In what some consider detritus, Davy Rothbart sees literature. He’s the founding maestro of FOUND, the ongoing anthology of lost, tossed and forgotten items (also a bestselling book). As TOist anxiously awaits the publication of FOUND II next spring, and hopes in vain for an Ottawa Found: The Gomery Edition, there’s always Rothbart’s fiction foray, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. Blurbed with high praise by such disparate writers as Judy Blume and Arthur Miller, Rothbart’s short stories are populated by restless young men, in love, on the road and in small towns – glimpses and fragments of lives not unlike the paperstuff in his online magazine. Rothbart answered TOist’s questions about the Blue Jays, Alice Munro and the artistic downside of Canada’s clean streets via email before his Toronto stop this week.
What are you currently reading? Listening to?
I just spent a couple of weeks in Louisiana with my friend Abram, who is a high-school teacher in inner-city New Orleans, or was, I guess, and last year he worked with his students on special projects where they made books about the neighborhoods where they lived. The books are simply amazing, and all the more poignant and powerful now in the wake of Katrina. My favorites are The Combination by Ashley Nelson and Between Piety and Desire by Sam and Arlet Wylie. Check out the whole project at Neighborhood Story Project.
On tour, I’m listening to my brother Peter’s beautiful album Songs for the Long, Lonely Drive (great driving music) and also three new CD’s by three of my close friends who are all named Tim. Tim McIlrath is the lead singer for Rise Against, a fierce political hard-core band; Tim Nordwind is the bassist for OK Go, an infectious power pop group; and Tim Monger fronts a haunting, gypsy folk band called Great Lakes Myth Society. Finally, I get myself hyped before every one of our shows on tour by listening to the Metallica song One.
Favourite restaurant, and where?
Fleetwood Diner, Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is one of those sad-sack 24-hour diners filled with drifters, young punk rock kids, cab-drivers and drunks. I always eat there at around 5 a.m. before I go to bed.
Favourite building or structure in the world?
The old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, where on a crisp September day in 1987 I watched the Tigers shut out the Blue Jays 1-0 in the last game of the season to win the pennant. It was sweet.
Short-story writer you most admire? (No need to pander to Canadians with an Alice Munro answer, either.)
Charles Baxter, who was my mentor in college. His novels are perhaps more well-known than his stories, but everything I know about writing (which, granted, is not all that much), I learned from him.
Could there ever be an “Internet Found?” As in, if there perhaps was a secret, purgatorial place where fragments of electronic missives and deleted emails rested before they died, what would you expect to find there?
Since I’m on tour so much of the time, I end up in a lot of Internet cafes, and I have this game where as soon as I land at a computer, I press the CONTROL-V PASTE feature, to see what pops up– you know, the last thing someone copied-and-pasted. It’s amazing what you find that way. Let’s try it here right now! I’m at a little newsstand in Baltimore with a couple Internet stations in the back of the joint. Ok, ready? Here goes:
I got the keys back. Thank you. I changed the locks too so if you made copies you might as well throw them out. I gave Gavin the $60 so there shouldn’t be any need to contact each other again, unless you decide
Wow! That’s a pretty cool one. Control-V, man, you never know what you’ll find.
What city produces, for FOUND’s purposes, the best junk, paper ephemera and garbage – and why?
We get incredible stuff from New York City, L.A., Chicago, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, and lots of smaller towns like Macon, Georgia, Spokane, Washington, and Battle Creek, Michigan. These cities must either be really dirty, and filled with trash, or they have the most folks with their eyes to the ground, sending me their fascinating finds. Canadian cities, in my opinion, are too clean — not enough scraps of paper tumbling down the street. Though we do get great stuff from places like Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa all the time.
Is there anything TOist would be surprised or delighted to find in your garbage?
I’m a pack rat, and it’s always hard for me to throw anything away. Every little trinket and gas station receipt in my house carries with it the memory of something I’ve done, somewhere I’ve been, and I struggle to discard any of it. So my trash is pretty thin. However, one of my roommates is a wedding photographer, and I love looking through the pictures she’s tossed out. I’m the one who puts the garbage out at our house, and sometimes the neighbors see me at the curb, looking through our own trash for interesting stuff!
Davy Rothbart reads from his new book in the Underground at the Drake on Wednesday, 7pm-9pm. Admission is free.