Mike Sager: The Story is in the Details
Esquire writer-at-large Mike Sager was on These Days today, talking about his new collection of essays, Revenge of the Donut Boys: True Stories of Lust, Fame, Survival, and Multiple Personality . You can hear the interview here . If you haven't read Donut Boys , or Sager's work in Esquire , I highly recommend it. After today, I'll be a devoted reader, for a number of reasons.
First off, Sager's writing, hailed as New Journalism, is strikingly perceptive. He writes like a novelist, stocking his stories with the details and observations other journalists might toss away. Sager keeps them, weaving the seemingly incidental bits together to place you in the center of the story.
There you are watching an old man creaking his way out of bed in the morning. Or in Newark New Jersey, standing in front of a boastful young boy on crutches as he talks about stealing cars. Or in the apartment of young interracial couple with two children, struggling to achieve the American dream of middle class affluence on $50,000 a year in San Diego. In the latter story, Sager is able to capture the entire dynamic of their marriage and class struggle in one gesture, the gift of a Kitchen Aid Mixer.
I can see how Sager gets people to open up to him. We just started our Fall pledge drive today, which meant his appearance on These Days was interrupted by stretches of pledging. He and host Tom Fudge were left in the studio for four to five minutes at a time, waiting for the next on-air discussion as folks across the hall reminded listeners that we rely on them to keep quality radio in San Diego (PLEDGE NOW!) I was in the studio and could overhear Tom's conversation with Sager, though I would occasionally get distracted with production duties. Suddenly tuning back in, I hear Tom revealing how he once wanted to be an actor but decided the life of a journalist better suited him. Here's Tom Fudge, reserved talk show host, telling Sager of his former dreams of stardom. Classic.
Finally, I'll read Sager because he's funny - both in his writing and in person. At one point in the hall, he talked about how unpredictable a career can be. He then compared his career to a pool toy. You know, the blow-up kind. He went on to mimic the blowing, first you start out kinda asthmatic, can't really get it going, then you just keep chugging along, hoping it's going to work, and, in the end, you never know what the damn thing is going to look like or whether it will float. I was stunned by both the absurdity and brilliance of this analogy.
Sager will be reading and signing copies of his book tonight at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park - around 8:30 pm - sponsored by the good folks at San Diego City Beat . He'll also sign books next Tuesday at Warwick's in La Jolla. If you're in the mood for a good yarn, go check him out and get his book.
Oh, and in the November issue of Esquire , hitting newsstands soon, Sager profiles basketball star Kobe Bryant . It includes descriptions of Kobe's impressive work ethic and a complicated portrayal of his wife Vanessa, whose role in the magazine's photo shoot is very telling.