SM: If you were to illustrate a river with a secret in it, what would you be sure to include in the drawing?
AMP: Phantasmagoric machines no larger than your fist.
SM: If you woke up tomorrow and found that you had been transformed into a tree, who would you prefer to sit in your shade?
SM: Please recommend a good line to begin a detective novel with.
AMP: More than the gallon can of seal oil brandished threateningly above his head, Phillip the Screwdriver feared his Aunt Vermont’s wrath.
SM: When was the last time you were drawn to an unfamiliar building?
AMP: In Paris this past November, I tried to check in to the wrong hotel. I was sure that the hotel was mine: the sign said so. But the woman at the front desk insisted I had no reservation. Many radar blips later, I realized– jet-lagged — that my hotel was across the street, well-marked and unimpressive.
For lunch that day, I had a crepe made with “smoking salmon” as I awaited the arrival of my luggage, which eventually took two days to be delivered.
SM: Please describe an impressionable moment from adolescence.
AMP: My piano teacher once complimented my mother’s physique-to me during my lesson and in rude terms. He drove a Corvette, had mutton chops, and wore white shoes.
I understood, in a blast of intuition, that I would never learn to read music.
SM: If you were scheduled to lecture to a packed auditorium of everyone you will ever meet in your life, what topic would you choose to lecture on?
AMP: Why I like to cook.
SM: What are you willing to make other people wait for?
AMP: A rewrite.
SM: What do you think strangers see when they meet you for the first time?
AMP: Short guy, kind of surly. Likes words.
SM: What do you consider to be the funniest thing you know?
AMP: My cat’s unfinished moustache.
SM: Please compose a brief poem or haiku on the subject of your choosing.
AMP: Alas, I must decline, and offer an apocryphal anecdote instead: when asked what he thought of the sunset by his high society hostess, while standing with her on her Park Avenue balcony after a sumptuous dinner, Robert Frost is said to have replied, “Madam, I never discuss work after eating.”