April 9th, 2011

In nearly 500 interviews, {Zsuzsi Gartner} is the least charming interview ever.”

Our exchange wasn’t even remotely like the one between gone-viral Billy Bob Thornton and Jian Ghomeshi on CBC’s Q, but Joseph Planta, of on-line program The Commentary,  felt compelled to tweet the following after his interview with me about Darwin’s Bastards last April: “In nearly 500 interviews, this is the least charming interview ever: Her contempt for me is palpable.” 2:36 AM Apr 17th, 2010 via Twitter.

The Context:  Before we started recording, I thanked him (rather enthusiastically) for his interest in the book, and he said something like, “I have to tell you, I haven’t read it. I don’t read fiction – I don’t really get it.”  And I said, “That’s going to make this a little difficult,” to which Mr. Planta replied, “Oh, I’m very good.” (Emphasis his.) I just listened to the podcast for the first time a few minutes ago and thought I ponied up quite well, considering.  (Check it out for yourself)

This was a year ago, but I got to thinking about it the other day since I’m about to launch a great, or at least fun. Some will be so-so. But the one thing I’m refusing to do this time ‘round is an interview with anyone who hasn’t read the book. (Planta wasn’t the only interviewer who hadn’t read Darwin’s, just the most – how shall I say? – obvious about it). Not only is it insulting, but it’s really freakin’ difficult.

Lynn Coady wrote a wonderful diatribe a few years back in the Pen anthology Writing Life about the good old days when writers could behave badly, or at least male writers: “Imagine being a writer in such a time! You’re bored, you’re sick, you’re tired, you’re drunk – you can just fall off your stool . . .”  Yes, the golden days when it was okay for writers, or at least male writers, “to come across as the grimy, petty,foul-mouthed shits they were.” Now, it’s all about sucking up. Even if our characters aren’t playing nice, we’re expected to talk pretty and be grateful.

So next time an interviewer says, “I haven’t read your book, but . . .” I’ll just say, “Oh, fuck off then. And you can tweet that.” Or maybe I should consider enrolling in charm school?