Exclusive: An Afternoon Beverage with Eli Horowitz, Managing Editor of McSweeney’s

Yesterday afternoon we sat down with Eli Horowitz, the managing editor of McSweeney’s. The encounter didn’t quite feel like an interview. We just talked. Naturally, we wondered how he got involved with the publishing house. According to the their website, “Eli Horowitz had been a volunteer carpenter when [Eggers et. al] were building 826 Valencia. He and I would talk about books, and he seemed very astute and hard-working, so eventually he became the logical candidate if McSweeny’s ever hired a managing editor.” Of course.

Eventually, we had to begin our interview, so we we started with the obvious and asked him to spill everything he knew about Dave Eggers’s latest, Where the Wild Things Are.

Flavorpill: Have you read Dave Eggers’s Wild Things screenplay?
Eli Horowitz: Uh huh. I can’t…
FP: We don’t want to know what happens. How do you consider it in relation to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are?
EH: Yeah, obviously, to make the movie they had to…
FP: Destroy the book?
EH: No; what makes the book powerful and lasting is not so much the details. It’s very light on details. What Dave tried to do is capture the spirit but still make it personal. It really shares something, but it is an innovation. I have no idea how people will react. I haven’t seen the movie yet.
FP: It hasn’t come out yet.
EH: It hasn’t?
FP: Not yet, it comes out in October.
EH: I think it’s going to be great.
FP: I’m curious to read the book.
EH: Well, if you didn’t like the preview… I hope you like them both.
FP: Did you know about McSweeney’s before you helped build 826?
EH: Yeah. I read some things, but I was never a literary person. I never knew what was “happening” in publishing. I didn’t even know I was getting involved with McSweeney’s. I thought I was getting in with 826. I didn’t realize how close they were.
FP: Did you go to school back East?
EH: I went to Yale and then I drove out here straight after. Bounced around. Went to Virginia, and then back here. The Internet was really popular.
FP: The Internet?
EH: It was a crazy time. You are probably too young to remember this. Back in 2000 it was extremely popular. There were websites everyday. New ones. So I was doing science review questions for really cool websites. Not really. They were trying to be really cool. They failed. They were going to make science cool. It was like the MTV of Science on the Internet.
FP: Like Bill Nye?
EH: It was like if Downtown Julie Brown and Bill Nye had a little baby and on the Internet.
FP: Do you write on your own?
EH: Not really. Sometimes we have a little hole that needs to be filled or something. I never had aspirations like that before. Which is probably good, cause, then I don’t use my position as a stepping stone.
FP: What did you study at Yale?
EH: Philosophy.
FP: Do you still read philosophy?
EH: I try. I’m dumber. Even in a way, less moral. It may be cliché to ask an ethics professor if he is more ethical. I’m dumb now. I was more conscious of that stuff when I was studying it.
FP: What do you do when you are not working?
EH: I play basketball at the playground; I play ping pong in the basement; I used to play a little glockenspiel but now I’m retired. I make a fish stew that’s alright. A catfish curry stew. My friend had a baby and I’m playing with her a lot. I wander through the Mission. What do people… do?
FP: They play basketball and make stew with cats in it… is that your motorcycle out there?
EH: Me? No. Well that’s not it. Mine’s red.
FP: Does it have dice on the rearview mirror?
EH: I’m on the Internets. I read on the Internet. I need some more websites. I read them all yesterday. I busboy at restaurants.
FP: Which one?
EH: It’s hot stuff in San Francisco.
FP: It’s called Hot Stuff?
EH: They only have hot sauce. No food. That’s not true. It’s Mission Street Food. They’re in a divey Chinese restaurant on Mission and 18th. Twice a week they take it over and invite guest chefs to come. Thursday and Saturday.
FP: Do you make your stew?
EH: No. They haven’t brought that up.
FP: Today is Thursday! What time does it start?
EH: Six. It gets really crowded. There’s an hour wait.
FP: Like the Cheesecake Factory?
EH: That’s basically what it is. … What else? I have life wisdom.
FP: Are you on J-Date?