Mirkin Agonistes, BJ Novak does not

So, here we are, a little more than half-way through the year, and my ambition of one post a day could not even reach the threshold of one post a month (and that includes two posts agonizing over how little I’ve written. (Make that three. No, two-and-a-half. This entry will have a point.) And it’s not that I’ve used that time fruitfully. If we’re going to be honest here, most of it has been spent agonizing over how little I’ve written, anywhere. Which in turn means I don’t get out much (not that I have the cash for it, even if I had the inclination). And watched a whole lot of TV. While you won’t get an argument from me that we are living in the Second Golden Age of Television, but there comes a time, you’re sitting there, empty cans of Diet Dr. Pepper piling up, watching “Salvage Dawgs,” or G-d help us, “Hannity,” and telling yourself it’s research.   Let’s just say that I’ve grown sick of myself. And decided to do something about it. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say I’m going to sit my ass down and pick my ass up. What bought this on? I was out last night, thanks to my good friend Scott Timberg, a fine writer whose blog Culture Crash is worth checking out. (It’s also the title of his upcoming book, due out this fall from Yale University Press.) I was his +1 for the opening night of “The Writer’s Room with Reza Aslan,”  interviewing actor/author BJ Novak. Held the first Wednesday of every month at DBA, it looks like it could turn into a fun event. The bar has a feel of distressed swank, with exposed brick walls, lots of equally distressed wood; a Lower East Side basement turned nightclub.  There’s no food to speak of, but there is a menu of speciality cocktails. There’s a piano trio playing as folks settle in;  they’re slicked back  a  little too thick with hispter irony; no amount of nods and crooked smiles are going to convince me that Toto’s “Africa” needs to ever be heard again. Nasim Pedrad, who introduced the evening, was impressed by seeing a writer’s event anywhere but a humid judo studio in the Valley, although she cautioned that a half hour after we left, the booths would be filled with Armenian real estate moguls enjoying bottle service. Aslan is a fine interviewer, and kept the conversation easygoing but on topic. I haven’t read Novak’s book, One More Thing,  but the snippets he read piqued my interest. Most of the pieces appear to be what the New Yorker calls “casuals”: Nelson Mandela receiving a Comedy Roast,  a reasonable wondering if there’s such a thing as a “good Hitler” (one who believes in single-payer healthcare).  He mentioned George Saunders and Woody Allen as influences; I also detected a bit of T.C. Boyle. The two things that most got to me was his joking about the writer’s day…spent mostly procrastinating. That his a bit too close to home; I’m fine telling a joke, but don’t want to become one. And he said that he doesn’t write for himself, or other comics, writers, or critic. When he writes, he said, he thinks about the person sitting next to him..”keep what you love, take out what they don’t.”   Two quick notes: please don’t take this as an announcement that I will no longer write for checks. I still do. And if any of you know of such work, please let me know.  And two, if I start slacking off on this blog again, let me know. Loudly. A public shaming can do wonders for inspiration.   np: Parquet Courts–Sunbathing Animal. One first blush, nice, latterday New York guitar rock. A little Television, a little Sonic Youth, a touch of hardcore.

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About Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS. He currently edits Obitmagazine.com. View all posts by Steven Mirkin

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