Today, I have the pleasure of rolling out an important interview. Andrew Shaffer is the author of the Harper Perennial non-fiction title Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love and creative director of greeting card publisher Order of St. Nick. He looks like this:
Or this. If you follow him on Twitter, you may know him as @andrewtshaffer,@EvilWylie, and/or @EmperorFranzen . His new book (the one with the philosophers) was recently released, and if you don’t have it, I highly recommend you whip out your credit/debit/gift card and click on the link above.
Thank you, Andrew, for your time and participation in this interview – I truly appreciate it. It was both fun and enlightening.
So, without further ado, here it is, an interview with Andrew Shaffer:
1.) When did you become interested in the lives of philosophers? Did you study philosophy at some point? Do you have a favorite philosopher?
A common misconception, that I do nothing to dissuade, is that I
actually studied philosophy or have a philosophy degree. In fact, I
have an English undergraduate degree and an MBA graduate degree.
Modern day academic philosophy isn’t something I have an interest in.
My interest in philosophy is related to my interest in storytelling
2.) If you could choose one philosopher to take on Disney’s infamous “Small World” ride, who would it be? Why?
I went to Disney Land this past year–twice. Maybe it was Disney
World…I can’t keep the two of them straight. Anyway, I have no plans
to return in the near future. I’m completely Disney-d out. That’s my
3.) I understand that you consider yourself an atheist. Is there anyparticular philosophy that replaces religion and guides your life in some way?
Technically, I’m agnostic, although I use the term “atheist” to
describe myself and most non-believers. I was raised in an environment
that stressed Christian values, so you could say that my personal
morals and ethics are rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ–I just
choose not to believe in the supernatural aspects. I don’t go to
atheist meetings or conventions, so I like to think of myself as a
4.) Pretend for a moment that you are an old time philosopher. What would you think of crop circles?
I don’t take crop circles seriously. I doubt any classical philosopher
would either, but I don’t want to speak for them. I did like the movie
5.) I have not yet read your book, and maybe you touch on this, but what do you suppose the classical philosophers would make of our American norms – monogamy, marriage, the nuclear family, divorce?
That depends on the philosopher. Bertrand Russell originally thought
that divorce and single-parent households would lead to the downfall
of society. Three busted marriages later, he changed his mind!
Friedrich Engels is at the other end of the spectrum–he dismissed
examples of monogamy in the animal kingdom as irrelevant to humans,
and believed that society should be one big key party. Most classical
philosophers, however, have views that fall somewhere in between.
6.) If you were trapped on an island with five philosophers, who would you want them to be? Who would you eat first, you know, if things became dire?
That sounds like a nightmare! I think many philosophers lived their
entire lives alone in the islands of their own heads, and several of
them would relish the idea at being stranded on an island. I think the
television show LOST answered this question better than I could ever
hope to–many characters on the show were named after philosophers
(Rousseau, John Locke, Hume, etc.).
7.) Since you have written a book regarding the love lives ofphilosophers, will you write one regarding their dental hygiene or fashion sense, or will you move on to the love lives of other historical figures, like playwrights or blacksmiths?
The only philosopher with any fashion sense at all was Goethe, so that
would be a fairly boring book. I am working on a follow-up, but I
don’t think it’s been announced yet.
8.) Do you find that people treat you differently, or react to youdifferently, particularly on social media, since the release of your book?
For the most part, no. I would guess most followers of my Twitter
alter-egos (Evil Wylie, Emperor Franzen) either don’t know or don’t
care if the person behind those accounts is a published author.
9.) If you were in a fight club, which philosopher would you fight?
That’s an interesting question. “Fight Club” is one of my all-time
favorite books, and one of the reasons that I became a writer. It was
probably close to ten years ago that I wrote a letter to Chuck
Palahniuk. He wrote me back, and included a signed plastic severed
foot with the letter. That foot continues to inspire me. Again, I
didn’t answer the question, but that’s my final answer.
10.)What will become of your greeting card business? Evil Wylie? Emperor Franzen?
I stopped selling my greeting cards wholesale in order to focus on my
writing; I still sell cards directly to customers via
http://www.orderofstnick.com. I don’t think I could ever truly give that
up–I have too much fun coming up with new designs. As for my Twitter
alter-egos, I’ll continue to do them. It takes a lot of time to
effectively run multiple Twitter accounts, but people seem to enjoy
11.) If you were running through the woods, and you tripped on a tree root, would anyone hear you swear?
Most definitely. If I’m running through the woods, it can only mean
one thing: that the townspeople are chasing me with pitchforks and
Thanks again, Andrew, for your time and knowledge, expertise, and eloquent ability to dodge questions.
Check out Andrew’s website for more information on his books, greeting cards, and comics.