Saul Austerlitz.

“My desk is really just a table, purchased at IKEA a couple of years ago.  It suits my needs because it’s decent-looking and no-frills.  I have to keep it neat because there isn’t enough room to work if I don’t, so all I keep on the desk are essentials: a good set of computer speakers from Harman-Kardon, a desk lamp (from Pearl River Mart in SoHo), an inbox tray for notebooks and papers I need, and a mug full of pens.  The death’s-head sculpture is from a street fair in Miami, and serves no purpose whatsoever.

The best part of sitting at my desk is looking out the window at the street.  Ocean Parkway is busy at all hours of the day with joggers, bikers, moms with strollers, commuters heading to or coming from the subway, and people out for their morning, or afternoon, or evening constitutionals.  Every morning, as I check my email, procrastinate, and occasionally work, I am unconsciously keeping an eye out for my favorite passersby—two African-American joggers in their thirties, likely brothers, with matching headbands.  I like to ponder what line of work might allow for daily noontime runs.  My sister and I have decided that they probably own a bar together.  One of these days I’ll jog out the door myself and get some answers from them.

One last thing: behind my desk, scotch-taped to the bookshelf behind my head, I have a New Yorker cover by Adrian Tomine that particularly resonates with me.  In nine panels, a book goes from a computer sitting at a desk much like my own to serving as kindling for two homeless men on a snowy night.  Where other writers of my acquaintance found it deeply depressing to contemplate, I find Tomine’s comic oddly comforting, serving as a barbed reminder of the cosmic futility of the endeavor.  Yes, all our work will ultimately be suitable for the bonfire, but first—first, there are readers.  And that’s motivation enough for me.”

Saul Austerlitz is the author of Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy, published this month by Chicago Review Press. His work has been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Slate, The Village Voice, and other publications.

Matching headbands?  We need answers. Tomine!  Always graphically inspiring. Kate was instantly reminded of Saul’s excellent new book title after some favorable reviews. She certainly looks forward to“filling in the gaps and following the connections that link Mae West to Doris Day, or W. C. Fields to Will Ferrell.”

Another pop cultural feat?  Indeed. Saul’s latest title teeters dangerously close to the New York Magazines highbrow to brilliant” status via their discerning “Approval Matrix”. To this parochial school girl (the guilt still weighs heavy), being on this matrix must be similar to getting an A plus in school.

Does Yale hand those out?  Doubtful.


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