Jess Walter (BSS #163)

Jess Walter is the author of the 2006 National Book Award-nominated book, The Zero.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Hostile towards definite articles.

Author: Jess Walter

Subjects Discussed: Writing novels with protagonists groping for an identity, political allegory, growing up in Spokane, authors who fail to address grit and the working class, looking at New York from a West Coast vantage point, the influence of reporting upon fiction writing, getting access to the New York cop world, flamboyant police characters, sex with deer, Kurt Vonnegut, the conflation of patriotism and consumerism, Remy’s memory gaps, whether a novel serves as a panacea for a childish culture, Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night, the purpose of a novel, references to television in The Zero, the dash as a remote control button, children named after months, Percival Everett’s Erasure, unusual similes, Ruby Ridge, long sentences with many commas, irony without knowing, coming up with a distinctive voice, stylizing a plot contingent upon food and recipes, wasabi marinated duck and wordplay, police being used as celebrity escorts, cynicism, Jesus and the Koran, religion and destruction, writing ambiguous fiction, and being contacted by conspiracy theorists.


Correspondent: But it’s not all bad. You have, for example, the honor of the tip. The dollars constantly inserted under the martini glass.

Walter: Right.

Correspondent: So I don’t think it’s entirely a cynical view you have of the..

Walter: No, no. I’m not entirely cynical. Again, this is all — I sound so dour and political. But this is all framed in a novel that’s hopefully funny and entertaining. And I remember those ghost bars being in Lower Manhattan. I mean, I was right in the thick of Ground Zero. So you’d walk into these ghost bars and there’s no reason for firefighters not to take the bottle down and take a drink. And some of them would leave a dollar tip. Was that an ironic tip? Was that a real tip? I don’t know. But the descriptions of Ground Zero in the book. In my mind, the book starts when I arrived five days after. And so, from that moment on, it does hopefully capture everything. Some honor, some pathos, and a lot of cynicism.

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