In your last three books, you’ve developed this world where marketing is treated like espionage. There are agents and double agents and intrigue upon intrigue, but it will be in the service of something like a new denim line. Is this approach intended to be satire? Or is it closer to the truth as you see it?
If something really is satire, I don’t enjoy it. It can’t be satire and be that good. What I like is something that’s closer to a useful, anthropological description that has a really, really sharp satirical edge. Satire, traditionally in our culture, pushes the exaggeration past where the edge really hurts, and you sort of just goof on it. But other cultures, like the British, totally get it. Where you want to be with satire is right on the razor’s edge, where it really hurts and you can’t tell whether you’re being put on or not.
One of the easiest illustrations of the differences between their satire and ours would be the two versions of The Office. The British Office had a genuine humanity to it. It could be totally moving. The American take on it is far more buffoonish, and the attempts at humanity in it are maudlin.
Yeah, absolutely. The original Office is heartbreaking, it’s totally heartbreaking. And it’s not that we can’t do it, but that sort of work doesn’t have the prominent foregrounding in American culture that it does in British culture. And it’s something that can often scare Americans the first time they discover it.
Maybe it’s that most people prefer to know what they’re getting beforehand. They don’t like to feel confused about genre or intent.
I think that I am kind of functionally incapable of staying absolutely true to genre or form. Sometimes I feel sorry for somebody in the Atlanta airport who’s just bought one of my books when what they really want is Ludlum or Clancy. They get on the plane to the other side of the world and all they’ve got to read is this screwy shit about designer blue jeans.