The Questionnaire: Phillip Maciak

March 15, 2013   •   By The Questionnaire

How do you get up in the morning?

Very slowly.


Do you succumb to nostalgia?

Very quickly.


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

Like a goldfish, my writing grows relative to the size of its bowl.


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

I’m up in the air on the guest list, but I would like to get us a reservation at Alla Spina in Philadelphia.  We’d have swordfish BLTs and Negronis. They don’t serve lunch, but if I’m already resurrecting Jesus and Flannery O’Connor to have lunch with me and Spike Lee, I think the restaurant can make some arrangements.


Best piece of advice you ever received?

It helps to be lucky and smart with an extra emphasis on lucky.


Disciplined or hot dog? 

A disciple of hot dogs.


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

Henry James wants it too much. He should be suspended — just until he learns his lesson — and then readmitted because the stories are so good.


Are you okay with blood? 

Like airplane turbulence, I respect it, but I prefer not to encounter it.


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

Dear Television is my ideal audience. I imagined them, and they came into being. They will one day destroy me.


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

“Like John Muir” sounds like the kind of simile the Beastie Boys might have used: “I’m messy like John Muir!”


What is your go-to shoe?

I have a pair of Cole Haan wingtip boots. I go to them.


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

I’d like to write a critical guide to the dance moves of Ellen DeGeneres, illustrated à la Free Darko. It would include rigorous commentary on every move in her post-monologue repertoire. It would be called Ellen DeGeneres Dances Alone.  Failing that, I’d be happy to just post enthusiastic comments on her YouTube clips.


Who reads you first?  

If you’re reading something that I’ve written and you like it, odds are that my partner Melanie has been there first.


What character or story haunts you?

I think about one scene or another from Gus Van Sant’s Elephant probably once a week. Also, Hurstwood from Dreiser’s Sister Carrie really sticks with me — partly because I visualized him played by Philip Seymour Hoffmann as I was reading the novel and partly because I imagine I’d meet a similar fate if I ever impulsively moved to New York City.


Does plot matter?

Plot matters, even when it doesn’t seem to.


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

I’ve been trying to write like Lawrence Weschler for quite some time now.


Is there a literary community?

I honestly don’t know. But I think there is a critical community, even if some of them occasionally act like jerks on Twitter.


What’s the question or questions we should have asked, had we known?

More questions about people I admire and fewer questions that force me to produce witty aphorisms. I prefer listing to quipping. Though, technically, I guess that’s a quip.