* Welcome to the 63rd installment of The Quaz Q&A. This feature—a question-and-answer session with a person from sports/entertainment/politics/whatever—will appear every week on jeffpearlman.com. If you have any suggestions/ideas for people to speak with, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m listening.
For quite a long spell, I was no fan of Drew Magary’s.
When I thought of him, I thought of snark. Juvenile, unprofessional, mean-spirited snark. To be honest, I’m not 100 percent sure why. Yes, he was (and still is) a writer for Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber—but both are sites I’ve enjoyed and, in the case of Deadspin, contributed to. I suppose, upon further reflection, it was mindless guilt by association. I’d heard friends complain about some of the stuff he wrote, so I probably automatically digested the information without studying it myself. Stupid.
Whatever the case, I was wrong. Drew Magary is, without question, one of the best writers in the country. Yes, his stuff can be simultaneously funny and poignant. And yes, he wrote one bad-ass feature on The Bieber for GQ (Line of the year: “I have to watch my expression during the tracks where Bieber raps. His flow is slower than prostate cancer.”) What I dig most, however, is the smoothness of it all. When I wrap up reading Magary’s work, I often wonder where the time went. He has a very easy-to-embrace style; skilled and passionate, but without any over-the-top, I’m-going-to-dazzle-you-with-my-prose-and-then-slam-you-over-the-head bullshit too many of us—arrogantly believing this stuff actually matters—employ.
Drew’s latest novel, The Postmortal, details an accidental medical advancement that offers homo Sapiens extended life and never-ending youth. Though I have yet to read it (my bad), I have yet to hear anything but raves. I have no doubt of its quality.
Here, Drew talks the art of writing, the torture of the novel, why he feels comfortable slamming Peter King and why blogs are borderline obsolete. His stuff can be seen regularly on Gawker, and one can follow his Tweets here. Oh, be sure to hit up Amazon for The Postmortal (a brotha can’t go wrong for $6).
Drew Magary, welcome to The Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Drew, I’m gonna start with an unconventional one here. I was just reading KSK, and came across this: “When we last left sweaty palmed fat gland of opportunity, Peter King …” (Which followed “doughy, tasteless hockey doofus Peter King”). I’m not sure if you know Peter King; have ever met Peter King—but the man is a genuinely good and decent human being. He doesn’t talk shit, doesn’t damn other people; isn’t the crazed ego freak you seem to think he is. He loves football, loves Starbucks, writes about both—blah, blah. So, I’m genuinely curious, why the personal slams? I don’t mean this with any condemnation. Just don’t really understand it.
DREW MAGARY: I know full well that Peter is a nice guy. He’s been nice to me over e-mail, and people who have worked with him have echoed your sentiments. But my job over at KSK and Deadspin is to goof on people, with myself being target No. 1. People like Peter get the brunt of fan anger because they do a job that many fans believe they can do themselves, and fans don’t understand why the Peter Kings of the world get to go to every game and expense every Starbucks that they buy. So when Peter uses reams of column space to talk about citrusy beer or something like that, it triggers this hilarious and irrational dose of fan anger that I think a lot of football fans feel. That’s what we do at KSK. We tap into that outrage.
But I personally bear no ill will toward Peter. In real life, I hope everything goes super for him. I just wish he’d find words other than WEIRD to use.
J.P.: I’ve been told with increasing frequency that blogs are becoming obsolete. Certainly, fewer athletes, celebs, etc start them these days; preferring to go straight with Facebook or, oddly, the 140-character Tweet. Much of your career has been based off blogging. Am wondering if this worries you; if you even see it. Or is it just some stupid BS that makes no sense?
D.M.: Of course. Why start a blog now when you can start a Tumblr feed or a Twitter feed, which is much easier to maintain? Social networks have become gatekeepers of the Internet, with you venturing out into the Web only at the recco of a friend or someone else you follow. And that makes it really hard to get a Blogspot site read by a lot of people. Because most of those social network links are to big media properties. It’s really helped the major media companies stay entrenched. I’m lucky enough that I’ve become part of the small number of places that are big enough to consistently get linkage from Twitter and FB and all that. It feels like the door closed behind me.
J.P.: I hate to be this guy (by “this guy,” I mean the 10,000 guys who have told me, “I haven’t read your book yet, but I plan to …”), but I’ve heard fantastic things about The Postmortal, your debut novel. I’ve always been sorta scared of fiction—both the process, and the paycheck. I know what it is to research and write a biography, but what is it to write fiction? Meaning, how much research/outlining/planning went into it? How long did it take you to write? Where did you write it? And how tortured were you? And do you like the finished product, or is it too hard to judge your own work?
D.M.: You have to write the whole book, which blows. In my case, I wrote the first draft in a few months then took a few more months to rewrite it completely. I wrote a lot of it at the public library, even though I don’t do that as much anymore.
I don’t think it tortured me to write it. I mean, it’s not fun, but it’s not digging ditches either. If you view it as this big horrible thing, you;’ll never finish it. You just take it bit by bit and see what happens after you’ve chipped away at it for a while. In a lot of ways, writing it was the best part of the whole experience. It’s fun to get lost in your own brain for a bit. I have no qualms doing it again. For more money.
J.P.: You wrote a fantastic how-to blog on losing 60 pounds in five months. First, congrats—that’s amazing. Second, I’ve always heard losing weight is hard, keeping weight off is 8,000 times harder. Have you been able to maintain your desired weight? And how?
D.M.: I’m a little bit up from the end of my diet, by about six pounds. But I’ve kept it up because I don’t eat late and I don’t eat seconds. Otherwise, shakes and burgers all day.
J.P.: I recently had Sean Salisbury do a Quaz, and he is—clearly—a broken man. He no longer seems to blame Deadspin, but, well, I sorta do. I love the site, have written for the site, consider you guys great. But, in hindsight, did things with Sean go too far? Or, more to the point, did Deadspin take things too far? And do you think he’ll ever work in the business (in a mainstream venue) again?
D.M.: I don’t think he’ll work in the business again, but I don’t know how that’s Deadspin’s fault. First of all, PFT also reported on the cell phone pics. Secondly, he sent a picture of his dick to someone. Then he sued A.J. and tried to suppress it. Thirdly, Sean wasn’t exactly the greatest analyst in the world. If you’re good, they take you back, just like Marv Albert got taken back. I really do hope he gets his life back together and moves on, and I think he can. But Deadspin is not the reason he ended up struggling, and I think Sean would echo that sentiment.
J.P.: What’s your story? As in, how did you get here? Were you always a writer? As a kid? As a high schooler? What was the big step for you? And do you feel as if you’ve “made it” (whatever the hell that means)?
D.M.: I never feel as if I’ve made it because I don’t have a jet ski yet. I think I wanted to be a writer right around high school, where you’re young and stupid and you just read Catcher for the first time and you think you’re a fucking genius. But I didn’t want to struggle, so I went into the ad business first and if I had stayed there forever, that would have been fine by me. The goal was to have a job and support a family and it still is. Things have just gradually gotten better. Deadspin comments became KSK became Deadspin became books became GQ and on and on. I’ve tried my best to just go with it and not get too nutty over it.
J.P.: Greatest moment of your career as a writer? Lowest?
D.M.: Probably the first book deal. I was fist pumping in the parking lot like an awkward white dude.
Lowest was botching the Pat Murphy thing. I did a shitty job with it.
J.P.: Thought your Deadspin post on Justin Bieber was fantastic—and it served to remind me that fame is such bullshit. Was wondering what you think of fame. What I mean is, do you find the famous more interesting subjects than the non-famous? Do you approach celebs with any trepidation? And when you get a Bieber-esque assignment, are you psyched, or somewhat dreading it? For me, the idea of writing about Justin Bieber makes me want to vomit.
D.M.: Bieber was the first real celeb profile I ever got, and I was excited just because it’s such a ludicrous subject. It was pretty clear from the start that he had an image to maintain, so I just made do with what I could. Obviously, it’s more fun when people are open and expansive and welcoming, but people have brands to think about and I understand that even if I think it’s ineffective.
But I’ll happily write about anyone or anything if they tell me to. You never know what’s gonna end up being cool.
J.P.: I was wondering how you view ESPN—the whole damn thing. Having written for the site for a couple of years, I like many of the people. Yet I also find their journalistic standards to be, well, warped. Blah, blah. You?
D.M.: ESPN is dogshit. You know that. They’re a TV company and their job is to present TV, and they don’t even do that particularly well. They’re still in the business of overbranding themselves and labeling every segment within an inch of its life. I’m one of the old fogies who remembers the pre-Disney days and knows how good it used to be.
J.P.: Please explain why you loathe Peanuts so much. I mean, it’s Americana, no?
D.M.: It made me suicidal when I was a kid. Especially the Red Baron part.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DREW MAGARY:
• Rank in order, favorite to least: Damn Yankees, Delaware, Garry Templeton, Celine Dion, Beverly Hills Cop II, Mr. T, Alf, Brooklyn Decker, the Spice Girls, 30 for 30, SI Swimsuit Issue, Halloween, your cell phone, Bobby Meacham: Brooklyn Decker, I guess? I’m one of those people who always means to watch more 30 for 30 than I end up watching. Delaware is a Ponzi scheme with statehood status.
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? Details, please: Oh yeah! Any time I get on a plane. First thing I think about. That helps unjinx the flight.
• Five biggest jackass celebs you’ve dealt with: All I’ve got is Bieber. For real. And he was perfectly decent. But give me time. I’m sure I’ll end up being annoyed by many famous people. Wait! I’ve got it. Jeff Garlin. I had to do a podcast with him and he was a bastard.
• Should Barry Bonds be in the Hall? Why or why not …: Oh, sure. I don’t really give a shit about steroids. If the game didn’t police it, why should people who took advantage get banned? All it does is make voters look like tightasses. Everyone knows he was a Hall of Famer. The only reason to keep him out is because he’s a complete asshole, which I’m okay with but at least say that.
• Who will win the 2012 Presidential election?: Rombama, the black Mormon third party candidate.
• Why are people so fascinated by the fucking Kardashians? And can you make them go away?: They’ve managed to make themselves the sort of catchall brand for talentless people, so they’re the go-to talking point on the topic. Also, men find Kim attractive, even though she’s gotten a lot of facelifts now and she’s fading fast.
• Is it wrong for a 40-year-old single guy to date his kids’ 22-year-old babysitter?: You should know better than to do that, Pearlman.
• Would you rather live in Alabama or Arkansas?: ‘Bama. You can live on the water!
• Tell us a joke, please: Why’d the monkey fall out of the tree? Because it was dead.
• What’s grosser: Breathing in someone’s farts or peeing on your own hand?: The former. No question.
Quaz 3: Tommy Shaw (Singer/guitarist, Styx)
Quaz 4: Russ Ortiz (Former Major League pitcher)
Quaz 5: Don McPherson (Former NFL quarterback, feminist)
Quaz 6: Frank Zaccheo (MS activist)
Quaz 7: Geoff Rodkey (Daddy Daycare screenwriter, author)
Quaz 8: Meeno Peluce (Former child actor, Voyagers!)
Quaz 9: Karl Mecklenburg (Former NFL linebacker)
Quaz 10: Amra-Faye Wright (Actress, Chicago)
Quaz 11: Phil Nevin (Former Major League slugger)
Quaz 12: Jemele Hill (Columnist and commentator, ESPN)
Quaz 13: Drew Snyder (Christian Minister)
Quaz 14: Roy Smalley (Former Major League shortstop)
Quaz 15: Michael Shermer (Professional skeptic)
Quaz 16: Kathy Wagner (Actress)
Quaz 17: Travis Warren (Lead singer, Blind Melon)
Quaz 18: Scott Barnhardt (Broadway actor from The Book of Mormon)
Quaz 19: Chris Jones (Writer/Author)
Quaz 20: Cindi Avila (Celebrity chef)
Quaz 21: Crystal McKellar (Former Wonder Years actress, attorney)
Quaz 22: Dan Riehl (Conservative blogger)
Quaz 23: Prime Minister Pete Nice (Rapper, baseball historian)
Quaz 24: Glen Graham (Drummer, Blind Melon)
Quaz 25: Dave Coverly (Nationally syndicated cartoonist)
Quaz 26: Marie Te Hapuku (Opera standout)
Quaz 27: Christian Delcroix (Broadway actor)
Quaz 28: Jack McDowell (Former Major League pitcher)
Quaz 29: Jake Black (Comic book writer, cancer survivor)
Quaz 30: Brian Johnson (Major League scout, former Giants catcher)
Quaz 31: Craig Salstein (Soloist, American Ballet Theatre)
Quaz 32: John Herzfeld (Hollywood director)
Quaz 33: Jenny DeMilo (Professor escort/erotic specialist)
Quaz 34: Tina Thompson (Longtime WNBA star)
Quaz 35: Seth Davis (Sports Illustrated writer, CBS college basketball analyst)
Quaz 36: Dave Fleming (Former Major League pitcher)
Quaz 37: Mike Sharp (Former world-class cyclist, accident victim)
Quaz 38: Kathleen Osgood (Blogger, cancer survivor)
Quaz 39: Gabriel Aldort (Street musician, New York City)
Quaz 40: Lennie Friedman (Former NFL offensive lineman)
Quaz 41: Rick Arzt (Lead singer, Love Seed Mama Jump)
Quaz 42: Sean Salisbury (Former NFL QB and commentator)
Quaz 43: Mac Lethal (Rapper)
Quaz 44: Cord McCoy (Professional Rodeo star)
Quaz 45: Cameron Mills (Pastor, former Kentucky basketball star)
Quaz 46: Jim Abbott (One-handed former Major League pitcher)
Quaz 47: Alison Cimmet (Broadway and commercial actress)
Quaz 48: Linda Ensor (Tea Party activist)
Quaz 49: L.Z. Granderson (ESPN and CNN columnist)
Quaz 50: Gina Girolamo (Television executive)
Quaz 51: Lenny Krayzelburg (Former Olympic swimmer)
Quaz 52: Shawn Green (Former Major League All-Star)
Quaz 53: Ashley Poole (Singer, former member of Dream)