Vinyl is democratic, as surely as the iPod is fascist. Vinyl is representational: It has a face. Two faces, in fact, to represent the dualism of human nature. Vinyl occupies physical space honestly, proud as a fat woman dancing.
How do you sustain yourself when all the old structures people looked to for support – religion, family, ethnic solidarity – are crumbling, or feel so false that you refuse to avail yourself of them? What comes next?
America has not produced a more salient political musician than Gil Scott-Heron.
For me, most of the anxiety and difficulty of writing takes place in the act of not writing. It’s the procrastination, the thinking about writing that’s difficult.
When we talk about communities, we seldom discuss the margins. But for every person nestled comfortably in the bosom of a community, there is someone else on the outskirts, feeling ambivalent. Ambiguous. Excluded. Unwilling or unable to come more fully into the fold.
The genius of vinyl is that it allows – commands! – us to put our fingerprints all over that history: to blend and chop and reconfigure it, mock and muse upon it, backspin and skip through it.
The paradox of being in an industry where other people are usually the gatekeepers: publishers, editors – there are a lot of barriers to having control over your career. But coming out of hip-hop, the mindset was always to create your own.
To be a white kid into hip-hop meant you’d sought it out and you practiced the art. Which meant dedication and diligence, as well as removing yourself at least occasionally from your own comfort zone and circumstances, and from people who looked like you.
A holiday vacation can mean sampling all kinds of new cuisine – whether it’s Uncle Joe’s award-winning chili or the exotic flavors of Nepal. If your little ones are fussy, be sure to ease mealtime hassles by bringing along a supply of the familiar foods they’re accustomed to rejecting at home.
Graffiti has an interesting relationship to the broader world of hip-hop: It’s part of the culture, but also in a weird way a stepchild of the culture.
Novels are pirated all the time, but it’s hard to imagine that you’re at work and you open up the attachment that your brother sent you and it’s the new Phillip Roth novel.
There’s a lot of demand to hear the new Kanye West album before it hits the streets. There’s much less demand to read the new Phillip Roth novel.
The thing I love about being a novelist is that with each project, you invent a new world. You approach it with a different set of aesthetic and structural ideas, and you grapple with a different series of problems in figuring out how to tell the story. And yet there are certain concerns that stay constant.
To me, ‘The End of the Jews’ – both the title and the novel itself – is about the end of pat, uncritical ways of understanding oneself in the world.
I think there’s a lot of anxiety about being seen as a bad parent. There’s still a lot of subjects that I think people aren’t entirely comfortable being honest about.
You know you’re a hopeless record nerd when your time travel fantasies always come around to how cool it would be to go back to 1973 and buy all the great funk and jazz and salsa records that came out that year on tiny obscure labels and are now really rare and expensive.
I like to read in the bathtub. Ideally, that bathtub would be located on a small Greek island.
I like to write in coffee shops in countries in which languages I do not speak are spoken. That way, you’re surrounded by the buzz of humanity, but you aren’t distracted by people’s conversations.
I believe that writers have a responsibility to evolve the language, whether by introducing new words or new usages. Shakespeare alone is responsible for something like 3400 words and phrases.
My mother is really the person I learned to curse from. She discourages me from saying that in interviews. But it’s true.
We had a kid. The kid was awesome. She didn’t fall asleep easily. We complained about it. We got frustrated. But we didn’t look for an out. We just accepted that this was part of parenting.
One of the pleasures of getting older and making a living the way you want to is that your social circle becomes rarified, and the people who enter have been vetted.
Sometimes, it’s best to let the kids take control – and it’s never too early to instill positive eating habits or self-confidence in the kitchen.
Children crave routine and find listening to the same stories over and over again soothing. If you’ve grown weary of the holiday books you’ve read your kid 7,883 times, try adding ‘dude’ to the end of every line of dialogue.
Religious traditions are easy to lose sight of in today’s marketing frenzy. Make sure you take time to gently usher your little ones into the rituals that have special meaning for you.
For many families, gift-giving is a major source of stress – the relentless commercialism, the whining demands, the financial pressure.
In theory, parents are supposed to empathize with one other – find common cause in the fervent desire to preserve and protect the world for the next generation, and connect on some deep, almost mystical level that those poor souls who have not experienced this kind of all-consuming love cannot possibly comprehend.
Ultimately, very few people parent their kids in ways that strike anybody else as reasoned, appropriate or sane.
When it comes right down to it, developing a critical sensibility about parenting isn’t really about disapproval; it’s about honing your own sensibilities, figuring out how you want to parent.
The publishing industry stopped having new ideas out of respect for the untimely death of Ernest Hemingway in 1961 and has been doing everything the same way ever since.
To capture sound is to isolate a moment, canonize it, enter it into the historical register.
Look closely, and you can see where the grooves of a record widen, indicating a sparseness that can only be a bass solo, or grow denser to accommodate a cresting density of sound.
I’ve planned book tours for myself, whether or not anybody wants to hear what I have to say. I’ve weighed in on things like what the cover looks like, what the copy looks like, how it’s going to be promoted – just every aspect of it.
I’ve always been really involved in figuring out who my audience is and how to reach them.
My approach is to treat writing very much as a job.
Eating is one of the great pleasures of life.
Sleeping is one of the more private aspects of parenting; it happens in a quiet room, whereas eating is a more public aspect of parenting. Other people can see it and compare it to what their kids eat.
It’s hilarious to me that by writing an obscene fake children’s book I am mistaken for a parenting expert.
I think that being Jewish is in some ways unique because there’s this conflation of race, culture and religion.
Because Jews were kicked out of every country in Europe at one time or another, and plenty of other places as well, there isn’t an ability to identify with a national heritage – you’ll never hear a Jew say ‘I’m German’ or ‘I’m Polish,’ without saying something about being Jewish as well, and for good reason.
Writing novels is largely about endurance and patience. I take a lot of breaks, hit walls, and go do something else while I think things through. But I do it every day, and I try to treat it as a job, something that is not dictated by whimsy or muses.
I try to write in the mornings, as soon as I’m up and caffeinated, and to stay in the chair as long as I can be productive.
The goal has been not to get pigeonholed. I like working in different genres. I’m gonna try to be entertaining and funny and do my usual thing.
When I’m writing, I’m in an isolation chamber. I’m not one to think about that outside world stuff when I’m writing.
As a writer, I’ve always been somebody who’s been productive and hustled hard.
If you’re a novelist, as I am in real life, you’re usually so desperate for any kind of feedback.
Graffiti writers were the most interesting people in hip hop. They were the mad scientists, the mad geniuses, the weird ones.
The trains were the beating heart of the New York graffiti scene.
I was a rapper and a DJ, and if you wanted to be involved in hip-hop, you had to be involved in the sonic, the kinetic and the visual aspects. The visual was graffiti.
The city fought a $300 million, 18-year war on graffiti. New York Mayor John Lindsay declared war in 1972, and the battle for the transit system came later.
My daughter is a very adventurous eater. I’m not the guy who sits around lamenting that all my kid will eat it is Tater Tots and chicken nuggets. With my kid, it’s more a capricious and whimsical decision-making.
If anything, I was a prodigious eater of everything that was put in front of me. That was probably the only thing my parents wouldn’t complain about.
I would like to think that I curse expertly – it’s not something that I do without considering it. I never curse without intending to; it’s not something I resort to because of inability to articulate or find the correct word.
I’ve probably done more than a thousand interviews, and I can’t remember what people asked me two months ago or two days ago.
While I’m working, I stick with music that won’t distract me – the dub stylings of Scientist and King Tubby, maybe some Beethoven string quartets.
A good cookout ought to last at least six hours; if you haven’t eaten and gotten full and gotten hungry and eaten again, you’re doing something wrong.
One thing any DJ needs in his crate, especially at a barbecue, is a selection of 15-minute-plus jams.
‘The Pushcart War’ is presented as a history of a conflict that has not yet taken place; in each edition of the book, the date on which the hostilities commenced is nudged forward.
There is perhaps no better way to appreciate the dizzying stupidity of the United States than to chat with 25 consecutive morning radio hosts.
I came up in hip-hop, where people value the ability to tell it straight.
For me, graffiti writers were always the fascinating eccentrics of hip-hop culture. What they do is secretive by definition, and not remunerative in any way.
When the kid goes to bed, you get a little bit of time for yourself and maybe your partner, so being delayed in that departure can be particularly frustrating.
Fundamentally, I’m profoundly influenced by hip-hop, so whatever I do is going to bear that seal.
Of course, the opposite of white privilege is not blackness, as many of us seemed to think then; the opposite of white privilege is working to dismantle that privilege. But my particular hip-hop generation proved to be very serious about figuring it all out and staying engaged.
My wife likes me to point out that she puts our daughter down to sleep more often than I do, which gives me time to write stupid books about it.
No one in my family has been observant for generations, but we all identify with being Jewish.
Being Jewish is a big part of my artistic sensibility and my humor… I think it gives me a certain take on the world on a literary level.