Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chelsea Handler: By the Book

(from nytimes.com)


Chelsea Handler Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

The author, most recently, of “Uganda Be Kidding Me” is a fan of “Anna Karenina.” “I find Russian writers to be very charismatic storytellers; and that is where their charisma ends.”

What books are currently on your night stand?

“Ham on Rye,” by Charles Bukowski; “Barcelona,” by Robert Hughes; “Cadillac Desert,” by Marc Reisner (I will probably never read this, but my friends looked at me with disdain when they were discussing it recently. I made one of my idiotic comments about not understanding why more people didn’t settle in California earlier, to which they all turned to me and said, “Because there was no water.” The book showed up on my desk the next day, anonymously). “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin,” by Masha Gessen; “Homage to Catalonia,” by George Orwell. I recently visited Barcelona for the first time, and it is by far my favorite city in Europe. I will most likely have to dwell there at some point. My goal is to leave Los Angeles for an extended unpaid sabbatical and live in Barcelona for a minimum of three months, then return to the States and do my show on Telemundo.

And what are your favorite books of all time?

“The Fountainhead.” “Mawson’s Will.” My brother-in-law gave me that book 15 years ago, and I was so moved by it I was scared to read anything else. Human will can be stronger than any elements, and where there is fortitude, there is great achievement. “One Thousand White Women.” “Anna Karenina” is a good jumping-off point into adult reading. I find Russian writers to be very charismatic storytellers; and that is where their charisma ends.

Who are the best comic writers working today — whether for print, television or film?

David Sedaris; Matt Taibbi; Bill Maher and his entire writing staff.

And the best comic writers ever?

P. G. Wodehouse, Chaucer, Bukowski, Hitchens, Alexander Pope. A. M. Homes’s writing can be pretty hilarious. Somehow it feels unintentional, although it’s hard to imagine someone that bright not knowing that they’re funny.

What are your literary guilty pleasures?

I don’t really have literary guilty pleasures. Everything I read is with the intention to absorb more knowledge. My guilt stems mostly from my behavior after 11 p.m.

Do you have a favorite genre?

A friend of mine sent me “Perfume,” by Patrick Süskind, and I felt like I was reading a Choose Your Own Adventure, which happens to be my favorite genre.

I don’t read much nonfiction, so when I do, I feel very secretive, as if it’s something to be embarrassed of — kind of like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure at the age of 38.

Which books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

“The Reign of Henry the Eighth, Volume 1” sits next to “Yanni in Words” on my bookshelf, in the unread section. Which one I get to first will be just as much a surprise to me as to anyone else. I have every issue of The Paris Review, and I only read them when I feel like I’ve worked really hard and deserve a reward. It’s like New York pizza — hard to find a bad slice.

What are the best books you’ve read about Hollywood?

“Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History,” by Mark Bailey, is a book that I was sent an advance reading copy of and that will be released this summer. It is great Hollywood folklore in an essay format, which I am partial to, and also made me feel like I was born in the wrong era and that I do in fact have a healthy relationship with alcohol. I also really enjoyed “Kate Remembered,” the bio of Katharine Hepburn. I love the perfect arc of biographies. It represents an order I’ve never known.

What was the last book to make you laugh?

“Fifty Shades of Grey.” I mean — seriously.

The last book that made you cry?

Continue reading the main story
My own. Finishing it. I don’t claim to be any sort of literary genius, but the process of writing a book would be exponentially more enjoyable without a deadline.

The last book that made you furious?

“Mindfulness,” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. They seem like nice enough guys, but it is nearly impossible to read about staying in the moment when one keeps forgetting what paragraph one is on. Reading a book on mindfulness is a pretty good indicator that you’ve lost yours.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

A voracious one. It was a large escape and also mandatory.

What were your favorite childhood books?

Anything by Judy Blume (specifically “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Forever . . . ”). “There’s a Bat in Bunk Five.” And every single number of Sweet Valley High. The best books I can’t remember a thing about.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

The “Rights of Man.”

If you could require every American to read one book, what would it be?

“If I Did It,” by O. J. Simpson.

You can bring three books to a desert island. Which ones?

I don’t often reread books, so they would have to be three I’ve never read. Do you mean a deserted island? Or is a desert island also a thing? I’ve never read “Moby-Dick.” I’d bring “The Catcher in the Rye” because people seem to think that’s an American classic, and I don’t remember why, so I should probably revisit that. And then, maybe “Catch-22” to send myself into a real tailspin.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party for three writers. Who’s invited?

The Kardashians, Hemingway, Steinbeck and S. J. Perelman. I’d like to see the girls around some white guys. You said three writers. You didn’t say anything about the other guests.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

“Midnight’s Children.” I started it but found it impossible. A quarter of the way through, I didn’t know if the bird was a bird, or a shadow; or if I was in a lake, or on a lake; or in a boat, or if I was a ghost or if I was even in India. It was the first book I never finished, and the beginning of a bad habit of not finishing books I don’t understand. I know how revered Salman Rushdie is as an author and a sex symbol, but I mean, come on.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I’ve never read any Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. I don’t know if that’s embarrassing or just realistic.

What do you plan to read next?

I won’t read anything but the newspaper until my tour is over, and then it will be something heavy and/or historical. Either my Henry VIII book or Bristol Palin’s latest collection of haikus.


*Blogger's note: You know I do not like to put up interviews by other people but I LOVE Chelsea Handler and have read her book Are You There God, It's Me, Vodka. So I thought you may enjoy this.