almost everybody calls me Johnny. If my old man hadn't foisted Dickens on me as a kid (before he skipped town, gave up the pulpit, married his ex-boss, became a Messianic Jew, a vegetarian, a professional bodybuilder, and started wearing a Donald Duck visor with cardboard squares taped behind his ears), I probably would have never become a writer. Dickens helped me realize that I was surrounded by eccentrics. My family is full of Mr. Dicks and Mr. Boffins and Mrs. Havershams. Not to mention financial woes, odd coincidences, and a lot of sentiment. Dickens colored my outlook from an early age. He remains the closest thing I have to a spiritual father (though I've heard he was kind of a dick).
If I hadn't become a writer, I probably would have become an intravenous drug user or somebody who screamed at parking meters. Writing is how I articulate the existential and biochemical madness that is my brain. Beer is how I keep it in check. I am manic with a capital 'M.' I wear out my college-aged nephews. I run my three-year-old into the ground. I routinely sleep five hours a night. I can destroy a 12 pack and still play mad Ping Pong until 4am. In fact, throw in a little face-time with the kiddo and the wife, three hours of writing time, a large pizza with thin crust, and that sounds like a perfect day to me.
I am a failure at heart, but I outlast everybody. You could probably beat me at Ping Pong (though I'd probably be propping you up by 4am).
When I was 13, I found punk rock. When I was 17, I found John Fante. When I was 21, I found dogs. I have worked nearly every crappy job imaginable. Rotten-tomato-sorter. Roadkill hacker-upper. Telemarketer of sunglasses. I have loved all the wrong women (and one of the right ones). I have made too many bad decisions to count. And I'd make them all again. Regret is something I can't abide. Along with karaoke and IPAs. Okay, regret is worse.
Before I published my "debut," All About Lulu, I wrote six unpublished novels. I buried a few of them and salted the earth, which, believe me, was
more ceremony than they deserved. If nobody ever published any of my novels, I'd still be writing them in a vacuum, and I'd still feel grateful to be doing it. I'd still feel lucky to be eating fish sticks and drinking watered-down orange juice. Sometimes I miss licking those envelopes and collecting those form rejections. See, I told you I was a failure at heart. But I lasted, didn't I? Ping Pong, anyone?
I like to pick up bar tabs; I pick up a lot of them. I guess I believe in karma. One of these days, I'm gonna order a thousand beers and a shot of Jameson, and the dude next to me is gonna say, "I got this guy, Tony." Only, I hope the dude isn't a mobster or anything.
I believe in the power of stories to transform. I still think the novel is the greatest empathic window ever devised by humankind, and I think it would be a better world if everybody read at least one novel per week. Way better than if they watched Mad Men. Or played Farmville. I have one theme: reinvention. I believe people can change. I believe most people want to. I believe in forgiveness, forbearance, generosity, and humor in the face adversity.
I think the forkball is overrated. I think pool is overrated, too. But not as bad as croquet. Croquet is the worst. Everybody always wants to play croquet at a BBQ, but nobody is ever around when it's their turn. And there's always one drunk lady who keeps hitting the wrong ball. And my God, it's slooooooow. That said, I like the idea of croquet. Kind of like Faulkner.
Two things that I simultaneously love and hate are William Faulkner and NPR. Oh, and that 70s rock band Doctor Hook.
If I had to write my own epitaph, like right now, it might read
Jonathan Evison, 1968-2069.
He played fast and low.
He had a decent backhand
and a decent heart.
Mostly, he lasted.