“Trump is extremely popular because people would like to have a world where you just didn’t question that the white American was at the top of the pecking order.”
What was your favorite book as a child, and what does it say about you?
At age six, my favorite book was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss. The idea was so simple: All the guy had to do was take off his hat in front of the king, but every time he took off his hat, there was another hat underneath it. Eventually he was arrested and they were going to chop his head off. It was a real horror story.
What does that say about you?
It probably says I was one sort of weird, fucked-up kid.
What’s your favorite book now?
The Hair of Harold Roux, by a guy who’s dead now, Thomas Williams. I’ve read it four or five times. It’s a couple of days in the life of this guy, Aaron Benham, who’s writing a book about a man who is writing a book. It’s this little house of mirrors. I love it because it tells the truth as I understand it about what it is to be a writer.
What’s your favorite city in the whole world?
New York. That’s because I can find my way around. I am a country guy, and it’s a perfect grid. But there’s something to look at on every block — stores, little restaurants. There’s always a weird old lady walking a little tiny puppy dog and eccentrics all over the place. The architecture is fantastic. Any movie you want to go see, you can go see it. There’s a horror movie out now called Green Room about a punk rock band. I’d love to see that movie, but it’s not playing here. If I was in New York, man, I could see that movie.
Have you ever thought about getting an apartment in the city and spending more time there?
There was a time when my wife and I both considered that. But it’s too cultural for me. I didn’t want to be around a lot of writers. Every block in New York, you kick a writer out of the way. Some of them are really famous guys. I can remember going to a literary guild party after I had published maybe three books. Everybody was there raising a glass and Irwin Shaw was sitting in the corner; he had a cane and was fairly well lit, all red in the face. He looked me up and down and said, “Oh, you’re the flavor of the month.” I just kind of scuttled out of there. I’ve never considered living there, but I like to go there. It’s like that John Mellencamp song: I’m not too much of a hay seed to say who’s doing something in the big town.
What advice about the industry do you wish someone had given you when you started out?
That you don’t always have to take the editor’s advice. Sometimes the way you see it is the way it should be. I assume that every writer was a lot smarter and a lot craftier than I was. That turned out not to be the truth.
At what point did you learn that?
Oh God, it took me a long time. I was probably 45 or something. Around the time I think I wrote It, which would have been about 1985, [the book] came back with a lot of possible cut marks. I just said, “No, these things stay.” My editor at that time, Allen Williams used to repeat something I said: “The kids will understand.” It was the truth.
What do you do to relax?
I read, I watch TV. There’s too much TV now – it’s like being on Pleasure Island in Pinocchio. I also play guitar. I try to learn a new song once in a while. I can’t sing or play worth shit, but it does relax me.