The GQ&A: GQ’s Own Michael Hainey on Writing, Manhood, and His Memoir, ‘After Visiting Friends’
When a dude who has deftly edited everyone from Walter Kirn to Alan Richman to James Ellroy over the course of a fourteen-year stint at your favorite men’s general-interest magazine turns around and writes his own book, you read it. You read it because the author, GQ’s deputy editor Michael Hainey, is a supremely talented writer, editor, and interviewer (just see this month’s cover story. You read it because no less than John Jeremiah Sullivan described it as “a book whose heartbreak and humor, in the true Irish tradition, can’t be untangled.” And you read it because the book’s subject is one that any man can relate to: the story of a son trying to learn more about his father, to understand him as a man.
What you find in the pages of After Visiting Friends is more or less what you’d expect: some genius-level literary fusing of forms and functions. Words set into type as if chiseled from stone letter by letter. A decade’s worth of writing and reporting that takes the reader though a pastiche of narrative non-fiction, dreamy invented scenes, hard documents, and every writerly tool in-between. When you’re done reading this book you will want to be a better man, a better father, and a better writer.
The first step was to sit down with Hainey and talk writing, manhood, and life for two hours. Then go here to get and read the real thing.
The becoming a better man part is up to you.
The GQ&A: GQ’s Own Michael Hainey on Writing, Manhood, and His Memoir, ‘After Visiting Friends’

When a dude who has deftly edited everyone from Walter Kirn to Alan Richman to James Ellroy over the course of a fourteen-year stint at your favorite men’s general-interest magazine turns around and writes his own book, you read it. You read it because the author, GQ’s deputy editor Michael Hainey, is a supremely talented writer, editor, and interviewer (just see this month’s cover story. You read it because no less than John Jeremiah Sullivan described it as “a book whose heartbreak and humor, in the true Irish tradition, can’t be untangled.” And you read it because the book’s subject is one that any man can relate to: the story of a son trying to learn more about his father, to understand him as a man.

What you find in the pages of After Visiting Friends is more or less what you’d expect: some genius-level literary fusing of forms and functions. Words set into type as if chiseled from stone letter by letter. A decade’s worth of writing and reporting that takes the reader though a pastiche of narrative non-fiction, dreamy invented scenes, hard documents, and every writerly tool in-between. When you’re done reading this book you will want to be a better man, a better father, and a better writer.

The first step was to sit down with Hainey and talk writing, manhood, and life for two hours. Then go here to get and read the real thing.

The becoming a better man part is up to you.

If you read best-sellers or remember when we got Bin Laden, then you’re familiar with the work of Don Mann. A longtime platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader, and advance training officer, Mann has been working with the SEALS for thirty years, and until 1998 was on active duty with SEAL Team Six (the ones who got Bin Laden). He also wrote the captivating memoir Inside SEAL Team Six, and has now, between his fighting terror in the Middle East and continued SEAL training, written a new novel. Out today from Little, Brown, Hunt the Scorpion follows a fictional SEAL Team Six that’s called upon to recover a nuclear device from terrorists. Told in sparse, informed prose, Hunt the Scorpion is a page-turning thriller that’s also a rip-roaring good time. —COLE LOUISON

If you read best-sellers or remember when we got Bin Laden, then you’re familiar with the work of Don Mann. A longtime platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader, and advance training officer, Mann has been working with the SEALS for thirty years, and until 1998 was on active duty with SEAL Team Six (the ones who got Bin Laden). He also wrote the captivating memoir Inside SEAL Team Six, and has now, between his fighting terror in the Middle East and continued SEAL training, written a new novel. Out today from Little, Brown, Hunt the Scorpion follows a fictional SEAL Team Six that’s called upon to recover a nuclear device from terrorists. Told in sparse, informed prose, Hunt the Scorpion is a page-turning thriller that’s also a rip-roaring good time. —COLE LOUISON

GQ Deputy Editor Michael Hainey's book, After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story, comes out tomorrow!

Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family’s back door one morning with the tragic news: Bob Hainey, Michael’s father, was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Thirty-five years old, a young assistant copy desk chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, Bob was a bright and shining star in the competitive, hard-living world of newspapers, one that involved booze-soaked nights that bled into dawn. And then suddenly he was gone, leaving behind a young widow, two sons, a fractured family—and questions surrounding the mysterious nature of his death that would obsess Michael throughout adolescence and long into adulthood. Finally, roughly his father’s age when he died, and a seasoned reporter himself, Michael set out to learn what happened that night. Died “after visiting friends,” the obituaries said. But the details beyond that were inconsistent. What friends? Where? At the heart of his quest is Michael’s all-too-silent, opaque mother, a woman of great courage and tenacity—and a steely determination not to look back. Prodding and cajoling his relatives, and working through a network of his father’s buddies who abide by an honor code of silence and secrecy, Michael sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he’d imagined with the one he comes to know—and in the journey discovers new truths about his mother.
A stirring portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets, After Visiting Friends is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.

To pre-order your copy, click here.

GQ Deputy Editor Michael Hainey's book, After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story, comes out tomorrow!

Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family’s back door one morning with the tragic news: Bob Hainey, Michael’s father, was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Thirty-five years old, a young assistant copy desk chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, Bob was a bright and shining star in the competitive, hard-living world of newspapers, one that involved booze-soaked nights that bled into dawn. And then suddenly he was gone, leaving behind a young widow, two sons, a fractured family—and questions surrounding the mysterious nature of his death that would obsess Michael throughout adolescence and long into adulthood. Finally, roughly his father’s age when he died, and a seasoned reporter himself, Michael set out to learn what happened that night. Died “after visiting friends,” the obituaries said. But the details beyond that were inconsistent. What friends? Where? At the heart of his quest is Michael’s all-too-silent, opaque mother, a woman of great courage and tenacity—and a steely determination not to look back. Prodding and cajoling his relatives, and working through a network of his father’s buddies who abide by an honor code of silence and secrecy, Michael sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he’d imagined with the one he comes to know—and in the journey discovers new truths about his mother.

A stirring portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets, After Visiting Friends is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.

To pre-order your copy, click here.

The history of Where the Wild Things Are is strangely tied up with the children’s-book adaptation Jonze didn’t make, Harold and the Purple Crayon. When Jonze was first taking studio meetings in the mid-’90s about possible films (early on, he turned down the second Ace Ventura movie), at one such meeting he spotted a copy of Maurice Sendak’s book lying on a table. Where the Wild Things Are was a story his mother had read to him as a child. “I can still totally hear the inflection of all the lines through her—I hear her delivery of them,” he says. “I do remember it being hypnotic. Just totally engrossing. Not even wanting to be Max, but just in being Max.” The book was there because Sendak had a production deal with that studio; Harold and the Purple Crayon was one of the projects he was producing. That was how Jonze got to know Sendak, and Sendak Jonze. The author, who is known for being prickly and protective when it comes to his work, liked what he found. As Sendak would later describe: “He was the strangest little bird I’d ever seen. He had fluttered into the world of the studios, and could he not be swatted dead, I knew he would manage. I had total faith in him.
From GQ correspondent Chris Heath’s 2009 profile of Spike Jonze, timed to the release of his movie version of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are
npr
I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.
Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air in 2011. [all interviews with Sendak here] (via nprfreshair)
"The Man Who Sailed His House" Named a Notable Narrative

A warm thank you to Harvard’s Nieman Storyboard for breaking down Michael Paterniti’s GQ story on Hiromitsu Shinkawa—the man rode atop the roof of house for two days following Japan’s tsunami—and for comparing the piece to the work of Yates and Joyce. (Sweet!) From the write-up:

GQ’s Michael Paterniti nails down the tiniest details of the story: the structural materials used to build Hiromitsu’s family home, his schedule rationing the food that happened to be in his pockets when the wave hit, a message recording his lost wife’s birthday written on a comic book page and marker recovered from the water.
But keep an eye out for exactly how Paterniti decides to tell the story. Notice the direct way that his words echo the language of fairy tales and legends: “Rise now, hiromitsu, man of men, and accept your fate.” The wave that tears Hiromitsu from his wife’s arms is “this monster.” Swept out to sea, the castaway recalls the wisdom of “a famous Japanese adventurer” (albeit one seen on television) in order to survive. Paterniti knows that Hiromitsu has lived through a personal tragedy worthy of an epic, that his effort to memorialize his wife and honor his parents in his darkest moments recalls the engines driving the oldest stories we have.
The writer marshals the facts of the disaster, the days adrift that followed it, and Hiromitsu’s quest to rejoin the world of survivors. He shares the story with us, his readers, but he is not telling it to us. Paterniti is telling Hiromitsu’s story of loss and survival back to him, in a way that is surely both alien and familiar to the widower…

Read the rest here and “The Man Who Sailed His House” here.
"The Man Who Sailed His House" Named a Notable Narrative

A warm thank you to Harvard’s Nieman Storyboard for breaking down Michael Paterniti’s GQ story on Hiromitsu Shinkawa—the man rode atop the roof of house for two days following Japan’s tsunami—and for comparing the piece to the work of Yates and Joyce. (Sweet!) From the write-up:

GQ’s Michael Paterniti nails down the tiniest details of the story: the structural materials used to build Hiromitsu’s family home, his schedule rationing the food that happened to be in his pockets when the wave hit, a message recording his lost wife’s birthday written on a comic book page and marker recovered from the water.

But keep an eye out for exactly how Paterniti decides to tell the story. Notice the direct way that his words echo the language of fairy tales and legends: “Rise now, hiromitsu, man of men, and accept your fate.” The wave that tears Hiromitsu from his wife’s arms is “this monster.” Swept out to sea, the castaway recalls the wisdom of “a famous Japanese adventurer” (albeit one seen on television) in order to survive. Paterniti knows that Hiromitsu has lived through a personal tragedy worthy of an epic, that his effort to memorialize his wife and honor his parents in his darkest moments recalls the engines driving the oldest stories we have.

The writer marshals the facts of the disaster, the days adrift that followed it, and Hiromitsu’s quest to rejoin the world of survivors. He shares the story with us, his readers, but he is not telling it to us. Paterniti is telling Hiromitsu’s story of loss and survival back to him, in a way that is surely both alien and familiar to the widower…

Read the rest here and “The Man Who Sailed His House” here.

"Awwwwwwwww, freak out!"
The beautiful, funktacular origins of this phrase, from Nile Rodger’s Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny:

The first time I went to Studio 54, I was not treated like a star. My music pumping on the dance floor, the supermodels on our album’s cover, DJ Tom  Savarese (who had mix credit), and my then girlfriend Nefertiti were the stars. Nefi had graduated from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology. Many FIT people partied at Studio, and I was Nefi’s guest. The club had only been open a few months, but it was already the hottest spot on earth.
It made sense that I wasn’t treated like a star that first night, because no one knew what Chic looked like, and Studio was all about who you were and how you looked. Nefi  was really into how to achieve the look; she was a stylist who could design and make clothing. It was she who taught me  about high fashion. Before I met Nefi, I’d never heard of Fendi, Fortuny, or Fiorucci. I learned about haute couture and met many top designers, like Calvin Klein and Roy Halston, at Studio.
I had many great nights in Studio, but none as important as the night I tried to get in without Nefertiti and failed: New Year’s Eve, 1977.
Bernard   and   I  rounded   the  corner  at  Eighth  Avenue  onto Fifty-fourth Street. The first thing I saw was a massive mob, herded like cattle onto a sidewalk that couldn’t possibly contain them, and spilling onto the street. There was a good explanation for this mayhem: If those people could be anywhere in the world, this was the place. I can still picture the redecorated hallowed halls of what used to be CBS’s broadcast studios: coke-carpeted bathrooms, flat-blackpainted walls, elaborate neon  disco  lights that dropped from the ceiling, ear-assaulting speakers, and churning sex nooks. And over the next nine years, I became a part of the club’s inner circle.
By the end of ‘77, everyone in the club world was talking about our new  breakdown sound, and we had become so popular that Grace Jones, who was a huge star at the time, had invited us to Studio for her show on a freezing New Year’s Eve. Grace told us to go to the stage door. But for some reason, we were turned away by the doorman, who promptly told us to  “fuck  off !” (Funnily enough, the guy contacted me about thirty years later on Facebook to apologize!) After he slammed the door in our faces, we decided, Oh, maybe Grace left our names at the front door. It took us forever to swim through the crowd and get the attention of the soon-to-be-famous front doorman Marc Benecke.
Bernard and I announced that we were personal guests of Grace. He told us, “Yeah right.” When we politely yet urgently asked him to please check the list, he actually stopped, looked it up and down, scanned all the pages (which seemed courteous and respectful), and then said, in a clear, precise,  definitive voice, “I looked, and you aren’t on the list.” He returned to scanning the crowd for notables. We knew that was the end of the negotiation. We were dressed to the  nines, but  after contemplating  our  options,  we  just sloshed through the snowy streets, around the corner to the cozy apartment of our DJ friend Robert Drake. I was living there while he was gigging in Rome.
We downed a few bottles of vintage Dom Pérignon, and a little coke, which I’d started snorting while touring on the road. I picked up my guitar, started jamming on a guitar riff and singing the words that the stage doorman had said to us earlier, “Fuck off,” and Nard added, “Fuck Studio 54—aw, fuck off.” He grabbed his bass and we played this over and over, grooving and laughing. We developed the groove  and  even  wrote  a  bridge,  then  came  the  chorus  again: “Awww, fuck off—fuck Studio 54—fuck off.”
"You know, this shit is happening!" Bernard said, while pulling his sunglasses down his nose in order to achieve genuine eye contact with me. He did this whenever he was serious, because almost everything was a joke to us.
"We  can’t get  this  song  on  the  radio.  ‘Fuck  off ’  is pretty hard-core for Top Forty," I said, laughing. But Bernard was serious. And I’d  learned to listen to him when he was serious. He had a great ear for  hooks,  and  realizing that  this little riff and  chant sounded good, we changed "fuck" to "freak." "Awww, freak off," we sang energetically. It was horrible, but we tried to make it work.
"Hey, man, this is not lifting my skirt," I said to Bernard.
"Yeah, I know what you’re saying," he responded.
Suddenly the  proverbial  lightbulb  went  off. “Hey,  man,  we should say, ‘Awww, freak out.’ “
" ‘Freak out’?" 
"Yeah, like when you have a bad trip, you freak out."

More here, plus a podcast with the man himself. 
"Awwwwwwwww, freak out!"

The beautiful, funktacular origins of this phrase, from Nile Rodger’s Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny:

The first time I went to Studio 54, I was not treated like a star. My music pumping on the dance floor, the supermodels on our album’s cover, DJ Tom Savarese (who had mix credit), and my then girlfriend Nefertiti were the stars. Nefi had graduated from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology. Many FIT people partied at Studio, and I was Nefi’s guest. The club had only been open a few months, but it was already the hottest spot on earth.

It made sense that I wasn’t treated like a star that first night, because no one knew what Chic looked like, and Studio was all about who you were and how you looked. Nefi was really into how to achieve the look; she was a stylist who could design and make clothing. It was she who taught me about high fashion. Before I met Nefi, I’d never heard of Fendi, Fortuny, or Fiorucci. I learned about haute couture and met many top designers, like Calvin Klein and Roy Halston, at Studio.

I had many great nights in Studio, but none as important as the night I tried to get in without Nefertiti and failed: New Year’s Eve, 1977.

Bernard and I rounded the corner at Eighth Avenue onto Fifty-fourth Street. The first thing I saw was a massive mob, herded like cattle onto a sidewalk that couldn’t possibly contain them, and spilling onto the street. There was a good explanation for this mayhem: If those people could be anywhere in the world, this was the place. I can still picture the redecorated hallowed halls of what used to be CBS’s broadcast studios: coke-carpeted bathrooms, flat-blackpainted walls, elaborate neon disco lights that dropped from the ceiling, ear-assaulting speakers, and churning sex nooks. And over the next nine years, I became a part of the club’s inner circle.

By the end of ‘77, everyone in the club world was talking about our new breakdown sound, and we had become so popular that Grace Jones, who was a huge star at the time, had invited us to Studio for her show on a freezing New Year’s Eve. Grace told us to go to the stage door. But for some reason, we were turned away by the doorman, who promptly told us to “fuck off !” (Funnily enough, the guy contacted me about thirty years later on Facebook to apologize!) After he slammed the door in our faces, we decided, Oh, maybe Grace left our names at the front door. It took us forever to swim through the crowd and get the attention of the soon-to-be-famous front doorman Marc Benecke.

Bernard and I announced that we were personal guests of Grace. He told us, “Yeah right.” When we politely yet urgently asked him to please check the list, he actually stopped, looked it up and down, scanned all the pages (which seemed courteous and respectful), and then said, in a clear, precise, definitive voice, “I looked, and you aren’t on the list.” He returned to scanning the crowd for notables. We knew that was the end of the negotiation. We were dressed to the nines, but after contemplating our options, we just sloshed through the snowy streets, around the corner to the cozy apartment of our DJ friend Robert Drake. I was living there while he was gigging in Rome.

We downed a few bottles of vintage Dom Pérignon, and a little coke, which I’d started snorting while touring on the road. I picked up my guitar, started jamming on a guitar riff and singing the words that the stage doorman had said to us earlier, “Fuck off,” and Nard added, “Fuck Studio 54—aw, fuck off.” He grabbed his bass and we played this over and over, grooving and laughing. We developed the groove and even wrote a bridge, then came the chorus again: “Awww, fuck off—fuck Studio 54—fuck off.”

"You know, this shit is happening!" Bernard said, while pulling his sunglasses down his nose in order to achieve genuine eye contact with me. He did this whenever he was serious, because almost everything was a joke to us.

"We can’t get this song on the radio. ‘Fuck off ’ is pretty hard-core for Top Forty," I said, laughing. But Bernard was serious. And I’d learned to listen to him when he was serious. He had a great ear for hooks, and realizing that this little riff and chant sounded good, we changed "fuck" to "freak." "Awww, freak off," we sang energetically. It was horrible, but we tried to make it work.

"Hey, man, this is not lifting my skirt," I said to Bernard.

"Yeah, I know what you’re saying," he responded.

Suddenly the proverbial lightbulb went off. “Hey, man, we should say, ‘Awww, freak out.’ “

" ‘Freak out’?" 

"Yeah, like when you have a bad trip, you freak out."

More here, plus a podcast with the man himself. 

The Wire Reimagined as a Victorian Era Novel (i.e. The Best Thing You’ll See Today)

Many characters of the age pale in comparison to The Wire, but if any other deserves explicit exploration, it is James “Jimmy” McNulty.  While McNulty is rich in his own right, he is particularly interesting in comparison to the viewpoint characters of Dickens.  As Dickens progressed from his “picaresque” adventure-style novels to his more serious explorations of society, so too did his central protagonist evolve.  And yet, instead of gaining in complexity, Dickens’ viewpoint characters dwindled—in personality, idiosyncrasy, any unique or identifying traits.
(via hoodedutilitarian)
The Wire Reimagined as a Victorian Era Novel (i.e. The Best Thing You’ll See Today)

Many characters of the age pale in comparison to The Wire, but if any other deserves explicit exploration, it is James “Jimmy” McNulty.  While McNulty is rich in his own right, he is particularly interesting in comparison to the viewpoint characters of Dickens.  As Dickens progressed from his “picaresque” adventure-style novels to his more serious explorations of society, so too did his central protagonist evolve.  And yet, instead of gaining in complexity, Dickens’ viewpoint characters dwindled—in personality, idiosyncrasy, any unique or identifying traits.

(via hoodedutilitarian)

Endorsement of The Day: A Great Book About the Early Years of the War on Weed
  
Before Juarez was a war zone, before coke-rich Colombia was the hostage capital of the world, and before an ex-B-movie actor with a good haircut declared War on Drugs, a group of wayward southern gentleman yachted the globe with unseen amounts of marijuana and hashish, and did it with style. The adventures, the long-gone economy, and the sting that ultimately brought them down and changed US drug policy are meticulously documented and lucidly spun by reporter Jason Ryan in Jackpot, out today (yes, 4/20) by Lyons Press, $24.95. Part New Yorker feature-part Jimmy Buffet song, Ryan spent years studying everything from early newspaper clippings to the jailhouse letters of America’s biggest kingpins, and interviewed those who were there for the ten-year party, sometimes anonymously and in secret. The result is adventuresome, lavish, informative fun. Try it. You’ll like it.
(brought to our attention by GQ’s Cole Louison)
Endorsement of The Day: A Great Book About the Early Years of the War on Weed

 

Before Juarez was a war zone, before coke-rich Colombia was the hostage capital of the world, and before an ex-B-movie actor with a good haircut declared War on Drugs, a group of wayward southern gentleman yachted the globe with unseen amounts of marijuana and hashish, and did it with style. The adventures, the long-gone economy, and the sting that ultimately brought them down and changed US drug policy are meticulously documented and lucidly spun by reporter Jason Ryan in Jackpot, out today (yes, 4/20) by Lyons Press, $24.95. Part New Yorker feature-part Jimmy Buffet song, Ryan spent years studying everything from early newspaper clippings to the jailhouse letters of America’s biggest kingpins, and interviewed those who were there for the ten-year party, sometimes anonymously and in secret. The result is adventuresome, lavish, informative fun. Try it. You’ll like it.

(brought to our attention by GQ’s Cole Louison)