Patton Oswalt is one of those comedians who is seemingly everywhere, yet everything he touches he does well. Whether it’s his liberally charged stand-up taking jabs at modern-day society, the Bush era, or Hollywood (his last recorded album, My Weakness is Strong , even got a Grammy nod), acting on hit TV shows like King of Queens, or voicing Remy the rat in Ratatouille, he’s shown that he’s more than capable of bringing the funny. In his first stand-alone book of essays, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, he demonstrates that his storytelling abilities ably translate off the stage as well. Here, Oswalt talks about writing his book with Kirkus.
How’d the book come about?
It really wasn’t my decision. A lit agent in New York approached me, I was doing a lot of magazine writing, a lot of blogging, and he started to read it, and he said, “Let’s pitch a book around.” We went to a bunch of publishers, pitching a vague idea of a shadow autobiography done through humorous essays, and they all really liked that idea.
How did you narrow down the subjects you wanted to write about?
I just thought of things that happened to me that were interesting that shed a light on how limited my thinking was at that time, and how I changed going through that experience, things I wasn’t so sure about. Those are the times in life that are most significant in development and memory, so I looked for that.
Once I started writing it, the writing itself is what unlocks the code, so stuff starting coming to me as I was writing it, I put myself in that mindset. It was hard to start, then it all kind of flowed.
What did you find most challenging about writing a book?
Starting it…beginning it was hard. Once you get going it’s OK. The beginning was really rough.
How did you find this writing differed from previous experiences?
Every form of writing is completely different based on what you’re doing it for, I accept that going in and do not have any preconceived comparisons to anything else I’ve ever done… screenplays, TV shows, comics, it’s all radically different.
After this experience, do you think there is another book in you?
Yeah, I ended up having a lot of fun doing this…I would totally do that. I hope they’ll let me. I hope someone wants me to.
Patton picks his top 10 graphic novels/comics:
Ice Haven by Dan Clowes: "I know everyone likes Ghost World and, recently, Wilson, but this Winesburg, Ohio-style collection of vignettes of life in a small town holds more casual moments of quiet truth than a dozen Ozu films."
Elektra: Assassin by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkienwicz: "Writer Frank Miller and artist Bill Sienkienwicz — together like two juice wagons colliding."
Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. I and II: "Gorgeously illustrated and packed with all sorts of clever extras — the 70mm way to experience Alan Moore’s Victorian superhero romp."
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco: "The Bosnian conflict in all of its multi-angled tragedy. A tough slog, but well worth it."
Berlin by Jason Lutes: "Still ongoing, but the first two volumes should be required reading, along with Spiegelman’s Maus."
Absolute Sandman Vol. I: "Contains the run 'Season of Mists' from the acclaimed Neil Gaiman comic, plus my favorite single issue, 'Collectors'."
Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware: "Sublime."
Misery Loves Comedy: "All four issues of Ivan Brunetti’s Schizo, plus horrifying bonus material, in one of the most soberly bound, sickest collections in existence."
Black Hole by Charles Burns: "This is how I remember high school."
Absolute Kingdom Come by Mark Waid: "Gorgeous art and a touching, unsettling story. Cinematic!"
Patton's on tour. Check out the dates below to see if he's hitting your town:
Jan. 4: City Arts & Lectures/Herbst Theater, San Francisco
Jan. 6: Borders/Wall St., New York
Jan. 8: WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Jan. 15: BookPeople, Austin, Texas
Jan. 22: Brookline Booksmith @ Coolidge Corner Theater, Boston
For more dates, go to pattonoswalt.com.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
Scribner / Jan. 4, 2011 / 9781439149089 / $24.95
Photo by Ryan Russell