gun pointed at his head. The writer, a big burly outdoor type, said he might. Tim said no he wouldn't. The writer said yes he might. Tim sat down, stood up, took a breath, growing more agitated and frustrated with every second until finally he crossed the room in three giant steps and gripped the writer's desk, lifting it and slamming it repeatedly on the floor. The sound echoed like gunshots in the classroom. Then it was absolutely quiet. Nobody breathed. At last, Tim broke the silence. "When I did that...slammed the desk like that...did you flashback on your childhood?" He kind of laughed, not really laughed but a little sideways smile and a chuckle. Then everyone roared. Truth-truth had crashed into the classroom. Tim had given us a zen lesson in the proper use of flashbacks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


A brilliant art documentary by graffiti artist Banksy that surprises the viewer with its humor and irreverence and absolute unpredictability. With total access, Banksy tells the inside story of guerrilla street art just as the barbarians breach the walls of the art world. Subversive and satisfying, the film drives an ice axe between the inspired and the phony. Artists and gallerists will particularly enjoy this film, but so will anyone looking for a wild ride through the contemporary art scene.

Two big, paint-spattered thumbs up.


Forty years ago today, four young students protesting the Vietnam War were killed by the Ohio National Guard. William Schroeder, Sandra Scheuer, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause lost their lives that day.

Just three days before the massacre, on a visit to the Pentagon on May 1, 1970, President Nixon made the following remarks which were taped by a reporter who accompanied the President:

"You see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they are burning up the books, I mean storming around about this issue--I mean you name it--get rid of the war; there will be another one."

Nixon may not have fired a gun that day, but he fanned the flames of rage against the anti-war movement and helped create the situation that resulted in violence. Obviously, he hated people protesting his war. Now, Nixon is seen as a sleazy opportunist, a crook who abused his power and trampled on the Constitution, but let's remember at the time he was quite popular. The Silent Majority--those flag-waving conservative Republicans who were his political base--were the tea party crowd of their time, red-eyed with rage and rhetoric and quick to accuse dissenters of being unpatriotic--and worse, traitors. If there is an enduring lesson of May 4th, 1970, it's not only that idealism can be crushed by guns, but that sometimes the most anti-American actions can be committed in the name of America.


Monday, May 3, 2010


After publishing "World According to Garp," John Irving didn't have to worry about his career. The book was a massive bestseller, backed by a massive ad campaign, and available in all colors. Then it was turned into a highly successful movie.

How hard could that be? In this interview, Irving is far from envious of those looking to break into the book-writing business.