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00:00:09>>From the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing
00:00:10at The Ohio State University, this is Writers Talk.
00:00:13I'm Doug Dangler.
00:00:15Justin Spring writes about twentieth century American art and culture,
00:00:19including his new biography of Samuel Steward.
00:00:22"Secret Historian: The Life and Time of Samuel Steward, professor,
00:00:25tattoo artist and sexual renegade," which is a finalist for this year's
00:00:29National Book Award in Non-Fiction.
00:00:31A 1930s graduate of The Ohio State University English department,
00:00:35Samuel Steward was a college professor, novelist, researcher with
00:00:39Alfred Kinsey on his landmark project on the sexual behavior of men,
00:00:42and friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Thornton Wilder,
00:00:47and other writers. Welcome to Writers Talk, Justin Spring.
00:00:50>>Thanks very much for having me.
00:00:52>>Ok, well let's start off in telling me about
00:00:53how you got started on this project.
00:00:56What led you to write about Samuel Steward?
00:00:59>>I had been writing about a group of artists and writers of the 1940s
00:01:03who had interesting lives, but they had actually taken away all the
00:01:09information about their private lives.
00:01:11This was when I was researching at
00:01:12Yale University back in the year 2000.
00:01:15Sam Steward kept cropping up in their correspondences, who was very
00:01:18forthcoming about his private life, he had a great sense of humor, and
00:01:21he struck me as a really unique human being because not only was he a
00:01:26novelist and poet, he was also a professor, but he was also a tattoo
00:01:30artist and he was also involved with Alfred Kinsey in sex research.
00:01:33So I was intrigued. I thought he was a man of many dimensions,
00:01:37many secret personalities, and I wanted to know more about him.
00:01:41>>So tell me about the beginnings of Steward's life.
00:01:44He's actually from Ohio.
00:01:46>>That's right. He was born in Woodsfield in Monroe County.
00:01:48He grew up in that small town, raised by his aunts.
00:01:53His father was an alcoholic and a drug addict and his mother died when
00:01:56he was very young, so he and his sister were raised
00:01:58in a boarding house in Woodsfield.
00:02:01>>And I think you've got a selection from your book
00:02:03that describes his relationship with his father?
00:02:06>>Sure. He had a troubled relationship with his father
00:02:08who was absentee most of the time.
00:02:11As Steward came into adolescence he realized that he was homosexual and
00:02:15there's a moment in his life where although he's been relatively
00:02:18lighthearted about his sexuality up to that point,
00:02:21he comes into conflict with his Dad:
00:02:26"The final break between father and son came after Steward wrote a
00:02:28sexually suggestive note to a handsome, young traveling salesman at the
00:02:31boarding house and the salesman, outraged, subsequently gave the note
00:02:34to the proprietor of the town's only restaurant, thereby making the
00:02:37proposition and the proof of it town-wide public knowledge.
00:02:41Publically shamed by his son, Samuel Vernon Steward drove the boy out
00:02:44to the countryside to discuss the matter in the privacy of his car.
00:02:47There, as Steward later recalled, his father had bawled him out.
00:02:51"I want to know what the hell a son of mine is doing writing love
00:02:53letters to another man." "I think," I said, drawing on my new
00:02:57vocabulary from Havelock Ellis, "that I am homosexual." "Don't give me
00:03:01any of your smart-aleck, high school rhetoric!" he bellowed.
00:03:04And that was the way the conversation went on for about half an hour.
00:03:07When I saw that he wanted to believe that I had not actually sinned,
00:03:10the game became fairly easy.
00:03:12I pretended to be chasten, to be horror struck at the abnormity of what
00:03:15I had proposed to the salesman, I worked it to the hilt falling in
00:03:18easily with his suggestion that perhaps I should go to see a
00:03:21professional whore, that such an experience might start me on a
00:03:23heterosexual, he said "normal," path.
00:03:27And Steward did go to the professional whore, too.
00:03:30Using his own five dollars, since his father declined to pay for it, he
00:03:33described the encounter with the girl in the neighboring town as "a
00:03:35sad, little experience which took me a long time and finally the girl
00:03:39herself had an orgasm.
00:03:41My own was brought about by thinking of my friend Carl." The matter
00:03:44might have ended there, but Steward sneaked to look at his father's
00:03:46diary a couple of weeks later.
00:03:49There, to his enormous shame, he read his father's account of the
00:03:51situation, one which noted the experience had, in his father's words,
00:03:55"cut my heart out." Much as Steward would like to discount both his
00:03:59father and his opinions, he could not deny his father's great sorrow,
00:04:02shame and embarrassment at the public revelation at his son's
00:04:05homosexuality for the facts were all too plain upon the page.
00:04:09In a letter Steward wrote to Alfred Kinsey shortly after their first
00:04:12meeting in 1950, a year and a half after his father's death by an
00:04:15overdose of amphetamines mixed with alcohol and more than twenty-five
00:04:18years after of being confronted by his father with the note to the
00:04:21traveling salesman, Steward wrote Kinsey, "I guess the psychic trauma
00:04:25of my father's rejection of me went much deeper than I realized.
00:04:29It was not until the day after you took my sexual history that I
00:04:31realized that a deep and profound psychological need it had answered.
00:04:36Two or three times during our interview I found myself thinking, "If
00:04:39only my father had been like this man and instead of his profane pilots
00:04:43gesture regarding me, he had given me the sympathy
00:04:46and comprehension that you extended.
00:04:48As a result of me meeting with you, the great dry wasteland of my
00:04:51psyche, the bitterness, the unwanted feeling,
00:04:54all have now begun to change.
00:04:56I am conscious of great alteration somewhere within."
00:04:59The note is telling, for it suggests that with the public revelation of
00:05:02his homosexuality, Steward had felt he had been cast off not only by
00:05:05his father, but also from his father's religion and with it, all that
00:05:09he had, up to that point, made him secure in the world.
00:05:12But apart from Steward's disconnection from his father and his
00:05:14religion, there was a loss of something even more important,
00:05:17a loss of connection to truthfulness.
00:05:20Steward was, despite his playful love of duplicity,
00:05:23a person for whom truth was of primary importance.
00:05:26Even if he had felt no shame about his homosexuality, Steward must at
00:05:29least have been ashamed by his own dishonesty and of course, Steward
00:05:33had no one to blame for this dishonesty but himself.
00:05:36He lived in a world where the truth about his sexuality
00:05:39was simply not acceptable and so, when pressed,
00:05:42he had done the only thing he could do. He lied."
00:05:48>>That passage is really interesting because it illustrates
00:05:50a lot of the things that go on in the rest of the book
00:05:52and it sets up a lot of the conflicts for the book.
00:05:56One of the interesting things that he did was work with Kinsey,
00:06:00as you stated in there.
00:06:02But the other thing that it highlights is you've got an enormous amount
00:06:05of material from Samuel Steward, in fact an entire attic full of stuff.
00:06:11You've got a thousand-page diary, you've got all kinds of letters,
00:06:14copious notes on his life.
00:06:17How, as a biographer, do you look at all this stuff
00:06:20and begin to say here's how I'm going to categorize it,
00:06:23here's how I'm going to walk through it.
00:06:24How do you boil it all down to a book?
00:06:27What was your process?
00:06:29>>The process.
00:06:30It took me awhile to understand Sam's personality and I came to that
00:06:33understanding by reading everything that had been left behind.
00:06:36Basically, what I began to realize was that this is a man who had as a
00:06:40kind of coping mechanism, developed a whole series of compartmentalized
00:06:44personalities he had engaged in.
00:06:49I mean, as a man who knew himself to be homosexual but was living in
00:06:52the world of a straight man, couldn't be homosexual, and couldn't be a
00:06:55college professor at the same time.
00:06:56He had to present himself by day as a straight university professor and
00:07:00basically live in what we now describe as "the closet." But what he did
00:07:05as an alternative to that horrible situation of having to pretend to be
00:07:09one thing and in reality being another was go home and write in his
00:07:13journals and diaries, keep his records and tell the absolute truth
00:07:17always about everything that he was doing.
00:07:19And in that way he could basically confess.
00:07:22He had the ability to create a private world, almost a bubble in which
00:07:26he lived, where he was absolutely truthful about everything that he
00:07:30was thinking and feeling and experiencing.
00:07:34It took me a long time to understand the profundity of that sense of
00:07:37mission and it goes across all of the things that he did.
00:07:43He kept amazing sexual records of his statistics of his lifetime sexual
00:07:47activity, but he also kept diaries.
00:07:50He wrote letters that were confessional in nature, he took photographs
00:07:53that were confessional in nature.
00:07:54He made artwork that was confessional in nature.
00:07:56So this desire to testify the truth became a kind of life mission for
00:08:01him and because there was no place that he could bring that truth out
00:08:05into the public, he kept it with him until the day that he died in most
00:08:08instances and that was the legacy that I came across in that attic with
00:08:13the eighty boxes of papers.
00:08:15>>So how did you begin to organize that?
00:08:17You said this is a linear biography, so did you set them all up?
00:08:23I'm curious about how your processes, literally the processes.
00:08:26>>Because you've got so much stuff.
00:08:27Usually you start out on something like this and you start some x
00:08:31amount of material, but it's not this broad.
00:08:35From my understanding it encompassed a tremendous amount of different
00:08:39kinds of things and different paraphernalia and letters and what not.
00:08:47What did you do with all the stuff?
00:08:49>>Unlike most biographers I was given too much information,
00:08:53most people don't have enough.
00:08:54You know if you're writing a biography of Lindsay Lohan you have about
00:08:57three pages of facts and you spread it out to two hundred pages so you
00:09:01can earn your royalty or whatever.
00:09:03But here I had eighty boxes of papers, thousands and thousands of pages
00:09:06of information, and basically what I had to do was take it all in
00:09:12and shrink it all down and put it all out as a
00:09:15five hundred fifty page manuscript.
00:09:16That was the most excruciating part of writing the book, in fact,
00:09:19because basically for years I just took notes on all the information
00:09:23that I was coming across through Sam's pages and then checking it
00:09:26across all the facts that I could find from every other person that had
00:09:28ever known him just to make sure always that he was telling the truth.
00:09:31You know, just because you have a sense that someone is telling the
00:09:33truth doesn't mean that he is, but over and over again I found Sam was
00:09:39spot on every single time.
00:09:41I have never known him to lie about anything in his sex life, you know,
00:09:46and that's an amazing thing.
00:09:51It was hundreds of books that I read along with all the papers that I
00:09:54had from Sam's library and then all of the information that was at the
00:09:57Kinsey institute and all the letters at the various libraries and
00:10:00archival research centers around the United States.
00:10:04When I finally managed to boil it all down I came up
00:10:07with a manuscript what was sixteen hundred pages long,
00:10:09which of course is not publishable.
00:10:10I mean for me it was important that it all be there because it was
00:10:13unlike any information that I had ever seen before.
00:10:15It all held together so beautifully and every page, as far as I was
00:10:19concerned, was incredibly interesting and then I brought that to my
00:10:22editor at FSG and he looked at the manuscript and he looked at me.
00:10:26I thought he had read the manuscript, he didn't.
00:10:28He didn't want to read the manuscript he told me, until I had the
00:10:31manuscript that was five hundred and fifty pages long.
00:10:35So I had to go away and lose one thousand plus pages of the manuscript.
00:10:41>>How did you do that?
00:10:43>>I spent over a year excising sections, condensing, and putting the
00:10:49manuscript through nine different drafts.
00:10:52It was like putting it on a massive diet, you don't lose the weight
00:10:55all at once, you know, and that would be unhealthy.
00:10:59You can't just chop out sections of a book and expect the book to hold
00:11:01together, so basically I was condensing it, I was boiling it,
00:11:04boiling it, boiling it down.
00:11:06>>What kind of things did you boil out when you were doing that?
00:11:09Were they just specificities about different things or was it this
00:11:13year doesn't matter so much or themes?
00:11:18>>Well think about a year in your own life, a lot of things happen to
00:11:21you in the course of a year, but at some point you have to figure out
00:11:26what the most important things were that happened to you
00:11:27during the course of that year.
00:11:29Sometimes it takes you years to figure out what those things were.
00:11:31My original concern in presenting the big manuscript and hearing that
00:11:35it wasn't going to be published as is was and that if I took out
00:11:38sections that later proved to be really important,
00:11:42I would have done Sam a disservice.
00:11:44Basically you meditate upon the shape and the contour of the life, you
00:11:48pick out the most important themes and then you do actually begin to
00:11:52excise things, which, although, tremendously interesting or exciting or
00:11:55important from your perspective, don't necessarily have to do with the
00:12:01core, the heart of the story. You basically have to take your fat,
00:12:08slow moving story and put it on a motorcycle.
00:12:11>>And that's the motorcycle.
00:12:14So you've got a really non-traditional subject in Sam Steward, who
00:12:18violated a lot of social norms gleefully, willfully sometimes, and
00:12:22you've created this traditional sort of chronological biography.
00:12:27As a biographer, did you work with other ideas?
00:12:31You talk about revising this and putting it on a diet.
00:12:35Were there times when you thought, if I just do this thematically,
00:12:39that might be something where I just pick up one sort of theme.
00:12:42Sam as a writer, Sam as a tattoo artist,
00:12:45and then weave those backwards.
00:12:47I'm curious about the presentation of the book being a very
00:12:50chronological presentation.
00:12:53>>There are one or two chapters that are not entirely linear.
00:12:56Sam developed his passion for tattooing at roughly the same time he was
00:13:00conducting a very interesting correspondence with the photographer
00:13:04George Platt Lynes and was involving himself with the writing of what
00:13:09you would look at in retrospect as a kind of underground pornography.
00:13:12There was no way that I could integrate the story of his developing his
00:13:16vocation as a tattoo artist simultaneously with describing his
00:13:21development as a writer of erotically themed material.
00:13:24So basically there are two chapters in the book that could be read.
00:13:30I mean, if Sam's life were to be looked at strictly chronologically,
00:13:33you would have to read both of those chapters together.
00:13:36I had to separate them in order to give each its due.
00:13:39>>So tell me about the way he interacted with other writers.
00:13:43He has this incredible list. There's this line at a review of it.
00:13:49"There are times" This is the New York Times book review
00:13:52from August 2010: "There are times when Steward seems
00:13:55to be carousing his way through the entire modern library"
00:13:58and it seems sort of true because he knows
00:14:02Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder.
00:14:06He goes to meet the lover of Oscar Wilde
00:14:10>>Lord Alfred Douglas.
00:14:11>>And conquests there. And you're thinking, this is a person
00:14:16who's met everybody who mattered in literature at the time,
00:14:20so what were their influences on him as a writer?
00:14:24He went from some stuff that he sort of disavowed, at least Stein
00:14:29saying he didn't really like his first novel and then he wrote a second-
00:14:35>>--Well actually the first book that he published was a
00:14:37combination of poetry and experimental fiction and he didn't much care
00:14:41for that in later years. It was actually a youthful experiment.
00:14:45He wrote it when he was an undergraduate.
00:14:48That was privately published and that wasn't successful.
00:14:52It's now become a rare book because Sam is much thought of these days,
00:14:56but at the time it was not a good project and he put it down, he
00:15:02changed his writing style, and he wrote instead a brilliant comic novel
00:15:07about life here in Columbus, in and around Ohio State University.
00:15:12So I think there was a false start there.
00:15:14He began life as a poet, but in fact when he really hit his stride he
00:15:17was a fiction writer and a very good novelist.
00:15:19That first novel is fantastic.
00:15:22>>But it's not available?
00:15:24I mean all his stuff is out of print now?
00:15:26>>Right now we are in discussions with a couple different
00:15:28publishing houses about bringing that novel back
00:15:30as a lost bit of very good writing.
00:15:36There are other novels of his which are
00:15:38in discussion now about reprinting.
00:15:39>>I was wondering about that as I was reading through it because I've
00:15:42read you also are, there's a companion piece to this biography called
00:15:45An Obscene Diary: The Visual Word of Sam Steward.
00:15:49How do you work with somebody who died?
00:15:53He doesn't seem to have anybody close to him left.
00:15:56What are the copyright issues on something like that?
00:15:59How do you work it through to bring something back
00:16:02that's been gone out of print?
00:16:04>>Well Sam's executor was also the heir to his literary estate so in
00:16:07fact there is somebody who inherited these things and that was the man
00:16:10who was holding on to all of those boxes when I visited San Francisco,
00:16:13The papers still belong to him, not to me.
00:16:15The artwork still belongs to him, not to me.
00:16:18He has actually become a good friend and I advise him on what he should
00:16:23and shouldn't do and when it became obvious that this book was going to
00:16:27be published and published well I said to him.
00:16:30It also became obvious that after FSG simply didn't have the
00:16:35wherewithal to create a large photographic insert of Sam's amazing work
00:16:39as a visual artist and statistician and record keeper, photographer.
00:16:45The visual work also has an erotic component which visually is
00:16:52problematic for a lot of bookshops, so a lot of bookshops wouldn't want
00:16:55to carry a book if it had too many erotic illustrations in it.
00:16:59So basically what I said was why don't we do a second book and that
00:17:01book will be available to people who want to see it and we won't be
00:17:04suppressing anything, we will be giving Sam his due in it's entirety.
00:17:08It will be a labor of love, there's no money to be made in it, but I
00:17:11think it should be out there and I think it
00:17:13will add ultimately to Sam's reputation.
00:17:16There's another book that I'm also bringing out, which is an outgrowth
00:17:19of the fact that I had to slim this one down so much.
00:17:22I'm bringing out an anthology of Sam's lost or unpublished writings,
00:17:25including his correspondence with Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas.
00:17:28His correspondence with George Platt Lynes, his journals and diaries,
00:17:34his homophile journalism.
00:17:37So a lot of these things are either have never been published
00:17:41and have been in archives for many years, or else they are
00:17:45in magazines so small and so rare that no average person
00:17:48would be able to look them up in a library.
00:17:50>>Lets go back to when you're talking about the visual things that he
00:17:53is doing and the visual and obscene diary.
00:17:57When you went back to publish that, how did.
00:18:01You've slimmed this one down, put it on its diet, and now you get to go
00:18:04back and I think there are 700 images in the obscene diary.
00:18:09How does that work for you as an art historian,
00:18:12someone who writes a lot about art, to have all this
00:18:15visual stuff in a separate book from this one?
00:18:18Does that impact you as a writer?
00:18:19Did it impact you later on to think of this?
00:18:23>>Basically, the idea for the visual arts book came after I had
00:18:26written the biography, but I had always had access to the visual arts
00:18:30work through the course of writing Sam's biography so my awareness of
00:18:34Sam was shaped very largely on my perception of those images and by the
00:18:38lingering or resonating quality that they had in my mind as I went over
00:18:42his written material.
00:18:44What I realized would be unfair to a reader of the biography was if
00:18:47they never had access to that material so I wanted to actually share
00:18:51what I considered to be an important component of Sam's creative work,
00:18:55his visual work with readers who were interested.
00:18:59Rather than put it up in the internet which has all kinds of problems
00:19:03attached to it, I decided I'd put it out in a limited addition book
00:19:06that would be available at libraries and special collections archives
00:19:10for the interested researcher or for the interested reader.
00:19:14>>You've written another biography, Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art.
00:19:19What interests you about writing biography?
00:19:22What is there about following a person?
00:19:24>>Well basically I lateralled out of writing about contemporary
00:19:26visual art to write about intellectuals of the 1950s and the very
00:19:31interesting world in which they lived because the 1950s was sort of the
00:19:36last moment in the visual arts world where people who were painting
00:19:44would also be intellectuals who were publishing substantially
00:19:48and also kept large numbers of records
00:19:51of their daily life activities through letters.
00:19:55You know, by the 1960s everyone's talking on the phone and a lot of the
00:19:58ephemera, a lot of the most interesting aspects of day-to-day life,
00:20:01have evaporated as a result of that and that continues
00:20:04up to the present day.
00:20:05I think people will someday realize how to archive or unarchive
00:20:09e-mails, but right now a lot of really significant biographical
00:20:14material is not accessible.
00:20:20In writing about Fairfield Porter I became excited about a man who was
00:20:23not only a visual artist, but a major critic of American art and a
00:20:28fantastic writer and a poet, who lived a very complicated private life.
00:20:33In a way, the only person who could take on a biographical subject like
00:20:36that is somebody who's confident enough with interdisciplinary study,
00:20:41not just an art historian, but also a literary man and somebody who's
00:20:48comfortable talking about family issues.
00:20:51With Sam I found another what you would describe as a brilliant
00:20:55poly-mass, somebody who is brilliant not only as a writer, but also as
00:20:59a researcher, a diarist, as a visual arts person, as a tattoo artist
00:21:03which takes on a whole other set of skills
00:21:05that we haven't even talked about now.
00:21:09He was a challenge in that sense because he's all over the map.
00:21:11He's connected to so many different worlds.
00:21:13His compartmentalized identities and persona are
00:21:16all connected to different realities.
00:21:18Pulling that back together and putting it all into one book was a huge
00:21:21challenge, but it was also really fun.
00:21:23>>And he was a tattoo artist for I think the Oakland Hells Angels.
00:21:27>>Not just the Oakland Hells Angels,
00:21:28but for the entire Hells Angels motorcycle gang.
00:21:31So Hells Angels from all over California and the West would actually
00:21:34get on their bikes and come to Oakland to have tattoos
00:21:38applied by Sam because he was the specialist.
00:21:41>>And he was willing to engage with a broad-
00:21:47>>--He could handle the Hells Angels,
00:21:48which not everybody can or could.
00:21:50But before being a tattoo artist for the Hells Angels he was a tattoo
00:21:53artist in Chicago who specialized in tattoos on sailors and the sailor
00:21:57trainees at the Great Lakes Navel Training Station, which was the great
00:22:00training base for sailors in World War II and after in the Korean War
00:22:04and up until the 1960s.
00:22:06>>Now, you've also got a link on your website to an interview with
00:22:08the biographers craft that was released via constant contact and you've
00:22:12got another to boing-boing review,
00:22:15which holds videos and stuff like that.
00:22:17Tell me about being a writer, to shift perception here a little bit,
00:22:22that's dealing with the Internet and publicity.
00:22:25Its something that sort of all writers, no matter what your text, if
00:22:28you're putting out books, you're sort of having to do this stuff now.
00:22:31I want to know your take on that.
00:22:33Is that something that you find interesting because you're interested
00:22:36in the visual arts as well, or is it something that you say, well I
00:22:39have to do this because that's what everyone's doing?
00:22:42>>Well, you know my immersion to the Internet via Secret Historian has
00:22:49been all new territory for me for the past year and it came about
00:22:52simply because the world of books and reading and writing has changed
00:22:56so much since my last biography was published years and years ago.
00:23:00Basically, most newspapers and magazines these days have extremely
00:23:04limited editorial space because their ad pages are down and many of
00:23:07these publications are going out of business.
00:23:10The new place for finding out news for most people is via the Internet
00:23:14and if you want your book to get out there as a product to sell,
00:23:18basically you have to accommodate the Internet, you have to participate
00:23:20in the Internet and I actually know that some writers' contracts from
00:23:24publishing houses now call for them specifically to agree ahead of time
00:23:28that they will establish a Facebook presence and a Twitter presence for
00:23:31themselves so that when their book comes out, they'll be able to
00:23:33broadcast news of what they've done to their potential readers.
00:23:36>>Now, you made a terrible confession earlier
00:23:39that you don't have a cell phone.
00:23:40>>That's right.
00:23:42>>That makes me assume that you're not going to do a Twitter feed.
00:23:47>>Well, not everyone Twitters off their phone.
00:23:49>>Well, what I mean is because you didn't want a cell phone because
00:23:51you said it interrupts you when you're working to a way that even as
00:23:57somebody who occasionally Twitters, as I do,
00:24:00I find that it is sort of intrusive.
00:24:03Is that something that as a writer you're holding the line on?
00:24:06>>I'll confess now that I opened a Twitter account,
00:24:07but I've never really used it.
00:24:09I have friends who are Twitterers and I know quite a few writers who
00:24:12are very accomplished Twitterers.
00:24:15I myself post regularly on my Facebook pages, not just my Justin Spring
00:24:19page, but my Secret Historian Sam Steward page and I also post
00:24:24regularly on my website,
00:24:28This is something I was guided toward by marketing specialists at
00:24:32FSG and a specialist fellow
00:24:35that I asked to participate as an outsider.
00:24:38Because, interestingly enough, FSG didn't have access to a lot of the
00:24:42websites that I wanted to represent my book to because they have a
00:24:47firewall on computers within the corporation so that people can't
00:24:52access websites with sexually themed content.
00:24:54My book is full of sexually themed content and it is of great interest
00:24:56to people who are interested in sex,
00:24:58so I had to find someway around that.
00:25:00>>Yeah. I thought of that as I was doing the research
00:25:04at work on the book. I thought, "Well, I think I'm okay on this."
00:25:11One last really quick question is that you also have
00:25:15a designation as a humorist.
00:25:19In fact you wrote, I think this is even your copy, for one book you
00:25:22read, "this is the first book he's written in bed"
00:25:25for a book about getting a cold.
00:25:27Tell me about your take on humorist writing.
00:25:31Is that something that you turn to after you've done some really
00:25:34serious research based writing, or is it something that carries
00:25:36through a lot of your life?
00:25:38>>Well let's just say what most attracted me to Sam Steward when I
00:25:41first read him was his sense of humor.
00:25:43He has a wonderful sense of humor, really just hysterical.
00:25:47I began my life as a creative person, as a cartoonist with a college
00:25:51newspaper, and I've always had an interest in humor and jokes and I do
00:25:55have a sense of humor that corresponds with Sam's.
00:25:59There's a good sense of humor at work, a quiet sense of humor at work
00:26:02for me, at least in this biography.
00:26:04There are sections in this book that are so profoundly depressing or
00:26:08unnerving that in fact I turn to these humor projects as a way of kind
00:26:12of lighting up my day.
00:26:15One is a humorous cookbook and another is a humorous book
00:26:18about how to get over your cold.
00:26:20The cookbook was actually a big success and I was on National Public
00:26:22Radio talking quite a bit about it when the book came out.
00:26:27I, like Sam, am very interested in sharing knowledge and information.
00:26:32The specific problem I tackled in the cookbook was how to cook in a
00:26:35small kitchen and I have a tiny kitchen in Manhattan.
00:26:39I grew up on a sailboat and we had a tiny kitchen on the sailboat.
00:26:42So basically I had this sort of silly topic, but I also had a lot of
00:26:47really good practical information.
00:26:48So the way to reach out to people was to share that wonderful practical
00:26:51information through humor.
00:26:54>>And the website is, right?
00:26:58And the other two books are The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook and The
00:27:01Little Cold Book for other people who would like to see it.
00:27:04Well, I thank you very much, Justin, for coming today.
00:27:07>>My pleasure, thank you for having me.
00:27:08>>And I also want to thank the Ohio State University English
00:27:10Department and the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Sexuality Studies
00:27:13Program here at OSU for bringing you here.
00:27:16And from the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing at The Ohio
00:27:18State University, this is Doug Dangler saying, keep writing.
Note : Transcripts are compiled from uncorrected captions