21 questions

David Rakoff’s Day Job Involves Napping, Snacking, and Onanism

Name: David Rakoff
Age: 46 and three quarters
Neighborhood: Tudor City, very newly minted, after seventeen long and lovely years down in Gramercy, albeit those blocks a little too far south on Irving Place to really be called Gramercy Park, an enclave I once dubbed SouGraP, pronounced just as you might imagine. Although I don’t miss the late night roving bands of girls in heels, screaming their recently Batali-filled guts out.
Occupation: Writer. Next Tuesday, September 6, he’ll be at BookCourt at 7 p.m. to celebrate the paperback release of his book Half Empty.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
It varies, although it’s generally some iteration on who I want to be when I grow up: literate, or at least creative, and usually a person from elsewhere whose love for the city brought them here, where they became ineluctably bound up with some romantic notion of the echt New Yorker. Sometimes it’s the writer Dawn Powell, sometimes Dick Cavett. The girls from Mary McCarthy’s The Group. Or one of those benevolently bookish and hairy Koren cartoon monsters.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
My friends Rory and Jaime and I took ourselves on a mini Korean fried chicken eating tour. We got to eat supper three times in one night.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I’m a writer, so it’s a loose amalgamation of snacking, anxious naps, onanism, and calling other friends who are doing much the same thing. Sometimes I do this in the main reading room at the library at Fifth and 42nd, minus some of those activities.

What was your first job in New York?
Assistant in a literary agency, back in the days of typewriters and Girl Friday brand carbon paper.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
On Broadway was, I think, The Motherfucker With The Hat, Off Broadway was Silence!, and to be really pedantic, technically “On Broadway,” part of the Bloomsday celebration at Symphony Space.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Almost always.

What’s your drink?
Seltzer, made with my own, life-changing soda maker!

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Very often. I just moved so my life is boxes and dust but when I’m settled, I generally cook something about four to five times a week.

What’s your favorite medication?
That’s fairly glib. Right now, it’s a combination of Ifosfamide, a chemotherapy drug, and Oxycontin, 30 milligram extended release. Now doesn’t my earnest answer make you feel like a shit-heel, O callous disembodied list of questions?

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A framed still from the Chinese Communist ballet, The Red Detachment of Women; rifles and uniforms en pointe.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
For me, anything. I have my own clippers.

When’s bedtime?
Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., lights out closer to midnight.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
Oh, I really miss the days when those 12-year-old runaway girls worked in peep shows! So authentic and gritty. Fuck you, Disney! Nostalgia’s a sucker’s game, and while I’m rarely there and do find the overwhelmingly corporate aspects of the place troubling, the current one does have some fairly astonishing qualities of the “electromania,” as Ben Hecht called it, of old. All it needs is a billboard blowing smoke rings.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
No one’s ever really improved on Spy magazine’s Homeric moniker: “short-fingered vulgarian.” That he has any kind of constituency, namely, people who don’t find him nauseating in almost every aspect and emblematic of all that’s wrong in the culture, fills me with despair.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
That it’s part of a country that, right now, is so depressingly polarized with a huge swath of government committed to the single-minded goal of criminalizing poverty, science, knowledge, rule of law, and basic fairness.

Who is your mortal enemy?
It used to be two schnauzers on my old block. Right now, my life is enemy-free, happily.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
I’ve never had a license, so never, essentially, but a few years back, my friend Joanna let me take her car a few times around a school parking lot. Jesus, those kids sure screamed a lot. It was on a weekend.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
Probably in the countless ways it’s affected everyone, but nothing directly that I can think of.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
C’mon … lefty, hook-nosed sodomite Hebrew in the arts. Times, natch.

Where do you go to be alone?
I go nowhere. I stay home.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
Truly, I’ve no idea. Although, not fretting over arbitrary litmus tests of one’s New Yorker authenticity conferred by others, for starters.

David Rakoff’s Day Job Involves Napping, Snacking, and Onanism