Friday, September 03, 2010

Coming soon: the dumbest author reading Q and A questions of all time

How many times have you gone to an author's reading at a book store and heard someone ask a question that made you want to crawl under your chair? Groan? Cover your ears? Flee the store? Cry? Move to another neighborhood?

There's one in every crowd -- that one person who's got to raise his hand and ask Alice Munro if she's related to Marilyn. Personally, I think these questions -- and the responses -- are often the most revealing part of a Q and A because they reveal more about authors' personalities, their capacity for empathy, and their ability to think on their feet, than any of the usual questions.

I'm putting together a partial list of the daffiest Q and A questions of all time --- and no, I won't spare myself on this list because I've asked a few staggeringly dumb questions to authors over the years, including a question to Janet Malcolm that was so confounding, even to me, that she couldn't answer at all. She just stared at me. And after a while, I think she said: "Next question?''

So far I've got a list of teeth-grinding questions that people have asked to Toni Morrison, Joan Didion and others.

If you have any examples of your own, send in.

If not, stay tuned.


catklein said...

That just makes me cringe.

The Reiver said...

Walters was widely lampooned in 1981 for having posed the question, during an interview with actress Katharine Hepburn: "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?"

cactuseaters said...

So funny. Thanks for sending that one in. One of my favorite non-literary Q and A exchanges involved Jerry Seinfeld and Larry King. (the one in which Jerry asks: "Do you know who I am, Larry?''