Anisse Gross recently visited the KQED studios to record an episode of The Writers' Block. Get to know her a little better with this Q+A, in which she talks about her karaoke catalogue, peaking at six years old, and much more!
What does a normal day in the life of Anisse look like?
Anisse Gross: There are no normal days in the life of Anisse. But a typical day involves me waking up to a view of the cargo ships coming into port, gliding by Alcatraz. Then I get into my vintage Mercedes (Maude), pick up an iced coffee, go to the beach and look at the waves. After my mind empties, I write in a cafe or my writing studio. I need to be out of the house to think. I'm drawn to really unhip coffee shops, which there are plenty of the further you leave the city center. Some of my days involve random gift art, and I'm always planning a scheme or two. At night, I like to hang out one-on-one with my dearest friends, and talk until we get asked to leave.
What kind of kid were you and what did you want to be when you grew up?
AG: I was an extremely precocious child. I always joke that I peaked at six. I remember doing algebra in kindergarten and thinking that the sun was my best friend. I thought that adults were smarter than kids because they knew things. I wanted to be a math teacher when I grew up, though I was always writing weird stories even then. I was never popular, and I liked it that way.
What was your first concert?
AG: Beach Boys in fourth grade. They were playing in a football stadium, and they played "Kokomo," and we all started screaming.
What's the first book that made you fall in love with language?
AG: I began reading full books at age two, which freaked my parents out. Poor things thought I was going to be a genius. Anyway, the first book that made me fall in love with language was this incredible illustrated encyclopedia of things. Pages and pages of things with their names listed below them. I've always been in love with objects and their mysterious lives, so it gave me a window into that part of my imagination. It's not the most compelling first book to fall in love with, but I can still remember reading the words and memorizing them for hours.
You're on stage at a karaoke bar. What are you singing?
AG: Well, I've got some favorites, but not all karaoke bars are stacked with the following picks: "One More Cup of Coffee" (Dylan), "It's Oh So Quiet" (Bjork), "Under Pressure" (Queen), "Hell is for Children" (Pat Benatar). I'd like to do anything by Heart, but it's just not in my range.
If you could visit any other time period and place in history, which wouldit be and what would you do there?
AG: Right now, because it's relevant to a book I'm working on, I'd visit Delft in the Netherlands, in 1670, and become friends with Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, in the hopes that he'd allow me to be one of the first people to see the world on a microscopic level. Can you imagine? Other than that, I'd like to hang out with Georges Perec in October of 1976 (before Queneau died), drinking coffee in a Paris cafe, the year he started writing crossword puzzles. Can you imagine what a great day that would be?
If you could live inside one movie, which would it be?
AG: This is my dream question. Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Hands down. I think about living inside of this movie almost every day.
If you could invite 3 people (dead/alive/fictional) to your dinner party,who would they be and why?
AG: Well, this is so difficult because I have so many people I adore tremendously, and so many people I'd like to meet. But when it comes to dinner parties, I tend to prefer wild unpredictable conversation. The people I invite over for dinner need to be able to talk about any and every subject with verve and gusto, and since this is a writerly Q+A, I'll pick three writers: David Mitchell, Dominique Fabre, and David Foster Wallace. One of them is gentle and reserved, one depressed and brilliant, and one can charm the pants off anyone. I think it's a good mix. I'm in the mood lately for charm and brilliance, and all of those men have that in spades. Also, would it be okay if Italo Calvino dropped by? Alternately, I'd love to have dinner with my grandfathers, both who died before I was old enough to enjoy a scotch with them.
What are you working on right now?
AG: I'm working on a novel about pre-teen runaway girls. It's like a female Lord of the Flies. I'm also doing research for another novel. I'm also writing letters to people everywhere. But even above that, I'm planning the best holiday party of my life.
Listen to Anisse Gross' episode of The Writers' Block at kqed.org/writersblock on Wednesday, December 14, 2011. And be sure not to miss each episode as it becomes available by subscribing to The Writers' Block podcast!