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?
DR: 20th century.
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?
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?
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.