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Quick Q&As with guest stars in Lawrence next week



Contributed Photo: Emli Bendixen

JON RONSON, author of “The Psychopath Test,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”

As a self-professed anxiety sufferer, you dealt with interviewing psychopaths by …

“[Taking] Xanax. Also, here’s a weird thing about anxiety sufferers. Our anxiety manifests itself in irrational ways. I can spend loads of time with psychopaths and be fine. But if my son doesn’t pick up the phone at 2 a.m., I go insane with worry.”

The most uncomfortable experience with a psychopath was …

“Going to the grand Florida mansion of a famously ruthless CEO called Chainsaw Al Dunlap so I could go through the psychopath checklist with him. I hadn’t totally explained in my introductory email to him that this was my intention. I had fudged it. I’d written that he might have a special brain anomaly and could I interview him? But when I got there I had to come clean. By the way, the irony isn’t lost on me that one of the items in the psychopath checklist is ‘cunning/manipulative.’”

You’re fascinated with investigating the weird things people do because …

“In Cardiff [Wales], where I had grown up, I’d been bullied every day: blindfolded, stripped and thrown into the playground. It was the sort of childhood a journalist ‘ought to have—forced to the margins, identifying with the put-upon, mistrustful of the powerful and unwelcome by them anyway. I’m interested in trying to pick apart the crazy ways us humans behave towards each other.”

Like in your latest, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”…

“For 30 years I’ve written about abuses of power. People love it when I say the powerful people abusing their power are over there. As soon as I say we are the ones abusing our power now … people can’t handle it. So they try and attack me and my book. Ah, humans!”



Contributed Photo: Vagrant

MATT PRYOR, musician in The Get Up Kids, The New Amsterdams, Terrible Twos (and Lawrence native)

You and your bandmates in The Get Up Kids would argue often. One recurring disagreement was …

“Jim [Suptic] and I have a long-standing argument about who wrote ‘Under Pressure.’ I say Queen and he says David Bowie … we are both right.”

Lawrence influenced …

“I’ve always been influenced by the great bands from Lawrence, going back to Kill Creek. I would say more than anything the attitude has influenced me. People from Lawrence are proud of it and cherish this place. They work together and help each other, and that’s what I try to do in life.”

Your favorite place in Lawrence is …

“Hobbs Park [for kickball]. Every Sunday night.”

As an artist for custom songwriting service Downwrite …

“I get the occasional ‘you gotta help me get this girl (or guy) back’ requests. I always feel a little odd doing those. What if they don’t like the song? Same thing with proposals. What if she hates the song and says no? It’s a lot of pressure.”



Contributed Photo: Gaby Gerster

DENNIS LEHANE, staff writer on HBO series “The Wire” and author of “Mystic River,” “Shutter Island,” “The Given Day,” “Gone, Baby, Gone,” “World Gone By”

Your fascination with gangsters in your novels comes from …

“A big part of it is probably that I find gangsters a good metaphor for capitalism run amok. What’s the moral difference between a gangster and a broker who knowingly shorts toxic stock to bilk investors or a banker who peddles predatory loans? The gangster is no better, mind you, but no worse either. Yet the corrupt stockbroker and the corrupt banker, both of whom caused both the Great Depression and the global financial meltdown of 2008, are not only not punished, they thrive in respectable company. The hypocrisy of that fascinates and even astounds me.”

Growing up poor in Dorchester, Boston, and now experiencing tremendous success as a writer …

“I still don’t feel wholly comfortable in upscale places; I always feel like I’m going to bump into a table and knock a vase over. That’s a working-class insecurity. I took my daughter to a birthday party at a country club recently and I couldn’t explain an entire history of what a country club represents to a Have-Not to my 5-year-old, so I just said, ‘I just don’t [like country clubs], sweetie. Daddy doesn’t play golf.’ There are a lot of moments like that in my life.”

Boston is …

“I have an endless love for every nook and cranny of it. It’s small, it’s parochial, it’s got a chip on its shoulder the size of Rushmore, but it’s unique. In a world of endless homogenization, it’s still a singular place. There’s no place quite like it.”

Your non-writing talents include …

“I shoot a decent game of pool and I can speak well enough in an Irish accent to fool anyone but an Irish person into thinking I just stepped off the boat. End of list.”

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