Today’s winner is Nick Offerman, with a little help from his friends. Offerman, aka Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation,” talked to GQ this month, and while covering topics like not bothering Steve Martin and not Tweeting, he also mentioned reading David Foster Wallace and his love for Wendell Berry:
GQ: What books are you reading now?
Nick Offerman: I’m halfway through Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace—a writer who escaped my notice until a few years ago, when posthumously his final novel, The Pale King, came out. Mike Schur [the creator of “P&R” and the guy who plays Mose on “The Office”] did his thesis on Wallace and had been in touch with him, and was absolutely religious about his writing. And Mike had organized a reading in Los Angeles—excerpts from The Pale King. It was Henry Rollins, Adam Scott, myself, and a couple of other actors. That was my introduction to Wallace’s writing. And to continue in my fealty to Mike Schur, I decided to devour the massive feast that is Infinite Jest. But I am constantly reading Wendell Berry—that’s sort of my bible.
No word on whether Offerman is using the Infinite Jest liveblog, but you can watch video of The Pale King reading here. Mike Schur is also responsible for the recent Decemberists video that uses a key scene from Infinite Jest.
Offerman had more to say on Berry:
GQ: What drew you to Berry?
Nick Offerman: I was working at Steppenwolf doing Buried Child, and this great actor named Leo Burmester befriended me, and on closing night gave me a collection of Berry’s short stories. I had no idea what a profound influence he was handing me. And I ended up getting in touch with Berry, trying to get permission to adapt some of his work. And he, so far, has refused. He says that he doesn’t want to see anybody’s adaptation because all of his fiction is of a piece—all of his stories and novels continue to flesh out his fictional, rural town of Port William, which reminds me of the farm town where I grew up in. So I wrote him back and said, “I’m annoyed because I have to respect your wishes even more, but I’m so disappointed. And I said, You’re getting up there in years, so if at some point you feel okay about it, I’ll be ready.” I mean, I’d really love—if he would ever give me the green light, I feel like his body work would make a great TV series, a la Little House on the Prairie. We’ll see what happens. I’m new to the world of getting to do things that I want to.
Read the full GQ interview, then read Wendell Berry and Infinite Jest, and watch for pretty much anything with Michael Schur’s name attached to it.
And speaking of authors who invent rural towns, first runner-up for FA of the Day was John Jeremiah Sullivan, for his excellent New York Times Magazine essay on Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!
– Michael Moats