This American Life radio staple, essayist and all-around funny man. He appears 4 pm Saturday on the Powell's stage and at the Wordstock edition of Live Wire! at 8 pm Saturday.

What are your favorite themes to write about?

Melancholy, New York City, sodomy.

Name three books on your nightstand or shelf right now.

The Collected Stories of Bernard Malamud, Old Filth by Jane Gardam, Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

What's your personal writing ritual?


The most beautiful word in the English language is:

We are so lucky to have one of the richest, most word-heavy lexicons in the world, which makes free use of the centuries and migrations and pillaging of other languages, it would be almost irresponsible to try to pick a most beautiful word, although I am partial to "counterintuitive" lately.

What authors made you want to pick up a pen in the first place and why?

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. Perfect and sublime for the young invert of a delicate nature.

Name a book you think is highly overrated. Be honest.

Again, I can't answer. It would pain me immensely to be the answer to this question. No one sets out to write a bad book.

The dumbest thing I ever did is…

Lay into an author in public print when I was green and unearnedly vicious. I met him years later and he spoke beautifully and was a supreme mensch, to boot. I felt about as big as the period at the end of this sentence.

The best piece of advice I ever got was…

Fuck your brains out (actually, that's the best piece of advice I ever gave).

What's your literary guilty pleasure?

Eating one of those KFC sandwiches where the bread is pieces of fried chicken, but using a book for a plate.

The closest I've ever come to quitting is…

Every day around 4:00.

Your cure for writer's block: the disappointment and opprobrium of others.

A dead person you'd like to meet (they'd be alive during the meeting):

Leonard Michaels.

What was your favorite book as a kid?

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.

Please paste a short paragraph from a story, poem, article, blog post, etc., you're currently working on below:

I am techically unable to do so, alas. I'm on the road.

Bonus: Snap a photo of your workspace and attach it to this message.

Even if I was at home, I wouldn't have the technical wherewithal to do this.