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Getting to know: Alexander Chee.

November 11, 2010 \am\30 10:00 am

[In which WWAATD asks vapid questions culled from various teen magazines to non-vapid, non-teenager types.]

Chee, bookshelves.

Full Name: Alexander Chee
Age: 43
Height: 5’10”
Currently Live: New York, NY
Hometown: Cape Elizabeth, ME
Instruments: Clarinet, flute, voice
Car: A black ’94 Geo Prizm known as “The Cheemobile”
Secret Talent: I wake up one minute before
the alarm goes off, and turn it off. It’s like a part of me can watch it with my eyes closed and asleep.

What is the best thing about your job?
That it just feels like my life, inalienable. And
by this I mean writing.
What was your most embarrassing audition moment? At a job interview, I told them how my students said I had X-Ray vision. This in answer to, “What do you feel you’d bring to our writing program?” What my students meant by it is that they would sit down with me and I would take them back to the old beginning they changed their mind about and say “Begin here” or tell  them what the story was about before they knew, or see what they didn’t want to revise or bring forward. But  that didn’t quite get across, and afterward I felt like I’d said, Hire me, and I will know when the zombies attack first… I did get called back for the second round, so I guess they were thinking about zombie defenses for awhile.
If you could live in any past era which would it be and why? Increasingly, I think I’d like to be a Chinese explorer in the 15th Century, sailing up and down the coast of America. But as we seem to be facing an extinction level event in 2050 if we don’t lower emissions, I might prefer any era, so as to have a better chance at a natural death.
Who is your role model and why? Deborah Eisenberg. When I was waiting tables as I wrote my first novel, when it felt super shitty, I thought, Deborah Eisenberg also did this… What I love about Deborah is that she’s still so much herself, very uncompromising about that part, whether she’s a waitress or a MacArthur winner.
What do you do for fun? I love to cook and to have friends over.  I’m big on body-surfing, yoga and used bookstores, too.
Do you have a good luck charm? Yes. A chandelier. It hangs in the kitchen, where I can see it when I cook or am in the tub (we have a tub in our kitchen, in NY).
Wackiest fan encounter: There’s been some great ones. A waiter at one of my favorite restaurants, Robin Des Bois, in Brooklyn, bought me a bottle of wine because of how much he loved my novel. It was so gracious and unexpected, and he was so humble about it. I loved it.
Before I die, I want to: This is one of those jinxy questions.
When I fly I have to have: A jacket. People treat you better when you wear a blazer. Even if everything else you have on is all ripped up and dirty. And a book. I can’t get on a train or a plane without something to read.
If I had to spend $10 at my favorite fast food joint, I’d order: An In-n-Out Burger Double Double, with fries and everything on it, and a chocolate milkshake.
My coolest article of clothing: My cobalt blue suede Adidas.
My first financial splurge was: I bought this Williwear ankle-length black wool overcoat, with huge shoulderpads (it was the ‘80s) and a notch in the back under the shoulder blades, so it billowed out behind me like a cloak. I was an ‘80s Gandalf at the clubs in that one.
When friends come over, we: Sit down for a cocktail and then I cook something.
Do you like to cook? If so, what?: Korean food. My daeji bulgogi and ddukboki is as good as it gets.  And I’ve gotten lots of compliments on my Korean tacos, enough that I’m thinking of doing a taco truck for my next book tour. It would be the Cheemobile 3.0.
TV show I never miss: The Good Wife. Also 30 Rock, Glee and Mad Men.
If you could interview any celeb whom would it be and why?: Dominic Cooper, and I’d want to know why he’s so darn cute.
Anything about yourself you wish you could change? It might be my obsessive need to see the world become a better place than it is. I’d be happier if the news didn’t make me want to stab out my eyes.
I’ll eat sushi, but not: Squirrel. No squirrel.
What are your best and worst subjects in school? Best was English, worst was Calculus.
If you could be granted 3 wishes, they’d be… To see an end to Triumphalist capitalism, where money is made more important than human health or life. A cure for HIV/AIDS. And nationalized single-payer healthcare in the US made available to every citizen, just like in the rest of the industrialized world.
If I could gay-marry anyone in the world, he/she would be… my boyfriend. Here’s hoping the US gives us that chance.
Where on earth are you most dying to go? Mt. Paektu in North Korea.
What’s the last thing that made you cry? I’m sorry, my unconscious mind is blocking that out.
Do you ever wish you could just be a normal kid? No. If anything, I wanted psychic powers, the whole Escape to Witch Mountain ride.  I was always hoping to discover I was secretly an alien/child of dolphins/X-Man.  I wanted out of Normal World.
What would people be surprised to know about you? That I had a dream I was out to dinner with Britney Spears, as if were friends, and she said, I have to go to the bathroom, come with me. And I did, where she told me she had a new boyfriend. Shortly after this we started to hear about a backup dancer named Kevin Federline… it’s true.
If you had to name one song as your theme song, what would it be? Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.
Have you had a starstruck Hollywood experience? Who was it with? Yes, a few times. A favorite was with Chloe Sevigny. She lived upstairs from me in my building when I was subletting from a friend whose apartment was on the market, about 5 years ago. I paid only the maintenance in exchange for keeping the place ready to show to a realtor at a moment’s notice.  She was literally my upstairs neighbor, subletting  from Natasha Lyonne. She was interested in buying my friend’s apartment, and so I let her in, told her about the realtor, etc. She was very cool. A few weeks later in the lobby she came in as I checked the mail and she said, “Hey Alexander…” and I thought She knows my name.  I love her. I’ve even started writing a TV show for her, something I hope to get in front of her someday. And when I do, I’ll say, “Hi Chloe. It’s Alexander, from 16th St.”

FAVORITES
Favorite Actor/Actress: Catherine Keener/Jon Hamm.
Favorite Movie: Mother, by Bong Joon-ho.
Favorite Body Part: The thigh.
Favorite Singer: Rufus Wainwright.
Favorite Song: Crimson and Clover, as done by Joan Jett—I’d love Rufus to cover this.
Favorite Candy: Snickers.
Favorite Philospher: Simone Weil.
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Blackberry, from Gifford’s Ice Cream of Maine.
Favorite Sport: Cocktails.
Favorite Sports Team: The entire squad for Dieux de Stade.
Favorite Athlete: Matthew Mitcham, for being out as an Olympic diver.
Favorite Book: Right now it’s Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. But it’s been, variously, Anne Carson’s Plainwater, Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
Cell Phone or iPod: iPad.
Summer or Winter: Winter.
Ice Skating or Gymnastics: Ice Skating.
LA or New York: NY!
Skiing or Snowboarding: Skiing for sure.
Chocolate or Flowers: Both.
Dogs or Cats: A dog with a cat napping on his back.

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