Facing the Firing Squad: Peter Alson
Meet Peter Alson
Peter Alson didn’t necessarily choose to be a writer. Writing and word craft was embedded early into his DNA. Alson’s uncle was the late Norman Mailer, widely regarded as the greatest American novelist/essayist of his generation. Being born under that emminent shadow likely should have spawned some monumental peculiarities. Such was not the case with Alson, one of the sanest and most well-rounded artists I’ve ever met. He’s written two well-reviewed books — Confessions of an Ivy League Bookie (1996) and Take Me to the River (2007). He’s also co-authored two other books — One of a Kind (2005) with yours truly, and Atlas (2007). Alson has also penned numerous articles for magazines, newspapers, and online sites — including Esquire, Playboy, and The New York Times Magazine. Today, he resides in Greenwich Village with his wife Alice, herself a fellow writer, and their daughter Eden. Alson’s website can be found at: www.nybookdoctor.com
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My inability to come up with witty answers to questions like this.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
That they can….Seriously, though, the thing I can’t abide is willful stupidity. There seems to be an abundance of that in the world today. There are a lot of people out there I would describe as “cocksure idiots.”
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
I’m in awe of Shakespeare. I remember when there was a theory floating around that his plays had been written by committee–it is actually hard to believe that his level of genius could reside within one man.
What living person do you despise?
There are so many despicable people in the world today, it’s tough to choose just one. I will say this, though, it’s not the true believers I really despise, nor the fanatatics, nor the dangerous nutcases, it’s the cynical manipulators, the Rush Limbaughs, the Ann Coulters, who foment rage and intolerance in exchange for money and power.
If money were not an object, what profession would you choose?
I naively thought when I chose to become a writer that it wasn’t an either/or proposition–and for a select few that is probably true. But for every J.K. Rowling and Stephen King there are fifty thousand writers surviving on Ramen noodles and hope.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
That I’ve stuck with it despite being one of those fifty thousand.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go?
There are so many places. A much easier question would be — Name a place that you’ve visited that you would never want to visit again. And eschewing New Jersey jokes, I would probably say ‘Jail.’
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician?
Anna Karenina, Nights of Cabiria, and Charlie Parker
What upsets you the most?
The selfish, greedy, ultimately self-defeating stupidity of those in power (and I’m not talking about politicians–I’m talking about the people behind the people).
What is your current state of mind?
Depressed and horrified by my fear that we won’t wake up in time to make the world a better–or even tolerable–place for my young daughter.
What bores you?
People without curiosity.
What is one thing you will not leave the house without?
What is a necessary extravagance?
What is your best virtue?
Where would you like to live?
I live on the best block in the best neighborhood in the best city in the world, so I’m not quite sure how to answer that. But I have also always wanted to live in Paris.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
How would you like to die?
Knowing that I’m about to embark on a new adventure.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
What is your motto?
“You can’t take it with you.”