1) Lounge Lizard has been compared to Henry Miller’s Sexus and Charles Bukowski’s Women. As “Henry Miller” and “Henry Chinaski” were extensions of those writers, is Max Zajack your literary alter-ego? How much of Mark Safranko is there in Max Zajack?
Absolutely, yes. Well, at least one of my alter egos. How much of Mark SaFranko is there in Max Zajack? Insofar as my life experiences go, everything. But it’s long been evident to me that any sort of autobiographical or confessional writing is essentially a lie. As soon as pen hits paper, truth is deflected at the source. Something perverse happens in the attempt to be “honest.” A writer can recount his experiences but altogether fail to capture the essence of something because so much, from so many different angles, is brought to bear on a specific experience. There’s usually a lot more to the author than emerges on the page. I would question whether even someone like Proust succeded in pulling it off.
2) Last time we met Zajack, he was a struggling writer in a tempestuous relationship, recalling John Fante’s great book Ask the Dust. This time around, he’s working for the man and shagging rings ’round him. Aside from Miller and Bukowski, does Lounge Lizard have any other direct literary influences?
Probably the biggest is Bill Naughton‘s Alfie novels, too underestimated and ignored in my opinion. Also Pedro Juan Gutierrez, the Cuban writer. We have something in common as well. Others too, I’m sure.
3) I’ve been enjoying reading your articles on The Guardian Books blog, highlighting some of your favourite under-rated writers. You even been
the subject of one yourself, “a genius overdue for recognition”. Who’s the best writer we’ve never heard of? And why?
Susan, that’s the toughest question you’ve asked. Mohammed Mrabet, the Moroccan who collaborated with Paul Bowles. You can’t find his books anymore, at least in America. He’s a great confessional writer. Seance On A Wet Afternoon by Mark McShane. Small 1961 British novel that was the basis of a great film with Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough. That one just popped into mind. Alberto Moravia, who no one reads anymore, specifically The Conformist. Here’s another: Among The Dead, a potboiler by the Frenchmen Boileau and Narcejac. Japrisot‘s One Deadly Summer. Robin Maugham‘s The Servant. My reading tastes are all over the place.
4) You recently were Guest Editor for Beat the Dust. How did you find that? How did you select the writers for that issue?
Difficult, because there was something to be admired in every submission. I have a great deal of respect for what people put down on paper. I hated to turn any of it away. In the end it was whatever struck me as good on a given day.
5) Aside from a novelist, you’re a playwright, musician, actor and short story writer. What are you working on at the moment? Can we expect to meet Max Zajack again soon?
At this moment I’m working on a couple of non-Zajack novels and two story collections. I’m always working on something — including some kind of a job.
Can we expect to meet Max Zajack again soon? I hope so. The next Zajack novel, written before Hating Olivia and Lounge Lizard, should see the light of day within the next couple of years, hopefully. That one’s been done for a long time. I’m also working on a fourth. who knows, maybe there will be a fifth if I’m around long enough.
First posted: Friday, May 9th, 2008.