Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Marvellous Marvellous Book

We sell this book right. I think we're the only bookshop in the UK that sells it. That's because it's no longer in print. We order it direct from the author. His name is Greg. Greg Stekelman. He's also known as themanwhofellasleep, although his name's Greg. Greg Stekelman.
This is his book.
We sell this book to lots of people, and quite right too. It's wonderful, strange, psychotic, surreal, unique and very funny.
It takes the form of a journal, and centres around an outwardly normal chap (themanwhofellasleep), who is surrounded by the most extraordinary of people and situations. Are they real or just a dream? The boundaries are blurred, and life goes on. This is interspersed by some rather good cartoons (drawn by Greg), and also included within the story are his 'Things Overheard on the Tube', which is now included in Time Out magazine each week (Michael Holden's All Ears has a lot to be grateful for). It all makes for a great book, and it's ashame that not more people can get hold of it. Until now of course. because you can get it from us!
Anyway I asked Greg if he'd be interviewed to talk a bit about the book and such and this is what he had to say.

Hello Greg,

If you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin.

The obvious first question is how would you describe a year in the life of Themanwhofellasleep?

That's always a tough question. It's a funny, surreal, depressing, plotless journey through a year in the life of a character. Who is based on me, but taken to ridiculous extremes. There are doodles and drawing and exciting encounters with celebrities. There's snippets of gossip overheard on the underground and a series of quite sad jokes. It's an ideal gift for a young man going through some kind of identity crisis.

The book was taken from your hugely successful website How easy was it to turn your website into a book.

I was approached about turning the website into a book, and I think at first everyone assumed I'd just do a compendium of the website – like they have done with The Onion, or something like that. Basically, a toilet book. But I figured that I might never have the chance to publish a book again, so I thought I'd be a bit more ambitious and write a novel based on material on the website. It took me about six months to write additional material for the book and weave some vague sense of a story. Not that there's much in terms of plot or narrative, but I think the book does hold together as a novel in its atmosphere and mood. About half the book was taken from the website and half was new material. Plus I did about twenty new illustrations.

Is there intelligent life in outer space

Statistically, it's possible, but I don't think there's life in the universe anywhere near Earth, so it's a bit irrelevant. There are probably some microbes or marsupials a few trillion light years away. I doubt that they know about us.

Have you got any other projects on the go at the moment?

I've always got a few ideas going, but nothing major. I'm trying to write some comedy for the BBC and I keep getting interviewed by strange foreign magazines. I'd like to write another novel at some point, but I don't really want to repeat myself and do something similar to what I've done already. I admire people who can just churn stuff out, because if I'm not enjoying writing something, I just give up.

Your book is full of celebrities, in very normal situations. Usually they pop round to TMWFAs house for tea or to moan about everyday things. Is this how you like to see celebs.

I'm quite fascinated by celebrities, and the hierarchy of celebrity, from A-list to Z-list. I'm always interested in people on the borderline of fame, guys who are in indie bands that get a lot of coverage in the NME, but are still signing on at their local benefit office. Or former soap stars who end up working in pubs, knowing that one in every ten customers is going to recognise them. I think there's the dream that once you're famous your life is going to be totally transformed, that you leave the mortal world and enter the glossy world of Hello and Heat, never to return. And of course, fame isn't really like that. In the book, I just liked the idea of living out my fantasies and being surrounded by celebs.

You also do ‘Overheard Underground’ in Time Out magazine. How did you get that gig.

I've been doing it on my website for many years. I always used to hear funny/weird things on the tube and started collecting them on the website. And then about 4 years ago Time Out approached me about using the quotes on a weekly basis – I get almost no money for it, but it's good publicity for the website.

What did you want to be when you were younger.

A comic artist. My teenage years weren't very happy, so I threw myself into the world of American comics and superheroes. My dad's an artist – his paintings were on The Antiques Roadshow the other week – and so I grew up sketching and doodling on any spare scrap of paper. But you have to be really versatile to be a comic artist – you have to be able to draw anything from any angle, whereas I was only any good at drawing muscled men in costumes from a full-frontal view. Which gets a bit boring after a while. I still have an amazing amount of respect for good comic artists. There are a lot of crap artists, but the good ones are geniuses. It annoys me that Damien Hirst makes more money than David Mazzuchelli.

I’ve been trying to think of something similar to TMWFA, or of a similar style, but the nearest I can come up with is Mark Leyner (an author who mixes reality and absurdity in a similar way). Do you feel like a pioneer?

In some ways. I think every writer, artist or musician is quite vain and thinks that they're unique. I'm sure that Fall Out Boy or The Kooks honestly believe that they're doing something special, when clearly they aren't. I have my influences, from Woody Allen to Borges and I know that they've informed what I do, but I'd like to think the book is quite original anyway. In some ways that's a bad thing, because within the book industry it helps to have reference points, so you can say: “Oh, it's like Michael Chabon, but with a twist of Martin Amis” whereas I can't really say that. So, yes, I feel like a bit of a pioneer, if only by default.

What would be your ideal music festival line up be

That's quite hard. I don't really go to festivals nowadays. I prefer to sit at home and resent people. In my early 20s I was a massive Manic Street Preachers fan, and even though they've disappointed me for many years and I've sort of outgrown them, I'd quite like to see them playing live. I'd make them all diet for a few months first though. My favourite albums are the little lo-fi gems that Stephen Jones of BabyBird did before his band got famous, so I'd make some room for him to play a solo slot. Who else? Adam Green. The Red House Painters. Ella Fitzgerald (even though she's dead. She's still better than Leona Lewis), David Bowie, The Kinks, The Silver Jews, The Walkmen. And lots more. I'd also demand a supergroup made up of my favourite TV characters, fronted by Patrick McGoohan as The Prisoner. They'de play free-jazz.

How can we get hold of your wonderful book?

At the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. Or via my website, but I don't take Paypal. So there.

Thanks Greg.

So there you have it.

It was a horrible cold and windy day, and I have a cold and i'm feeling a bit sorry for myself.
We were busy in the shop though.

1 comment:

Flaming Nora said...

I bought this and loved it. It made me chuckle out loud on the tube, which is always a good thing.