Smoking With Paul Silverman
Read the Story March 15, 2007
How did “The List” arrive to you? What challenges did it present for you? Anything surprise you while writing it?
These days people talk so much about whether a given celebrity is A-list or B-list. Whether you’re top-of-mind or inner-circle or hot or not is a really big deal. Such lists exist in every industry, every sub-culture. They’re big money too. Whole media empires are based on buzz about who’s in and who’s out. Where the A-list people stay, where they eat, whose shoes they wear on their feet. Vast masses of consumers devour this stuff daily on the web, the tube and newsstands. My little story is based on giving a case of acute list-mania to someone who really is on nobody’s list—some minor media or entertainment guy who’s been put out to pasture and is down on his luck. In writing this piece, I was surprised and challenged by the task of believably linking my nameless nobody to famous personalities the reader would actually identify and accept as list-worthy. What’s my has-been doing here on the same page as a Wahlberg and an Affleck? Right away this meant I had to elevate him to being at least a semi-somebody. A guy with a touch of mystery about him, who did in fact rub elbows in a non-specific way with notorious figures like Mike Tyson.
It’s hard to be funny, especially in writing. You pulled it off brilliantly here. How would you characterize “Paul Silverman” humor?
I like to think my humor is black humor, with the black being more important than the humor. You could say my hero is struggling to climb an escalator that’s forever going down. I suppose that’s funny if you’re looking down at Earth from another planet.
Was Gwendolyn always part of this story? What role do you see her playing as the flash progresses?
There could be no story without Gwendolyn. Without Gwendolyn how could anybody feel sympathy for the protagonist? He’d be a solipsist, pure and simple, and a narcissist to boot.
On what Lists can we find you?
The delinquent parking ticket list. The occasional holiday gift list. Lots of waiting lists. Nobody’s A-list.
At the recent AWP conference, a number of writers talked about their old flames, books that have influenced them during a formative time in their lives-and ones they return to for lessons in writing and, of course, life. Discuss your old flame, both what it meant to you then and what it means to you now.
My old flame isn’t a book exactly, but a play. It’s The Cherry Orchard. I see every production that comes to town. I’ve always seen it as weirdly timeless, forever relevant to everything that’s current. This is art in a big way—a genuine and complete microcosm of the lives of us all, past, present and future. So much yearning, so much striving, so much failure to seize the day—all there in a couple of hours, right before your eyes.
About the Author:
Paul Silverman has worked as a newspaper reporter, sandwich man, olive packer and advertising creative director. One of his commercials won a Silver Lion at Cannes. His stories have appeared in Tampa Review, The South Dakota Review, The North Atlantic Review, Word Riot, In Posse Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The Timber Creek Review, The Front Range Review, The Jabberwock Review, Jewish Currents, The Coe Review, Hobart Online, Amarillo Bay, The Adirondack Review, The Paumanok Review, Subterranean Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, Lily, The Summerset Review, and others. His piece, "Getaway," published by Verbsap, is on the 2006 Million Writers Award shortlist of Notable Online Stories. Byline Magazine and The Worcester Review have nominated his stories to the Pushcart Committee. New work was recently accepted by Oyster Boy Review, Cricket Online Review and Alimentum.