Chuck Klosterman is a New York Times bestselling author and a featured columnist for Esquire, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and has also written for Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, and ESPN..
Chuck: When this book was originally released, there was a bear on the cover. Now, for the paperback edition, the bear is gone. This prompts a fairly obvious question: What has happened over the last 12 months that's made you racist against bears?
Sloane: First of all, there’s no place for your left-claw Teddy-sympathizing here. That bear knows what it did. Second of all—and this is strictly hypothetical—let’s say that I had a passionate affair with the bear and we were going to move in together and maybe get a puppy or just gut some salmon and be happy…and then he left me for trampy elk. Let’s say that. You might feel pretty bad accusing me of being a bear racist when all I wanted was the honey that was his love. Either way, there is a very subtle hint at the bear’s existence on the paperback cover. You may say: What?! That makes no sense! No wonder that bear (hypothetically) left you! But let me throw this at you: what is the most common expression we have about the behavior of bears in the woods?
Chuck: Though there are (probably) no statistics on this, I would be curious to hear your estimate: Out of every 100 people who buy your book, how many do you think are men? When you meet your male fans, what are they like?
Sloane: While I know that 100 people, at some point, have bought this book, the idea that these fans are casually coming in 100-person clusters tickles me. That would be like taking a random sampling of all the food in my refrigerator right now and determining what percentage of it is healthy. Since all I have in there is a single lime, the answer is: all of it. But yeah, I get what you’re asking. I’d say 20% of them are dudes. Two thirds of that 20% are under the age of 31 and one third is over the age of 33, which means that if you are a 32-year-old man, the chances of you being hit by a bus tomorrow are higher than the chances of you having already read this book. It also means that if you were 32 when the hardcover was released, you may now enjoy it in paperback. As for meeting my male fans, they are pretty much the same as the female ones—smarter and more put-together than I am on the surface, but I don’t think any of us have anything in our refrigerators right now.
Chuck: Before becoming an author, you spent many years as a book publicist. Without giving his or her name (although it would be pretty awesome if you did), what were the specific personality traits of the meanest writer you ever worked with?
Sloane: I hope you’re not worried about your own behavior with your book publicist because I’m pretty sure everyone really likes you. But here are some things I would encourage, should you decide to trade in your current personality for a crap one: writing in all caps about your need for Xanax, agreeing to go on Oprah after your book publicist has sold 1.5 of her unborn children to get you this opportunity and then deciding that no one will take you seriously in academia if you go on “that” show, refusing to hit up tour cities where your hair might frizz, calling your book publicist at 2AM to inquire as to why The New York Times website is down, treating your publicist’s inbox like a garbage disposal for thought gems such as “do you know how much it would cost to change the colors on the Empire State Building to match my book jacket?”
Chuck: If you had married the first man you ever fell in love with, what would your life be like today?
Sloane: I suspect I’d be the only Jew to ever raise reindeer in Finland.
Chuck: What would you classify as the three most important qualities of good writing? What are the three most glaring problems with bad writing?
Sloane: This is a very good question but a very tough one because the list could be infinite or narrow to a simple “I like it/I don’t like it” depending on the day. I know that good writing has to have confidence and some kind of center. Be it moral or just a plot that continues to make sense. That’s more difficult than it looks. In the movies, a character can wear her hair in a ponytail in one shot and then have it down around her shoulders in the next and, if it gets noticed at all, people seem to take a delight in noticing. A mistake like that in writing, people dwell and become annoyed and distracted by their annoyance and storm your editor’s office with torches and pitchforks. Also, good writing has to entertain on some fundamental level. You may be the best tree-describer in 12 counties but if you plop said description in the middle of your action or at the start of it, I’m already sharpening the tines on my pitchfork. As for bad writing? Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, right? It’s hard to pin down. I would say a glaring lack of originality, a lack of effort, or the presence of too much effort.
Chuck: List all the federal and state laws you have consciously broken over the past 10 years.
Sloane: Drinking from an open container on the sidewalk, driving at 92mph in a 50mph zone, importing plants from a foreign country, smoking in front of a building, housing a lesbian albino ferret in Manhattan, presenting false information to a mental institution, bringing a live animal to the movies, pointing out a flasher’s erection in the state of Missouri, removing files from a government office for the night so I could take them home and laugh hysterically at them, jaywalking everywhere.