|photo: Shannon Corr
Like the hero of his debut novel, King Dork, and its sequel, King Dork Approximately (published yesterday by Delacorte), author Frank Portman started a punk rock band in high school, called The Mr. T. Experience. His fans will especially appreciate Portman's answer to the "book you've faked reading." He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
On your nightstand now:
Two empty beer bottles, one half-empty beer bottle, a cigarette box amp, tarot deck, pocket knife, framed autograph of Robyn Hitchcock, headphones, capo, KISS lunchbox full of unpaid bills, two plastic robot dinosaurs, glow-in-the-dark rosary, glasses, rocks, West African ceremonial dagger, War with the Newts by Karel Capek, Ulysses (seriously--long story), Three by Graham Greene, The Father Brown Omnibus, collected works of Dennis Wheatley, three books I'm supposed to blurb, a Magic 8 Ball, handcuffs, skeleton arm incense holder, human skull. Basically, it is something like the nightstand I'd have dreamed of having when I was 12.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Lord of the Rings (and Monty Python's Flying Circus) cast a long shadow over everything in my childhood, but within the shadows were also James and the Giant Peach, the Great Brain series, the Gor books, E. Nesbit, The Headless Cupid, H.P. Lovecraft, Horatio Hornblower, Judy Blume, Stephen Potter on Gamesmanship, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and Raymond Chandler, Half Magic and Mary Stewart's Arthurian books.
I worked in a public library when I was a teenager and gave myself the assignment of reading every book in the children's room in alphabetical order, and this is an experience I remember at least partly as a kind of kid lit mashup, with The Teddy Bear Habit bleeding into A Wrinkle in Time, melding with The Pushcart War and Deenie, invading The Eagle of the Ninth, and putting Dinky Hocker and Dickory Dock in Robert Heinlein's rocket ships with Matthew Looney and the fat men from space. Well, it passed the time.
Your top five authors:
This varies a lot but a typical snapshot might be: P.G. Wodehouse, Patrick Hamilton, Patricia Highsmith, Henry James, Philip Roth.
Book you've faked reading:
The Catcher in the Rye.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Flashman! by George MacDonald Fraser.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith.
Book that changed your life:
Lizard Music by D. Manus Pinkwater.
Favorite line from a book:
"Dolores came around the bed with the speed of a big ape.... She descended on me like a tree full of the same apes she looked like." --from Michael Avallone's The Tall Dolores (first drawn to my attention by Bill Pronzini's Gun in Cheek and loved ever since.)
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I would love to read Rosemary's Baby for the first time again, especially if it could be contrived that I would begin it not knowing whether the Satanic plot is real or merely Rosemary's paranoid delusion. (As hardly anyone has ever had the opportunity to do--the carefully constructed ambiguity in the novel was fatally undermined by the book's instant status as a cultural icon whose denouement is well known. No way of knowing what it would be like to read it without knowing, but I bet it'd be fun.)