The Questionnaire: Howard Chaykin

By Howard ChaykinMarch 26, 2012

The Questionnaire: Howard Chaykin

How do you get up in the morning?

By how, do you mean do I need to be awakened?  The answer to that is no.  I awake sometime between 4:30 and 5:30-wide awake and in a cranky but fairly good humor.


Do you succumb to nostalgia?

Shamelessly and embarrassedly.  I wonder whether my obsession for historical fiction is part of this-particularly for periods of history well before my time.  on the other hand, if a (usually youngish) writer of period fiction--and it always seems to be in period fiction--uses the phrase "...Step foot..."  in lieu of "...Set foot..."  I can't promise good behavior.


Do you write long and cut, or short and backfill?

Long and cut, the sound of which leaves me feeling suddenly exposed and unclean.


How do you feel about your Wikipedia entry?

The first time I read it was the first time I was aware of this sort of thing, and it was astonishingly off-my age, my interests, my influences.  Someone-maybe my attorney-went in and cleaned it up, after which I haven't checked-so somebody could be fucking with my public image, such as it is, as I type.


Lunch with any three people who ever lived; who do you invite?

ROBERT FAWCETT, a great American illustrator, my favorite if such a thing is reasonable, and from the sound of it, an obnoxious asshole.  CHARLIE PARKER, another American great, and likely as big an asshole.  My birth father, NORMAN DRUCKER, whom I never met, and whose existence was only revealed to me some fifteen years ago.  See above in re: assholes.

And no, I'm not eating with this bunch at the same table.


Best piece of advice you ever received?

"Just stop looking at yourself naked in the mirror already."    Bruce Turner, 2011.


Disciplined or hot dog?



Have you ever been defeated by a genre?

Oh yeah.  I completely suck at horror and the like, and have even done an autobiographical piece entitled HORRORS, about my inability to deliver in that form.


Which classic author would you like to see kicked out of the pantheon?

Don't get me started.


Are you okay with blood?

My own.  Others makes me queasy.


Who is your imagined audience? Does it at all coincide with the real one?

Thirty five to fifty five year old men with too much time and enough money to indulge themselves-and the occasional woman of the same basic ilk.   Both are the same.


What country would you want to be exiled in?



What's your favorite negative emotion?

Inchoate rage, followed by shamed despair.


Is your study neat, or, like John Muir's, is your desk and floor covered in "lateral, medial, and terminal moraines"?

Me and my pal John.  My studio is mess.


What is your go-to shoe?

Uggs.  Oh god.


What's your poison?

Food.  Always has been, always will be.


What's your problem?

Occasional bitterness over not being recognized for the work I've contributed to my field-and my fat ass.


Title of the book you're probably never going to write, but would kind of like to get around to?

"Yeah, I fucked her..."  and of course, its sequel, "Yeah, I fucked her, two."


What are you so afraid of?

Being identified as an impostor and of course dying in mid-sentence.


How long can you go without putting paw to keyboard?

Two hours max.


Do you require a high thread count?

T-shirt sheets, my man.  I'm always cold, even in Southern California.


Who reads you first?

My attorney.


Sexy and dangerous, or brilliant and kind?

I used to be cute-now I look like an unmade bed.  Your call.


What character or story haunts you?

I don't haunt easily or well-but I still cringe and wince when I remember not sleeping for all of 1960 and part of 1961 after watching a TWILIGHT ZONE adaptation of Damon Knight's TO SERVE MAN.


Does plot matter?



Does age matter?



Do you prefer to write standing, or must you lie prone in a field of dandelions with a steno pad and a good pen? Or what?

My handwriting is so crude and feral, I haven't created a vowel with pen or pencil since my bar mitzvah.  PC, baby.


Who is the author you'd most like to impersonate online?

Tama Janowitz--or maybe E.L. Doctorow. 


Is there a literary community?

If there is, it should be gated.  One rimshot per questionnaire.  I don't want to wear out my welcome.


What's the question or questions we should have asked, had we known? What is the answer?

How happy are you?  Can't complain.


LARB Contributor

Howard Chaykin is a prolific comic book writer and artist; last year, for instance, he published some 20 books, including several Captain America, Iron Man and X-Men titles.


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