Jonathan Evison on beer, Ginsberg & shouting at parking meters

Jonathan Evison stops by the store this Thursday, April 5 at 7 p.m. to discuss his newest novel, Lawn Boy. It’s the coming-of-age story of Mike Munoz, a young Chicano boy living in Washington State. Check out Evison’s answers to The BookPeople Questionnaire below!

jonathan evison

BP: What are you reading these days?

JE: I recently finished Mark Sarvas’s Memento Park, an elegantly crafted novel of fathers, sons, art, and secret histories. I also re-read Missy Ann Peterson’s Jimmy James Blood, a stunning self-published novel that blew my mental barn doors off, and for which I’ve been lobbying publishers to pick up. And just yesterday, I cracked Gifted by Oregon writer John Daniel, which is great so far.

BP: What books did you love as a child?

JE: There was a series of kids’ adventure books written in the 1920s by Leo Edwards called The Jerry Todd books: Jerry Todd and the Whispering Cave; Jerry Todd and the Waltzing Hen; Jerry Todd, Editor in Grief; Jerry Todd, Pirate; Jerry Todd and the Oak Island Treasure. There must have been a dozen of them. They had a sort of Huck Finn meets Our Gang vibe. I also read all the Doc Savage books — something like 200 of them. When I was really little, I dug the Pokey Little Puppy, which I have since read to all my kids, who also love it, though truth be told, it is excruciatingly long and repetitive. My all-time favorite children’s book is Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go! I never tire of it’s irresistible cadence.

BP: What’s the hardest thing about writing?

JE: Being away from my family three days a week. Also, you know, the failure, which never goes away.

What’s the best thing about writing?

JE: Being away from my family three days a week (joking). I love the hours of intense focus, and I love inhabiting my characters.

BP: What’s your favorite word?

JE: Beer?

BP: What’s a sentence you’ve loved and remembered from a book?

JE: That last passage of Joyce’s The Dead is stunning. Also, the last passage of The Great Gatsby. I memorized all of Ginsberg’s “Howl” in my adolesence. I can still recite about half of it from memory, before somebody tells me to shut up.

BP: Do you have any weird writing habits?

JE: Well, because of all my kids, and my condensed writing schedule these days, I write for marathon blocks of twelve and sixteen hours straight, breaking only to eat sandwiches and take hot tubs. I usually start drinking beer about ten hours in, then start editing once the beer has lowered my bullshit tolerance to the point where any false notes stick out.

BP: Who are your literary influences?

JE: I guess you’ve gotta start with Dickens, whom I love for his characters, his social conscience, and his jaunty tone. John Fante was my hero as an adolescent; I love the collision of fear and arrogance that is Arturo Bandini. I love Shirley Jackson for her playful creepiness and her atmosphere.

BP: What’s your favorite place to write?

JE: I write three days a week in my cabin in the Olympic Mountains. I’ll do six to eight hours in my green chair by the window, then another six or eight hours out in the man cave.

BP: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

JE: Using intravenous drugs and shouting at parking meters, probably.

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