The fragrant Mark Sarvas hosts the popular and controversial lit. blog The Elegant Variation. His debut novel, Harry, Revised, will be published by Bloomsbury in May 2008. He was able to find time to answer our pointless questions, and we hope that no weak, cowardly review escaped his gaze as a result.
1. What’s the first thing(s) you read in the morning? The New York Times–it’s my home page–and email, to see who I’ve offended now.
2. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure website? David Lebovitz blogs about Parisian food, with which I am obsessed, and love to torture myself with his pictures in between my own Paris trips.
3. What job do you fantasize about having? Yours.
4. Last movie you saw? The Rape of Europa, a documentary about the looting of Nazi Art. I’ve wanted to see it for ages but it’s been hard to catch up with in guerilla distribution. It finally arrived in LA last week (for a day) but I saw it a week earlier in NY.
5. Last book you read? Hah! You’re kidding right? Books I just finished include Phillip Knightley’s The First Casualty and Kevin Sites’s In The Hot Zone for a review I’m working on. The last book I finished for pleasure was Jane Gardam’s wonderful novel Old Filth from Europa Editions. Other recent remarkable reads include David Leavitt’s new novel The Indian Clerk, and Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop.
6. Best show legendary biz/movie star encounter. Meeting Paul McCartney when I was sixteen. You can find the whole story here, replete with embarrassing photos.
7. Proudest media moment? Probably the publication of my first review in the New York Times Book Review.
8. Ever had a brush with the law? Describe. I was pulled over for reckless driving when I was twenty and still living in New York, the result of in ill-advised, high speed car chase through a residential neighborhood on a rainy Sunday night. It all ended very badly.
9. If you got a unicorn what would you name it? Stet. But I’m bad with names. Ask my editor.
10. What does your TiVo think about you? I have neither TiVo nor TV. It’s not a snob literary thing–I just don’t have the time.
11. Character of fiction you most resemble? Any one of John Banville’s screwed up, solipsistic narrators, especially Alex Cleave, the protagonist of Eclipse: “Once in one of our fights she called me a black-hearted bastard and I experienced a warm little thrill, as at a pretty piece of flattery â€“ that is the kind of black hearted bastard that I am.”
12. Who plays you in your bio-pic? I won’t sell the rights. I’m a bit of a control freak. Though I have trademarked the name Black Hearted Bastard Productions.
13. What’s your ringtone? Generic but it’s a new phone and I haven’t sorted out how to customize them yet. For a blogger, I’m spectacularly untechnical.
14. Favorite electronic device? The 22-inch diagonal monitor I hook up to my laptop.
15. What do your friends say is your best quality? I smell nice.
16. What do your enemies say is your worst? That I have a bigger audience than they do.
17.What natural talent do you wish you had? If only I could sing–but really sing … there’d be one fewer novelist in the world. I also wish I was more gifted at chess. I study but I’m still a fish. Though I did once draw an 11-year-old, reducing him to tears, and he went on to become some kind of master. I like to think I toughened him up.
18. What’s your theme song? Christ, it’s such a horrible cliche but every time I hear “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” I find myself nodding in agreement.
19. Do you believe in love at first sight? No. Romantic twaddle.
20. When’s the last time you volunteered? Where? Four years ago â€“ when I started The Elegant Variation. And I’ve been volunteering five days a week ever since.
FLBA 20 Questions