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Rosie Schaap

March 14, 2012

Rosie Schaap

If you follow us on Twitter, you know that we 12?s editors enjoy a cocktail now and then. So it seems perfectly natural that we’d want to feature New York Times Magazine columnist Rosie Schaap. Rosie writes the monthly “Drink” column for NYTM, in which she ruminates about drinking not just as a pastime, but as a culture. Whether it’s finding cocktail recipes from the 1800s or contemplating the significance of the martini to W. H. Auden’s oeuvre, in Rosie’s hands drinking takes on the aura of a fine art; something that elevates the spirits and stimulates the mind. When she’s not writing about drinking, she’s usually writing about poetry or soccer, occasionally both at the same time. You can also hear her work on This American Life.

Rosie has also been a bartender, a fortuneteller, a librarian at a paranormal society, an English teacher, an editor, a preacher, a community organizer, and a manager of homeless shelters; a checkered  past that’s sure to make her forthcoming memoir, Drinking With Men (Riverhead Books), a bracing read.

Rosie was photographer Michael Sharkey’s response to Question 13, and we’re delighted he brought her to our attention. Pour yourself something delicious, and read on.

1. What is your hometown?

I was born, and largely raised, in Manhattan. (The one in New York, not Kansas).

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Always and forever Mary Lennox, the heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book, “The Secret Garden”. It was the first book with which I fell deeply in love, and I still read it annually—or more, as needed. (Bonus info: Mary’s pal, Dickon, was my first fictional crush. If you happen to be from the Yorkshire moors and have an unusually good rapport with animals, I thought you should know that).

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

I have a potent streak of indignation; whenever it manifests, I think Margaret Dumont, the great foil of many a Marx Brothers movie, would’ve been just right as me.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

So many!  In visual art: Shaker gift drawings and Persian miniature paintings are longtime loves. A painting I own called “Satanarchy,” by my friend Matt Connors, gives me perpetual pleasure. In literature: Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey…” is my go-to for restoration, for remembering to me, in all their worthy difficulty, both my own humanity and the humanity of others; Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” galvanizes me when I get complacent. In music: I can’t get enough of the pianist Alfred Brendel playing just about anything (but especially Beethoven and Schumann). Same goes for Louis Armstrong (minus the Beethoven and Schumann, obviously): I will never tire of listening to him, and always feel revived when I do. I’m also a hopeless tableware fetishist: an antique toast rack, a beautifully painted dessert plate, a delicate old cordial glass all can make my heart beat faster; does that count?

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

I like to tackle one big novel every winter. This season, it’s George Eliot’s Middlemarch, at the urging of the novelist Kate Christensen (whose latest, The Astral, I couldn’t recommend more highly). But I’m also dipping into books that inform my work as drink columnist, like David Daiches’s 1969 Scotch Whisky: Its Past and Present. Poetry’s a constant: if I don’t read some every day, I’m pretty sure I’d lose my mind; my favorite recent collection is Don Paterson’s brilliant Rain (you can read the title poem here).

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

“Bad Feeling,” by Veronica Falls. Which is funny, because I’m feeling pretty okay these days.

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

When it comes to movies, I’m not much of a crier. Remember the great Charles Addams cartoon, where there’s a theater full of sobbing viewers, but Uncle Fester’s in the middle, laughing? I totally relate to that. Still, true stories of suffering and courage can get to me, such as the excellent documentary “Freedom Riders,” which aired last year on PBS. It brought more than a few tears to my eyes, so moved was I by the bravery, determination, and strength of the Freedom Riders, so appalled by the injustice and meanness they faced, so inspired by what they achieved.

8. Cat person or dog person?

I grew up with cats and dogs, and I love both. But cats are funnier—especially the two elderly (15- and 18-year old!) ones in my household.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?


10. How do you define sin?

I wouldn’t dare attempt it. (And I’m an ordained minister and former chaplain. True story).

11. How do you define virtue?

Again, I hardly feel qualified to answer this. But I will say that virtue can’t be passive; it must be active. Meaning well is different from being good, which requires doing good, which requires inconveniencing oneself. Putting the needs and well-being of others above one’s own needs and well-being: to me, that’s virtuous.

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

I’ve already got a plot for an urn at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, and they have strict regs. It’ll have to be Vermont granite, inscribed only with my name and the dates of my birth and my death. That’s fine by me; I do plenty of talking while I live.

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

My funny and talented friend, the novelist Jami Attenberg.


Rosie on Irish whiskey
Rosie in The New York Times Magazine
Rosie at the Poetry Foundation


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