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Bryan Waterman

June 14, 2011

Bryan Waterman

12 Questions is pleased to continue our celebration of Dads in June with one of the coolest dads we know. Bryan Waterman is the sort of father who will take his daughter to see Animal Collective. And then blog about it. An Associate Professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Studies at New York University’s Department of English and American Literature, Bryan co-teaches with Cyrus Patell the perennially popular class “Writing New York.”

Bryan himself has “written New York” for much of his academic career. His first book, Republic of Intellect (JHUP, 2007), examined the role members of The Friendly Club played in making New York a cultural capital in the early Republic. Inspired by their class, Bryan and Cyrus co-edited The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York (Cambridge UP, 2010). His most recent outing is a contribution to the 33 1/3 Series on Television’s Marquee Moon (Continuum, 2011), in which he locates the band and their seminal album in the context of the Downtown Scene.

Bryan is also an active member of the Twitterverse, liveblogging “Writing New York” lectures on @pwhny and enthusing about all things NYC – past and present – as @_waterman. A consummate New York family man, Bryan lives with his wife, two daughters, and a son, in SoHo.

1. What is your hometown?

Snowflake, AZ, a town in the mountains, not far from the current wildfires. It was named for a founding family, the Flakes, and for a Mormon apostle who blessed the land, whose last name was Snow. It does snow there, though.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

The first character I ever remember *really* identifying with was Harriet the Spy.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

James Franco, ’cause he’ll play just about anyone. With those nerd glasses in “Howl” it’s not too far off, if you assume that the movie version gives you a sexy upgrade.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

I don’t know about souls, but speaks to my damaged psyche? I really love Rauschenberg’s combines. “Canyon” (1959) has a very urban sensibility I can identify with but still reminds me of my Western roots.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

I’m trying to make my way through Andy Warhol’s “A: A Novel.” For the last few months I’ve been trying to get people to read Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.” And I’m really enjoying “Leaves of Grass” on Twitter via @TweetsOfGrass. It feels new.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

The album I’ve listened to most this year is Destroyer’s “Kaputt.” I also really, really love the final track on Bill Callahan’s new record: “One Fine Morning.”

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

I teach Matt Wolf’s “Wild Combination” every summer, and every time I see it the same parts make me cry.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

Neither, though I have two cats.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

That’s sort of like the comparison my mother used to make: “It’s better to be trusted than to be loved.” I found it kind of a weird choice to have to consider. But I don’t truck much with the idea of truth, at least not in any absolutist sense, so I guess I’ll go with kindness.

10.    How do you define sin?

Those among you who are sinless, cast the first stone. Whew. That was easy.

11.    How do you define virtue?

Refusing to cast a stone even if you think you’re sinless.

12.   Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

On an otherwise blank field: “It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Want to Rock n Roll.”

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

The poet Kenneth Goldsmith

Bryan Waterman
Patell & Waterman’s History of New York

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