Authors@Google: Gary Shteyngart


Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 23.01.2012

Transcript:
[electronic music]
>> David Ebershoff: It's a great privilege to publish Gary Shteyngart's third novel. [crowd noises] He's really risen
to the top of the literary ranks with this new book easily outshining
his last two novels. What's truly remarkable about
Gary is that he's accomplished so much while hiding
an unusual secret.
>>Gary Shteyngart: I can't read. [kissy noises]
[music]
>> Edmund White: He wants me to write a blurb. I already got it worked
out in my mind. Super Sad thing is a dystopian novel
about linear future. And the scary thing is it's already
happening. He's our greatest satirist. But he can also
write about real feelings like love.
>>Male Interviewer: What did you think of the ending of the novel?
>> Edmund White: I haven't gotten that far. Actually I've only read
just the beginning.
>>Edmund: Well, here's another homo wild.
>>Gary: I feel famous; homo famous. >>Edmund: A famous homo
>> Gary: So pretty >>Male Interviewer: He has this big teaching
position at Columbia.
>>Edmund: Columbia? They let him teach at Columbia? Oh my God. Think of
our poor kids.
>>Maria Emmighausen: He's a huge inspiration. He came from nowhere. And
he's, you know, still kind of nowhere. But he knows how
to work the literary world.
>>Male Interviewer: What was your favorite class of him?
>> Maria: I guess his seminar on how to behave at a Paris review
party.
>> Gary: Well, you know I do so much prefer early Ian McEwan to late Ian McEwan Ahem,
ahem.
>> Students together: Well, I do so much prefer the early Ian McEwan to late Ian McEwan.
>>Gary: Not so Jewish >>Male student: Mu-ha-ha
>>Gary: No. No, no. Ahem, ahem. It has to come from deep in heart. Not
from throat. James Franco, please teach this. >> James Franco: Ahem, ahem
>>Gary: See this this is real author. Less is more.
>>James Franco: Actually haven't read his new book -- Sad True --
whatever. But, you know, I don't think he actually wants
me to read it. I don't think reading is really his
thing. >> Gary: The. The. The girl.
>> James Franco: Yeah, we got that one.
>> Gary: So.
>> Gary: It's never going to be easy. Because this is Socratic
method. This is, you know, inquiry.
>> James Franco: What he really wants to do is cash in on the whole
Hollywood vampire thing. Like, but, you know, we're
going to do like this werewolf thing but they're not
wolves. They're bears. Like were-bears. >>Gary: Grrrrrrrr
>>David Ebershoff: Working with Gary has been a singular experience.
>> Male Interviewer: Because of his voice and his style?
>> David Ebershoff: No. Because he demands his advance be paid entirely in smoked meat,
pickled tomatoes, and three recently graduated débutantes from Mount Holyoke.
>> Mary Gaitskill: Not that I'm bitter because I love Gary.
>> Gary: Women can be writer, too, huh.
>> Mary Gaitskill: We try.
>> Gary: You try.
>> Mary Gaitskill: No. Our brain, you know, we just try so hard to
separate our brain from, you know.
>>Gary: Yes.
>>Mary Gaitskill: But let's face it. The only reason Gary gets
published is because he's so good looking.
>>Jeffrey Eugenides: At some point in college he took some mushrooms. Some
kind of hallucinogenic and had a vision that he was
actually an immigrant from Russia. So he began writing
from that point of view, you know, imagine what his
parents would be like. Started having an accent.
>> Gary: Such a good boy. Oh. Eat. Eat turkey.
>> Edmund: You know what you're like? You're like lady with a lap dog from the Chekhov
story
>>Gary: Who?
>> Edmund: Chekhov story. >>Gary: Guy from Star Trek writes stories?
>> Jeffrey: Gary has managed to escape the anxiety of influence by
the sheer fact that he has never read a word.
>> Male Interviewer: That must be very empowering.
>>Jeffrey: I would think so. I really admire that state of pure
ignorance.
>> Gary: You try to escape.
>> Gary: Oh, no. Oh, yeah. Gary. >>McInerney: Gary
>>Gary: McInerney. Thanks God you're here. I'm having babe
problems.
>>McInerney: Oh. Don't worry. This happens to me all the time.
>>Gary: It does? >> McInerney: Vassar or Mount Holyoke?
>>Gary: Mount Goalie-yoke >>McInerney: Hey, girls meet the author. With
his roots deep in Russian literature Shteyngart has become an important
and indispensable American writer. Super Sad True
Sexy Love Story shows him in his smart, soulful and hilarious
best.
[music]
[Applause].
>>Gary: How do you top that. [laughter]
>> Female Presenter: Hi everyone. Thank you for coming to today's authors
at Google talk. I'm really excited to have Gary
Shteyngart here with us today. Gary is local to New York,
I believe. He's local New York writer. He's a modern
day satirist. He's one of the funniest writers around in
my opinion. He's also the author of Absurdistan, The
Russian Débutante's Handbook, and most recently, Super Sad True
Love Story. He has made -- his books have made pretty
much every best of list -- year end wrap up best of list.
New York times, Washington post. I could go on and on.
>> Gary: Please do.
>> Female Presenter: And yeah, [giggles] the New Yorker actually named him one of the
20 under 40 luminary fiction writers. So I'm really
excited to have him here today.
>> Gary: It's great to be here.
>> Female Presenter: So as people were walking in, we were showing his book
trailer for Super Sad True Love Story. And where did you
come up with that idea? Is that a common thing? I've
never actually seen a book trailer before.
>>Gary: [laughing] I'm proud to say we pioneered the comical book trailer
with this thing. James Franco was a student of mine at
the Columbian University. And one day I was at Yaddo
which is a writer's colony up state. And I was drunk out
of my mind. And the two ideas sort of floated in my
head. One was illiteracy and the other was James Franco [laughter] and we
sort of combined the two and I woke up in the morning I
started writing the script to this thing. And then it
was just a matter of getting everyone else to
participate. And writers are great hams. Every writer
wants to be out there. I didn't have to ask twice. We
get Salman but he was out unfortunately. [laughter]
>>Female Presenter: [giggling] And is that a prerequisite -- is that part of your
writing process -- you have to be hopelessly drunk to get
anything done.
>> Gary: It's part of my heritage. [laughs] >>Female Presenter: All right
>>Gary: Important to be inebriated to get the juices floating.
>> Female Presenter: Stay true to your roots. >>Gary: Stay true, yeah
>>Female Presenter: So I think several people in this audience have
actually already read your book >>Gary: Wow. That's impressive.
>>Female Presenter: And we actually have the Extreme
Reading Book Club joining us from Mountain View on VC.
You can't see them. They're there; they're out there.
>>Gary: Really? Good Lord. You guys are high-tech.
>>Female Presenter: [giggling] We are. We are Google. So if -- for those of you --
in the audience who actually haven't read the book yet,
do you want to talk about it a little bit -- give a brief
synopsis.
>> Gary: Very briefly, it's a a love story set in the very near
future when a completely illiterate America is about to
fall apart so next Tuesday or so. And it can. The
previous books I've written have all been about
immigrants. Usually immigrants from Russia which is
where I was born. But in this case, the characters --
there's two characters – Lenny, who's of Russian background, and Eunice, who's of Korean
American background. And the real difference between the
two is that Lenny is an immigrant from the analog age.
He still reads books. He still cares about literature very much and
Eunice is purely digital. All she does is shop online.
In this future there is no journalism. There's no
reading. All that's left is this app-arat which is worn
as a pendant around your neck. And what it does is it
automatically ranks you wherever you go. So let's say I
walk into a bar in Chelsea, I'm immediately the 7th
ugliest man in the room [laughter] but I have the third best credit
rating or something like that. So you're constantly being judged wherever you go. And everyone
tries to improve their ratings. In fact, when Lenny
starts going out with Eunice who's really cute, his rankings
go up a lot.
>>Female Presenter: Yeah, so it's all pretty relative. I mean, you walk
into a room and depending on how many people are in the
room, you're stack ranked against them.
>> Gary: Yeah, I mean, that sort of happens without digital
technology too, but this is just a nice way to know
exactly where you are. [laughter] Stupid things.
>>Female Presenter Yeah. So I mean, there's a lot going on here. I
think, you know, we've got the global teen's account.
We've got the apparats. The fashion. And even the
language. I mean you have a lot of different acronyms. You have
JBF for one. [giggles]
>> Gary: JBF -- it means just butt fucking you. I knew a very
young person who kept saying J/K, which means just
kidding, I guess. >>Female Presenter: yeah
>>Gary: So I thought where would this go in the
future. And it would be just butt fucking you.
>>Female Presenter: And then you have things like onion jeans it's kind of
like taking what is --, you know, just like with fashion
or what is, I guess, soft porn today could it be completely
normal and mainstream tomorrow.
>> Gary: Mainstream. Well, what shocked me about onion skin jeans which are basically
completely transparent jeans women wear in the future is
that two months after this book came out the New York
times did an article about the fashion show in Paris and
they had completely transparent jeans. >>Female Presenter: Of course, yeah.
>>Gary: So I'm kind of the Nostradamus of two months from now. [laughter]
And that's the problem with writing fiction these days is
because the future -- and you guys are creating it obviously
-- it moves so fast there's no way one can write
about the present. There's no present left. You know,
I started this book in 2006. If I had been writing about
what the characters would have be about doing they
would have been on MySpace or something.
[laughter]
>> Female Presenter: You also write about the collapsing economy. And you
write about the protests going on. And I'm sure you've
gotten this question a lot. But, you know, I'm sure
people are coming with you. You predicted Occupy Wall
Street, the financial collapse. And I heard that you
started writing this book in 2006.
>>Gary: Right. I started in 2006. I'm from a failed
empire -- the Soviet Union, so I have a really good sense
of when things are going downhill. [laughter] In fact, every empire
I come to collapses. The State Department is trying to
send me to China.
>> Female Presenter: Maybe it's you. Yeah. Maybe it's wherever you go, yeah.
>> Maybe it's me. It's just me. So when I started writing it, the idea
I had was that Lehman brothers and the big banks would
collapse and the auto industry would collapse. By 2008,
all those things had happened. [chuckles] So I had to make things
worse and worse and in Super Sad it gets bad enough that
basically the whole country gets bought out by a
Norwegian hedge-fund in China. So.
>> Female Presenter: Did you think it would happen so soon.
>> Gary: I don't think it would happen so soon. I honestly
thought it would I had two or three years before these
things would come to pass. But that's not how it works
these days, you know. >>Female Presenter: yeah
>> Gary: You know, back in the day, novelists -- I'm no Tolstoy,
but when Tolstoy was writing War and Peace in 1862 a
horse was a horse and a carriage was a carriage. He
could have been writing about 1812, the Napoleonic wars,
and still, you know, life had changed obviously. The
Industrial Revolution had started, but so many things were the same.
These days, even two or three years makes a huge
difference. Tolstoy didn't have to worry about the
latest killer app, you know.
>> Female Presenter: Yeah. With, I think, for your two previous novels, you
had written Russian Jewish characters and they're both
male protagonists. And then in this book, I think, it's your
first love story. It's also your first female -- one of the
lead characters. With Eunice Park. So how did you
decide to write a love story this time.
>> Gary: Well, I thought that it would be. One of my
inspirations was Orwell's 1984. The two big novels – the great
dystopian novels – obviously are Huxley's Brave New World and
Orwell's 1984. In some ways, as a novel of ideas, Brave New World is
a lot more fascinating. He predicted so many things. SOMA which is our Valium mixed with
Klonopin mixed with I don't know what. So much of what
Huxley predicted came true. Orwell really took Stalin's
Russia and Stalin's Soviet Union and took it to 11. But I remember 1984
a lot more than I do Brave New World because of the characters
-- because it's a love story. Winston and Julia
are in love and there's this society trying to pry them
apart. What I thought I would do for this book -- they're
in love, but there's no need for a big brother because
everyone is sort of deputized to chronicle their lives
at all times. The government doesn't need to spy into your
bedroom , because everyone in this society constantly
updates where they are, what they're doing, who they're sleeping
with, what kind of sex they enjoy. And everywhere you
go these streams are everywhere around you. I sort
of thought what would an Orwellian future look like without
the government actually controlling things.
>>Female Presenter: And what made you decide to write this from a diary
and personal memoir kind of standpoint. So you have
Lenny writing the diary and Eunice -- it's kind of like
through her global teens account which is a mix of e-mail
and chat and Twitter type messages.
>> Gary: Yeah, in fact one of the challenges was because
Eunice -- well Eunice is one of the smartest people in
this future, because she can still write in complete
sentences which is very rare. Lenny calls her 'my
reluctant sentence monger' because she has a subject and a
predicate, usually, and he's really impressed by that. Again it's an
illiterate future, I have to make these characters somewhat
literate so that the literate audiences in Brooklyn and
Seattle can enjoy this book. [laughter] And that was tough to do, to
sort of walk that fine line between her being talking in
this -- what's one acronym. TIMATOV, I think I'm about to
openly vomit. [laughter] Between that and trying to write a
literary novel -- well, there are a lot of pitfalls.
>> Female Presenter: And what was it like getting inside her head
considering you've written male characters before.
>> Gary: So male, so male. [laughter] It was great. It was actually very
very liberating to be inside the mind of somebody who's
from a different mind set than my own; who's from a
different gender obviously, different race, different --
the only thing that was -- that felt familiar to me in
writing the Eunice character was that she was a daughter
of immigrants with all the nightmarish stuff that come packaged
with the crazy parents insisting you should do this and
that. Even in this future where law isn't much of a
career choice. There's only three careers left -- media,
retail and credit; those are the three careers. But her mother is still pushing her
to take the LSAT hoping she'd go to law school. [laughs]
>>Female Presenter: That sounds like Korean. I'm Korean. I'm from southern California.
I'm you know it's funny.
>> Gary: Well then. You're the perfect demographic.
>> Female Presenter: This sounds really, really familiar. I mean, aside
from the abusive father. I didn't have an abusive
father.
>> Gary: You missed out on a lot. Those are the best. They're
really great motivators. [laughter] >>Female Presenter: Oh well. [giggles] That's
too bad. >>Gary: Succeed or else. It's really
funny when I do readings often and couples come up to
me -- "I'm Lenny." And the woman is like, ""and I'm
Eunice."
[laughter]
>>Gary: And the Lenny says all she does is shop online all day
long. [laughs]
>> Gary: And she's like, "yeah, that's what I do."
>>Female Presenter: yeah, that's me
>>Gary: I'm like you guys are the best. Thank you for existing.
>> Female Presenter: And yeah, another book I read recently was My Korean
Deli by Ben Ryder Howe.
>>Gary: I want to see that; I want to read that. [laughs] I want to stream that.
>> Female Presenter: I think that's interesting because the two books I
happen to read about the Korean American culture were written by
non-Koreans. I thought that was interesting. I think
you've kind of toed the line from writing from what you
know, writing part of your experience and then also kind
of examining another culture. What did you find to be
the benefit of either approach?
>> Well, I went to Stuyvesant so Koreans [laughs] I have known all
my life. In fact, most of my best friends were Koreans
growing up because of Stuyvesant. And then my mentor was
Chang-Rae Lee, the Korean American author. So this isn't a culture I
approach with sort of -- it's one I know well and I love
Korea, I love Seoul. I think it's one of the most
fascinating cities. I like the confluence between Soviet Jewish
families and Korean American families. I think there's a lot of
similarity in that both ethnic groups have experienced a
horrific 20th century. Both are small groups within a
larger context. The Soviet Jews were a small oppressed
group within Russia, Ukraine and other places. Korea was a
once colonized group surrounded by Japan, parents who are
completely obsessed about academic achievement. I mean,
many ethnic groups obviously share that as well but I think here
there's a particular brand of insanity and the love of
cabbage is very important to both people. >>Female Presenter: Yeah, yes, absolutely
>>Gary: Although I have to say the Koreans do a much better job by adding spice
to it.
>> Female Presenter: Yeah, kimchi. It's pretty good. I can't lie.
>>Gary: Kimchi is not bad. >>Female Presenter: Yeah.
You've created an incredibly vivid world with this novel.
And is there anything that you weren't able to include
that you had dreamed of.
>> Gary: Sure. Well, I mean, the book kind of became an
obsession for me because I was starting to be sucked into
the technological world. I mean, starting with Google
really. I used to do a lot of my research by going to
the Slavic section of the New York public library in
forty-second street where I would catch the most exotic Uzbek Flus
and whatnot.
[laughter]
>> Gary: But then when Google came along, all that stopped. I
never left my home. I stopped socializing. [laughter] And so, each
new layer of the technology -- the iTelephone -- the
Facebook, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
>> Female Presenter: Yeah, I noticed you had accounts for both.
>> Gary: I started Twitter two months ago. Now I never leave
home. [laughter] So, you know, I notice that this technology was
taking over my life. It was also making it difficult to
concentrate on long form texts -- like books. It's very
difficult for me to read a 500-page book..
>>Female Presenter: Yeah
>>Gary: I constantly get books to blurb. I don't even
read them anymore. I just blurb them. It's just too hard.
>> Female Presenter: Are they turning smelly? Have you noticed that.
>> Gary: The smell is the best part; I love it. Books are like fine wines age very
well. And I have a lot of books from the Soviet Union
growing up and they smell terrific. Much better than
many of the people who sold them to us. So you know I
notice that my life was changing. Although I'm not
exactly in the, you know, what do they call -- the early
adapters -- I'm always the last adapter. Even so I
noticed my life was becoming more online. That I was
concerned with things that were very different than
before. Before I just basically wanted to find space and
time to write. But now I was sort of writing all the
time, because the moment I walk out of anything I start
typing on my iPhone. And that makes writing a book --
you're thinking, "well, I write all day long. How is
this different?" It also makes-- since books are going
digital -- it makes a different dynamic for a book. It's
no longer an object, and to some of us, a sacred object. It's now a text file. One of
the many text files that's being sent across the
Internet. So coping with this stuff has been very
difficult for me. I think most writers fall into my
camp. There are some writers that are very excited about
the technology. But I haven't seen -- what's interesting
to me also is I teach at Columbia at the MFA level and
everyone wants to be a writer there, obviously. And I
noticed that a lot of my students do not have -- the
technology is often missing from their work. So they'll
have a story where people, you know, people are out on a
date and they're not texting their friends about how the
date is going. To me, that's surprising because it seems --
>> Female Presenter: Are they disconnecting? Are they purposely not
getting smart phones.
>>Gary: I think they have this technology that there's
something sweet about this. They know how endangered
their mode of communication is by the new technology that
they almost want to go back to the kind of novel where
people would run to a pay phone and put in 25 cents and
dial their mother which never happens. [laughter]
>> Female Presenter: There is a recent article in the times by Pico Iyer about the
joy of quiet. Did you see that? Just about how with all
this technology around us, how do we disconnect. How do
we find those moments of quiet? And even at Google, we have a training class
called "managing your energy." It's like sleep more, you
know, make sure you leave -- you close your laptop and
don't check your phone when you roll over and look at it
first thing in the morning.
>> Gary: First thing in the morning, I wake up three in the
middle of the night and look at it. It's horrible. The
only thing I've found I have a little cabin up state and I go up
there. AT&T will not connect my itelephone up there. Thanks
to our country's crummy infrastructure, I'm able to
actually [laughter] -- this wouldn't happen in Korea, believe me.
I'm able to escape the constantly being connected by
doing that.
>>Female Presenter: Okay. Has your writing process changed like before
and after the technology entered it?
>> Gary: It's gotten worse. I'm -- as I said -- I'm not able.
A lot of writing is also reading. A lot of writing is
saying for three hours a day I'm not going to do anything
but read a book. And that book -- whatever it is you're
reading. It could be the classics. It could be
something by one of the brilliant young authors we have
these days. You interact with it. It becomes part of you. Reading is basically
saying I'm going to leave my own personality for awhile and enter the consciousness
of another human being. That's actually pretty
advanced technology for being 500 years old or however
old the book is. And that's becoming increasingly
hard to do to develop that sense of empathy. Because everything
is screaming for my attention. It's like I'm at a party
where everyone is saying “hey look at me; look
at me; look at me.” So my writing is hampered by my lack of sustained
reading. And that's why going up state and turning -- well
I can't turn it off. It just doesn't work. I have
to go on this mountain and on top of a bear on top of a
tree to get any kind of signal. [laughter] You know. So that's
been very instrumental to helping me read which helps
me write.
>> Female Presenter: How often do you do that.
>> Gary: I spent most of the fall up there. I teach one
semester at Columbia so this --. The next four months are going to
be here in New York. And that's -- not much is going to
get done -- a lot of distractions. And the iPhone and
New York together -- why live?
[laughter]
>> Female Presenter: So I figured we could probably start taking some
audience questions. So feel free to come up to the mics
if you have any.
>> Gary: I'll answer anything.
>>Male #1: Hi. Thanks for coming to talk to us. Really
appreciate it. I love the book. I bought three copies
so you're welcome.
[laughter] >>Gary: I'm eating steak because of you
>> Male #1: And so, after I read it, I was like it's a really brilliant
book. I went to Amazon. Let's see what other people had
to say about it. I think what surprised me is the comments
often fell into two camps. One camp was "this book is
totally unrealistic." I was like kind of misses the
point. [laughter] And then there was another camp which thought it
was supposed to be science fiction. It wasn't future
looking enough which I also thought missed the point. I
was kind of wondering if you anticipated either of those
things happening and what your reaction to that was.
>> Gary: Sure, that's a good question. You know, I grew up on science fiction completely.
Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, that was my big nerd pleasure
growing up. And I was much more in tune with technology
than I am right now. I had the first Commodore 64 on the block and the Atari 2600.
Many of you don't even know what this is, right? The Commodore 64, it was
a big deal back then and the Apple 2E all this crap. So
I loved -- you know, I loved the idea of science fiction.
On the other hand, at this point I know nothing about
science. You know, my Stuyvesant four years notwithstanding. So I had to hire an intern
who is very attractive. People call him the man-tern.
All my female friends fell in love with him. And the man-tern
had a science background, [laughter] taught me all this stuff how a cell becomes a law,
you know. But the first version I had of this book was much
more science fictiony than it is now. And my editor
at Random House, who you saw on the screen, said you
don't really know much about science do you? And it shows.
But you do know about heartbreak so write about that.
And so, the book became gradually less science fictiony.
So, and I'm glad that happened, because in a way it's
writing to my strengths. But I knew that this book would
be a little strange to position. Because there is a so-called
ghetto called literary fiction. And once your book
is slotted into that, you're not going to get any sales
at Costco. It's shocking that this made the times best
seller list. You know you really are making your audience.
Seattle, Brooklyn, Portland, parts of Boston. The research
triangle. [laughter] You know, you're limiting yourself. So, but
this is a strange kind of hybrid animal because it does
have some science fictiony elements. And a lot of
authors have been playing around with this idea of genre. Jonathan Lethem's Motherless
Brooklyn is a good example. It's a detective story but it falls more within
the realm of literary fiction. The problem with literary
fiction -- don't quote me on this except this is on
YouTube or whatever -- I find a lot of it quite dull. I mean it's
great to write about one's parents divorcing in west
Chester. It's an important topic. [laughter] And it's great to do
it in some experimental new way. You know where it's
narrated by the cat, let's say. [laughter] But I do find that genres
like science fiction and mystery are excellent in terms
of getting something new across. Thank you so much.
>>Gary: And thanks for buying all them books -- damn. Learn
by his example. [laughter]
>> Female #1: I also bought your book but it's on my Kindle. I don't
know if that's.
>> Gary: Ooh -- snap. [laughter]
>>Female #1: I was wondering -- one of the things I've been
thinking about after reading your book I find that with
my gadgets, I actually read a lot more fiction because I
can download like your New Yorker stories onto my phone
and read them on the subway and all that. I'm wondering
if you think that this -- have your books about people
pulling away from reading. If we're caught sort of in
this zone where our devices are going to become easier
for us and the industry is going to adapt so we're more
connected to reading over time or is this just downhill.
>> Gary: Well, the industry is struggling to adapt quite a bit.
I'll give you an example. 2006 when Absurdistan, my previous book came out, one
percent of all sales were electronic. This book -- it's about 35 percent.
I predict the next book will be 50 percent or
more. I'm not going to stand in front of this incoming
train and say I'm going to stop this. Because this is
going to happen. There's no question about that. At
least half of all books, if not more, if not the majority
are going to be read on devices. So I'm really happy when
people read it on their devices. It's interesting how
many people come up to me with their iPads to sign. I sign their iPads. [laughter] They
want me to sign their iPads which I find to be adorable.
A lot of the Eunices have them and the Lennys will have
the old books. And I'm fine with both people you know.
Now, this is my professor mode -- scientists show that
reading comprehension off a screen is about 9 to 10 percent less than
off the printed page. Why is that I don't know. Is it
all the distractions a screen presents. I haven't read using
a Kindle but I do read the New York Times on my iPhone.
I find that a lot more distracting obviously than --
sometimes when I get the actual paper, I realize just how
deeply I read it. Sunday spent with the Times is really
an immersive experience. I read sections – I would never even think of --
automobile -- I don't even know how to drive [laughter] yet there's
something fascinating about those, you know, the
articles. So and the other thing that I like about books
is that they are -- and this is from a commercial standpoint, too, is they're also advertisements
for themselves. I would love for an iPad or Kindle
or whatever to have a back screen where they show the title
or a picture of the book you're reading -- the cover because that also tells
other people this is what I'm reading. I used to ride the
subway all the time as a kid trying to get women to notice
me by reading Ulysses over and over and over.
[laughter]
>>Gary: Hey. You know?
>>Female Presenter: Yeah, I was going to say actually I bought your book
because I saw so many people on the subway reading it
which is interesting.
>>Gary: If there's a Kindle you don't know it's out there.
Also, this is a great way to get to know somebody. Let's
say you're out on a date and you're at somebody cease
house and the bookshelf is all Glenn Beck, so you're like, "oh,
this is going to be an interesting relationship." Sarah
Palin's new bio. Hmm. [laughter]
>> Male #2: Go see the Google digital library.
>> Gary: Yeah, I will. I'll take a look at it. What I'm
saying is those bookshelves show a lot. I guess there's
a way to do it in the future where we can walk in and there's a giant screen
that says I'm a Beck lover. So that's my word. [laughter]
>> Female #1: And what about sites like good reads. I find most of
my new books that I read and new authors because of
online connections. People post about it on Facebook or
there are social networks for it or just reading blogs
about.
>> Gary: I think that's wonderful. I think it's wonderful that
there's so many sites that unite readers. What I'm
worried about the is there's been a cost. There's a trade off
here. The cost has been the death of a lot of book
reviews. This country used to have -- right now we have
basically the New York Times book section and I think
that's it. I think the LA Times has been folded into
entertainment whatever that is. Washington Post also.
The Chicago papers are done for. You know, this country
used to support dozens of book sections. Not just that
but the New York Times Book Review -- love it or hate
it -- used to be about 80 pages long. Now it's about 25
pages long. I used to review books when I became a
writer. It's not really done anymore. Nobody gets paid
for it. There's very few serious book reviewers. There's Kakutani at the New York Times; James
Woods at The New Yorker. Talk about the culture, the cult of the amateur and a
lot of the amateurs are terrific. But there's really
been a huge fall off in how people -- people used to buy their
newspaper and go to the book section. Oh this is what so and
so, who is not just somebody who reads three or four books a year
and is now writing, I like science fiction I like this but somebody who
for a living reads hundreds of books a year and has a good
opinion about things or at least an informed opinion
one that you can completely disagree with. So that's the
trade off that bothers me. All these things like GoodReads existed, if
there was a healthy good culture of criticism and review in this
country, I'd be the happiest doe in the forest. [laughter]
But sadly, the Internet has eaten away at those things by
destroying -- by the fact there's no ad revenues from print
and hence that part has fallen apart.
>>Female #1: Thanks.
>> Male #3: Hey Gary thanks for coming. Enjoyed your book. I
only bought one copy.
>> Gary: Oh, damn you.
>>Male #3: Can you talk a little bit about, there was one passage in the
book that I thought was interesting, about how our generation like maybe under 30 or
35 wants to be thought of as special as each
person. Just sort of your thinking behind that. Is that
something you see as a pervasive issue.
>> Gary: Well, it's fascinating. The immigrants were brought
up to be very humble. At the same time you had to be
very ambitious, but you're also steeped in humility. I
remember PTA in Hebrew school when I was a kid. My
father came to see the teacher and she said, "I hear that
Gary reads Tolstoy in the original Russian.
My dad said, “no, just Chekhov. Ptui. He's not smart”. [laughter] But now
it's the very opposite. It's parents saying, “oh my kid. He's
going to work for Google some day. He's brilliant”. I
think there's -- and I think this is the social media
where -- I mean, everyone is an author today in a sense.
We're all writing a book. People are reading less and
less, but more and more people want to become writers at
places like the Columbia we have so many applications. And this is a terrible economy and it's fairly
costly to go to a school like that. And people want
to become writers quite desperately.
And the other visual artists as well, film. You know,
everybody wants to express themselves. We have this
incredible culture of self-expression. I think that's fine,
but if everyone is special then who gets to just read the
special people? You know what I'm saying? What if there
was more of a balance and there were maybe some fewer
writers but some more readers. Wouldn't that be
interesting for our society as well? And I think maybe
it's part of the culture of things like video games as
well. When you're playing a video game, you're not
passively watching something . You're in the middle of
the action. You're the hero. And how do you do that
with a book? When you open the book, you're not the
hero. There's somebody else. And that is a little hard to adapt
to. And I'm finding that as someone who twitters and
Facebooks my brains outed, you know, I find it difficult
sometimes to say, "just calm down and just be passive and
read something or engage in media that you didn't
create yourself.
>> Male #3: Do you think that's more of American problem or --
because there seems to be difference in the way you treat
the Asia countries and their ascendancy versus America in
the near future.
>> Gary: Yeah, I don't think there's a great culture of
specialness in many Asian cultures. Maybe you would
disagree. There's a collective unit that's very
important that's not as important in America which is the
most individualistic country that the world has ever
known. And that individualism has worked wonders for
us -- has allowed us to create some really incredible
products and some really incredible ideas. On the other
hand, the highway to the JFK airport could be found in Burkina Faso, at this point.
Flying from Newark Airport to Beijing Capital Airport is a very depressing
experience. You know you see where the future belongs
to. And that required the effort of a lot of people to
put together the world's greatest terminal. So I don't
know. You know, in terms of the economy I also worry
about this. I worry are we going to be a nation of Apple
and Google and some really cutting edge, creative energy
that employs wonderful amount of people but a small
amount of people. You know, what's going to happen to
the majority of this country that doesn't have this
really incredible education and it used to be that in
America, you know, even if you were -- even if you just
finished high school and you wanted to find a job, you
could get a job at a factory with health care and with
better opportunities for your children. And the book the
world of Super Sad True Love Story, that's gone. None of that
exists anymore. There's credit, retail and media and those are the
only three industries that are left in the country and they employ people
on the coasts who consider themselves to be high net worth
individuals and the rest are just left as sort of -- as a
failed part of the country. I think we're seeing that
happen already. And it's getting a little sad for me.
Super sad. [laughter]
>> Male #4: Thanks again for coming. I want to preface this by
saying I've only read an excerpt of the book in New York.
I haven't read the whole book yet.
>>Gary: It gets much worse. It goes downhill from there.
[laughter] >> Male #4: Fair enough. I am looking forward
to reading it. My understanding of the book's overall
genre might be a little clouded based on not having read
all of it but you allude to 1984 as being something of an
influence in the whole genre of dystopian novels it goes
back quite a bit. They tend to be fairly earnest. They
try to, you know, get across a fairly important message.
And my understanding is that there's certainly this
dystopian elements but there's also quite a bit of satire,
youth culture, or illiteracy that sort of thing. In your
novel how do you see those two kind of genres coming
together. Dystopian and satire. It's not something you
see very much of.
>>Gary: For a reason.
>> Male #4: I happen to -- I think George Saunders for instance I
think does it quite well.
>>Gary: Amazing.
>>Male #4: It's very powerful when done well. I'm kind of
curious what made you combine the two.
>> Gary: Thank you that's a good question. I think, you know,
trying to sell a publisher I'm going to write a dystopian
comic love story between two immigrants. They're like
okay [laughs] we'll put out a print run of eight copies. [laughter] You
mention Saunders. I'm one of the few people that works
in his genre. I love his work. I'm always paired with
him. I've done 100 readings with him in the New York
festival alone. We're considered the two people crazy
enough to work in this very strange build your own genre
right there. I think of Jonathan Swift. I think his
satire was really hilarious. There's a great Russian
tradition of satire. Russia, as a perpetually failed
state, engendered some really funny humor. Gogol, one
of my premier Russian writers was my favorites. The story that
really got me started as a writer was called “The Nose”. And it's about a
nose that jumps off the face of a official in 19th
century St. Petersburg and takes on a life of his own and
the nose puts on a uniform and a tri-cornered hat and
starts walking around St. Petersburg and wooing women and
going to church and stuff like that. And it's about 15
pages, but it captures Russia more eloquently than the
novels that are thousands of pages long. So inspirations
like that. And then, also the sort of Soviet Jewish
humor that I have. I would call it humor from the edge
of the grave, the humor of living in a country that doesn't
provide very much opportunities for joy but at the same
time trying to create your own joy by taking the
dystopian elements around you and mercilessly making fun
of them. This book was actual harder to write than
Absurdistan and the Russian Débutante's Handbook , because
those two previous novels were about the collapse of the
Soviet Union in a way. In this, you know, I was never a
great patriot of any country, when I was writing this I
was thinking, "wow, I always take America for granted and
if bad things happen to it, it happens to me as well.
It's different when it's not just some Absurdistan on
fire. It's different when it's your local Duane Reade on
fire. And that made me very sad when I wrote this.
>> Male #4: Thank you.
>> Male #5: I really loved your book. It was wonderful. I just
love your book. And I want -- you said I could ask
anything. How old were you when you came here?
>> Gary: That's a really private question. [laughter] 7 years old.
>> Male #5: 7 years old.
>>Gary: School year 1979.
>> Male #5: So you don't really have an accent.
>>Gary: No, I speak real good. I had an accent growing up but
I would practice in front of the mirror. I would say
attic and I would say addict. Because my parents only
spoke Russian in the house. A lot of Russian immigrants
do that sort of thing. Are we going to speak English and
then our child will speak their mother tongue or should
we speak the original language in which case we won't
learn any English but our child will have their mother
tongue. So I'm glad they kept Russian.
>> Male #5: So you're fluent in Russian.
>> Gary: Pretty fluent.
>> Male #5: And where is that country house.
>> Gary: It's around Hudson, New York. Feel free to come up and
stalk away. [laughter] I'm so lonely I don't know how to drive to
the grocery store.
>> Male #5: Just so nice to have you here. What else? [laughter] I love --
you know, there's so many things I'll never forget about
that book like the Staten Island is the hip new place. I
just love it. I love all the prices are geared to the Yuan. Terrific, terrific hilarious.
That's all I wanted, anyway.
>> Gary: That's very sweet. This is the kind of question I
enjoy because it makes me look good.
>>Male #5: Where do you live? [laughter]
>>Gary: 347 19th street, apartment 3G. Just come on by. Just
hanging out all day long.
>> Female Presenter: What are you working on now.
>> Gary: Well, I'm writing a memoir, because I'm 39 and
Russians live till 56 -- the men on average.
>> Female Presenter: So you only have one more year to be on that 20 under
40 list.
>> Gary: Yeah, I'm like the grandfather of that list. So sad.
>> Gary: Time flies. So a memoir which entailed a lot of
interesting stuff. I had to go to Russia with my
parents. I go back every year but they haven't been back in about thirty
years. I drag them to see their old haunts.
>> Female Presenter: Did they want to go?
>> Gary: Not really, but it was cute. They were -- they
visited all the grave sites. That's what you do. You
visit all the ancestors. Oh, and I'm working on an HBO
kind of project. Like every other author I want to do a
project I guess about Queens is what I'm looking at.
>> Female Presenter: Is it a mini series.
>> Gary: Not like a fiction series because what's happened is
so much of fiction has really moved to the screen -- to
the small screen, not the big screen -- a lot of
writers -- well, you look at shows like the Sopranos and
the Wire. The Wire is written by writers like Richard Price,
excellent novelist. And things like the Sopranos and the
Wire almost feel like a novel. They have this incredible range
and scope and they last 58 hours which is how long it
takes the average North American to read a pamphlet. [laughter] So
they're exciting. A lot of people walk home. You work
hard. You have a white-collar job. You come home. The last thing you
want to do is read 400-page text. But things like the
Wire and Soprano allow you to enjoy the narrative energy
narrative momentum on the screen without having to read.
>>Female Presenter: Yeah.
>>Male #6: Hi. Just on that last point and I think you've raised
a couple other times the difficulty of getting people to
actually read literature. Do you think there's possibility of some of the new Internet services
like Twitter, FourSquare or Facebook, or whatever
to actually be a vehicle for literature?
>> Gary: Well, you know, one's publicist says you must be on
those things to even live anymore in order to sell a book. I had to make a film
to sell a book. In fact two films. I did another one
with Paul Giamatti. Very important. All these different
ways are – it's, you used to be able -- you write a decent
book, you get good reviews and people would buy hundreds
of thousands of copies. Now to sell those hundreds of
thousands of copies you have to create -- you have to be
on every social media imaginable. If I'm doing a reading
in Camden, New Jersey -- before the intertube, five people
would show up. Now I post on Facebook and Twitter 100
more people would show up. Which is nice. You have to
do -- you have to promote the book face to face
everywhere you can. Because a lot of the NPR outlets no
longer do -- have the authors. You'll still can get on
the national ones but it used to be you'd go to a place like
Denver and there'd be five NPRs waiting to interview you.
So we have to be entirely creative to get our work to the public. Some authors are like
I'm fine with having 3,000 readers. And they're great readers and I don't
want anymore. But being, you know, small, furry,
hungry immigrant that's not going to do it for me.
I want the Times best seller list. So I put in a lot
of work. It takes about a year or more. Year and a half
to promote a book. A year to promote in the states, another
half year to promote in Europe and Asia and other countries. It kills you. And
that year and a half, I could have written another book in
the meantime. So the dynamics for the writer has
changed. Now will there be another resurgence of literature all of a sudden that's somehow
s based on these platforms? Wow that would be
spectacular. So far we've seen things in Japan. Japan is
the home of the cell phone novel written as texts. Huge
best sellers. I mean hundreds of thousands maybe
millions of copies sold. High up on the best seller lists
in Japan. It's basically people writing -- they're usually
love stories. It's usually a man and a woman texting
each other back and forth and things fall apart
which is sort of part of Super Sad True Love Story as well,
but fascinating stuff. You know are they great works of literature?
Not by my likes, but maybe I'm just too old to
appreciate it, you know? But it doesn't read well is the
problem.
>> Male #6: Yeah, that's exactly the thing I was wondering about.
The only example I've seen are Yelp reviews by Cormac McCarthy
that are really well done. [laughter]
>> Female Presenter: It's actually on Yelp?
>> Male #6: They're actually on Yelp for a lot of places in San
Francisco. And then he reposts them.
>> Gary: Is it really Cormac McCarthy? >>Female Presenter: It's not like just someone
trolling his zone? >>Male #6: It's in his style as well. They're
hilarious.
>> Gary: Twitter is going to certify me. They're going to give
me a badge so you know it's me. Very exciting. I try to
put some effort into my Facebook posts. Usually it's
about my dachshund and my twitter posts and stuff. And Twitter's actually helped me
with the screen play I'm writing. It's 140 characters.
And I'm used to being incredibly verbose. Soaking in my
own, you know, brilliant verbosity. But Twitter has made
me actually mind brevity -- think about brevity. And so,
I don't know. It's okay..
>> Male #6: Cool, thank you.
>> Gary: Thank you.
>> Female #2: Hi. I actually also moved to the states as a kid and
practiced my accent as well. So I can identify.
>> Gary: Russia?
>>Female #2: I'm from Spain but I also did.
>> Gary: Anya.
>> Female #2: Si. My question is sort of about the language and
developing the language. I know you mentioned the
acronym like when JBF and sort of looking at JK and
going from there. It's such an exaggerated, kind of an exaggerated evolution of language
that you sort of come up with or maybe not exaggerated. But just wondering
what your process was for that. Obviously JK. What did
you come up to look at that specific.
>> Gary: I wanted to hear how younger people speak. Teaching
at Columbia is very helpful. You just go out on the Quad. Everyone is JKing and
whatnot. [laughter] And you know these are -- these are Columbia University so these
are Ivy League students. I was at another Ivy
League campuses where they were discussing my book
and the student said, "you know? I really identify with Eunice
and the way she's speaks but I had a lot of trouble
understanding Lenny because he's just thinking all the time."
It's like why?
>>Female Presenter: So who does that? [laughter] >> Gary: So, who does that? So I mean, I was
just at a panel in key west and William Gibson was speaking
about, you know, the science fiction writer -- speaking
about how he captures trends. It really is a process
of osmosis. You just walk around and you hear
how people speak. One of the lines in this book was an
old woman comes out of an old apartment building in
New York and it's really cold and she says, “oh my God
it's blustery”. And that really happened. I was
living in this co-op with all these ancient people. I thought,
blustery. Who the hell uses that word anymore? You know? It's
almost like relegated to the extinct vocabulary, because
you know now it's like, “JBF, it's freezing”. And part
of freezing would probably be like 4 easing. [laughter]On the
one hand it's like oh my God I want to protect words like blustery.
On the other hand, you can't do it because language
evolves. I don't want to be the person crying big tears
over the demise of language. There's all kinds of different
persons in countries trying to protect their languages.
The French Academy always tries to keep English out. I
don't know if the Spanish Academy does the same. But
there is one. It's constantly worried about the purity
of the language, which is a very European concept trying to protect the purity of th
language whereas in America it's like “bring it on”. [laughter]
I don't know. I think it's very hard to keep things the way they
were. And as a writer who writes about today, I have to
be in tune with what is happening.
>> Female #2: Just a follow up to that. How do you then see this
particular book? Besides your other books, how do you
see this aging or being read in ten years not only
because whether the things come to pass or not but in
terms of the language because it's so specific to now or
ten years from now.
>> Gary: I think about that. Does this book have an expiration
date. I think all books have an expiration date, but the
best of them, --and I'm not saying this is the best of them – but the best do survive
because the concepts are universal. And I think this is a love story.
And love changes the way, certain things about love
changes. The fact that we're texting and tweeting our potential
mates has changed. But at the same time the actual
biological feeling is the same. The need for romance,
which is also a part of the biological neurological aspects.
Reproductive urges. All of that remains pretty much the
same. Fahrenheit 451 is a great example. The book is
about -- theoretically it's about a book burning society,
right? It's about a society that says books are the
problem and they have to be burned. But when you read it
closely, it's not really about that; it's more about people don't want to read books.
The society doesn't have to enforce the book burning.
There's very few books left. Everyone has four screens
that they have put on their walls and they're communicating with those screens all the time.
They don't have any interior lives. Everything
is led in a public way. So when Bradbury was writing this
40 years ago, he's already talking about the present
as we know it now even though much of the book seems outdated
it continues to live on in our minds.
>>Male #7: Hey, so having read your work excerpted in the New
Yorker, you know, effectively becomes short fiction, but
it's obviously part of a longer novel. And you know
written as part of the longer novel. Have you considered
writing something specifically short fiction? Would you
see that has being kind of a way of addressing the more
limited time that people have to devote to books.
>> Gary: This is one of the strangest things in publishing that
I really can't make heads or tails of. If people's
attention spans are waning and it's getting harder and
harder for people to concentrate, wouldn't you think that
the short story collections and the short story genre
would profit from this? That there would be a resurgence? The very opposite has happened.
The sales of short fiction with a few exceptions --
>> Female Presenter: Kindle singles now like a whole new genre of shorter.
>> Gary: I don't know what the sales of that are but the sales
of printed collections -- and they're also available on
kindle and E book have been plummeting completely. Good
example of that is Don DeLillo. I mean, Jesus Christ, Don DeLillo has just published
this amazing collection of short stories that had not
enjoyed the kind of sales you would except from a
Don DeLillo novel. I don't know what to make sense of
that. Why would people not want to read something much
shorter you know? And I think part of it is also that
the New Yorker -- you've mentioned the New Yorker -- they
still do short fiction, but almost every major outlet in America has
stopped doing it. The Atlantic has now just one fiction
issue. They crammed it all into one month. I don't know
how many people read that, but it used to be -- Atlantic
fiction used to be a major part of the literary landscape. So
weirdly enough short fiction hasn't benefited from this. I don't know why.
I think maybe people do still want a novel because it's a
fully immersive experience. You go into this whole crazy
world. So in a sense, it's kind of like entering an interactive World of Warlocks game except
you don't get to shoot anyone.
>> Male #7: Sure. You can obviously do that in short fiction effectively
as well. And I'm also just curious personally aside from
commercial reasons, do you have a reason for preferring
writing novels.
>>Gary: I suck at short stories. I really do. I can't shut
up. I've written maybe two or three in my life that have
been published. They're very long. They're 30, 40 pages
long. I just don't know when to stop. Actually being a
short story writer requires greater skills I think than being a
novelist because you have to create the entire world
within the span of 20 pages. I don't have those skills.
George Saunders does. So if you want to go read short
satiric fiction that completely explains the American
condition today go to him. And just buy my book anyway
and burn it or something.
[laughter]
>> Male #7: Thanks.
>> Male #8: Can I turn it around a little bit? Because it's sort
of -- yep. You've been saying how it's the audience's
not reading but my feeling is also it's hard to find
books that are compelling and they're not either written
for the 3,000 audience where it's impossible to plow
through them or they're not written to be sold in
Wal-Mart. So you know your book was actually an
exception for me.
>> Gary: Well, thank you. I'm trying to find that middle ground
between the 3,000 readers and the larger -- and the
Wal-Mart bin where those products just stack up and are
moved out etcetera . I wonder, you know, and I think about
this a lot because I teach at an MFA program and there
are about 400 MFA programs out there in America. Well,
English departments can't find students to learn about
English literature-- American literature. Creative writing
programs are overflowing. Everybody wants to write. Do
we create -- and this is the question I always ask
myself -- do we create a specific kind of writer, an MFA writer -- somebody who has
a certain approach to literature where, you know, and MFA
programs all hone the same things characters, craft etcetera, etcetera. Are we creating
stories that are too similar? I don't know. It's a good question. If you look
at that New Yorker 20 under 40 list almost every one
of us has an MFA. It's very rare for contemporary writers
. In the old days your MFA was you went to Spanish
civil war and got your leg shot off and then you wrote about
it. [laughter] Now you go to Iowa and hang around with 12 other
middle class people and then you write about that. So it's
quite a difference. Are we producing a class of people
that are writing the same thing? Well, looking at that
list of 20 under 40, I would say no. And one of the interesting
things how many of those people on those lists do come
from foreign countries and are writing about experiences
that are not within the norm of typical American background. You have Rivka Galchen who grew
up in Israel among other places. You have Téa Obreht from Yugoslavia,
the former Yugoslavia. I think ten out of 20 or something like that
were born abroad. That's what's so exceptional about
American literature as opposed to other literatures
the way we do welcome in people in from – speaking of
short stories, one of the biggest best sellers in literary fiction
was Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. That sold over a million
copies of short stories about Bengali immigrants in
Massachusetts. So it's interesting to see. I think
there is a lot of talent out there. The other thing is
we're publishing everything that moves. The publishing
industry is basically throwing darts at a board hoping something will hit. For a
reader you walk into a store you're surrounded by
gazillions of books. We're publishing something like
200,000 books. How do you choose? Except for things
like the New Yorker or the New York Times or GoodReads or whatever it is.
It's almost -- there's an embarrassment of riches. I
almost wish there were fewer writers but they wrote the
stuff you want. Which is not the Wal-Mart bin and not
the 3,000 either.
>> Male #8: Right and I hope that you don't think the answer is
working for HBO, because frankly, it's so limiting. How
many of these things can be produced in a year. And
they're driven by, you know, the audience.
>> Gary: Very few. I would say of all the writers writing -- I
think maybe 2 percent of us will actually make it into
production. The scripts are commissioned, but not
necessarily be made. I think if it's good, it's really
good. I think the Wire explained life in the American
urban underclass better than any other book -- it's not
book -- better than any book I've encountered maybe with
one exception. Random Family, Adriene Nicole LeBlanc, a woman who graduated from Brown
and spent ten years living with this south Bronx family.
Other than that I can't think of any other art form that
has allowed me to connect with a world which I know nothing
about. So hats off to the Wire and things like that.
But you're right for every Wire there's a bunch of shows
that obviously are sub par.
>> Male #8: I look forward to your next book.
>>Gary: Thank you.
>>Female Presenter: I have one last question. With all the -- you mention
that the capacity for love has not changed. But do you
ever think that with all the technology just these
succinct forms of communication and incomplete sentences
and thoughts that that's kind of leading to -- like, a
lack or inability to commit to things?
>> Sure. I mean, I think because we have so many choices
in every aspect of our lives at this point. I mean, the
iPhone is a device of choices. I want to walk to ninth
street. Well, there's four different ways to get there
and the computer is telling me you can do it through
route A, route B, route C, route D. The iPhone doesn't
have any sense of nostalgia. It doesn't remember that
the first time I kissed someone was along route B and
that makes a difference. In Super Sad, at one point, Lenny is trying to
read to Eunice as a way of creating a sense of communication between them. He's trying
to read Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being. And
she begins to cry because she just doesn't understand
what he's doing. She doesn't understand what the value
of this is. She's used to direct communications. Being
told what to do in a way, either by other people who are
on the Internet or by the giant corporations that move
the Internet along. She's unused to the idea of having a
kind of intellectual, non-pornographic encounter with
somebody. It's completely new to her. And the result is
very sad, I think, for both of them. In that part of the
book it becomes clear this relationship may not work out.
People say love will find a way. But let's hope so.
Let's hope there's actual personal encounters. Physical
encounters for God's sakes and that we don't just retreat
where it's safest. Because sitting at home with the
computer is very safe. Sure people can send -- I always
get angry tweets and Facebookings and e-mails, you know,
you're such a schmuck. This is a bad hair day, etcetera. But
it's safer than actually seeing people and falling in
love with them the old fashioned way.
>>Female Presenter: Okay. Well, thank you for joining us Gary.
>>Gary: Well, thank-you so much [Applause]