20 Questions with David Rakoff, Literary Tattoo Edition

I interviewed David Rakoff last week. I spoke with him shortly after I discovered my recorder had been on the fritz the first time I interviewed the delightful Alexandria Marzano Lesnevich for my story about literary tattoos. I would like to state, for the record, that David Rakoff is the most entertaining person I have ever spoken to on the phone. As you read, be sure to imagine his voice.


EW: I lost an interview this morning.

DR: I've done that before. I've done that many times before. Who did you lose it with?

EW: The person is the subject of a story that I'm writing about literary tattoos. She has an Anne Sexton tattoo and a really detailed explanation for it.

DR: Do you mean people who literally get tattoos with passages. (Ed. note: he sounds genuinely shocked.)

EW: Yes, and they're releasing a book about it next week. 

DR: What's the most popular passage? Who's the most popular writer?

EW: You have to guess.

DR: I will guess. Let's play 20 questions! It's a guy?

EW: Yes, of course. But number two is a woman, and you'll be able to guess the woman.

DR: Is the guy American? 

EW: Yes.

DR: 20th century.

EW: Yes.

DR: Is it Kerouak or Bukowski?

EW: No. A little later.

DR: So it's not Kerouak, it's not Bukowski, it's not Burroughs. It's not David Foster Wallace, it's not Dave Eggers - it's 20th century and he's dead?

EW: Yes, he's dead.

DR: He's not a poet?

EW: No.

DR: I'm trying to think of the person the kids would tattoo themselves with. Don't know.

EW: It's Kurt Vonnegut.

DR: Oh, interesting. And you said I would guess the woman more easily. Is the woman a poet?

EW: Yes.

DR: Is it Sylvia Plath?

EW: Of course!

DR: I have to say it's all so depressing! But I find tattoos depressing, but I'm of that generation.

EW: I have to say that if someone gets a Sylvia Plath tattoo, it's like they're permanently stuck in adolescence.

DR: Well that's exactly it! Any kind of tattoo, but particularly Sylvia Plath. I suppose it's better than the co-opting of Chinese characters, but Jesus.

EW: Don't read this book.

DR: I don't intend to. Oh God.

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