Anyone ever ask you that question, "If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be?" Author Michael A. Stusser asked himself that question and went one step further, conducting "interviews" with the likes of Abraham Lincoln, J. Edgar Hoover, Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Cleopatra and Confucious, to name a few.
Stusser is a Seattle-based writer and game inventor (The Doonesbury Game, Hear Me Out) whose work frequently appears in Mental Floss magazine — so you know the guy's got a pretty good albeit odd sense of humor. Now his Dead Guy Interviews are collected in paperback, The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations With 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History (Penguin, 291 pages, $14).
Here's some excerpts from a few "interviews" that cracked me up ...
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Michael Stusser: So you were a bitter and angry fella?
LVB: I was disheartened for a long while, and irritated, with the lack of success in the dating world, you understand. It didn't help that I was poor as a pauper most of my doggone life.
MS: How does Beethoven not make bank on his genius?
LVB: If we'd had a system of royalties in those days, I'd have made this Donald Trump look like a hobo. They didn't exactly have iTunes in 1790, you know? My little ditty "Ode to Joy"? One hundred lousy pounds!
MS: These "aunts" that you speak of were actually nuns at the boarding school you got put in after your father abandoned you and your sisters, right?
CC: I do not like to speak of zis.
MS: Gig's up. You're dead. Might as well just admit you came from a destitute beginning.
CC: All right! Touche. It is true I was raised in a poor orphanage, yes? An zee austere dress of zee nuns stayed with me. Plainness, purity, and intelligence as well.
MS: What's "the Chanel look"?
CC: French, above all. Zis means good taste ... perhaps you would not understand.
MS: George Balanchine saw you perform and said it was awful to watch "a drunken, fat woman who for hours was rolling around like a pig."
ID: May I have another drinkie, please?
[She quickly sucks down another gin and tonic.]
ID: I was older. [Slurp.] It was a later stage, and I'd let myself go a spot, 'kay?
MS: Is it true you once wrote to George Bernard Shaw and said you should have a child together?
ID: I told that with my body and his brains, we'd have a wonder baby! You know his response? "Yes," he said, "but what if it had my body and your brains?"
MS: Kind of odd, the way you died, ma'am, strangled when your shawl got tangled in the wheel of your convertible.
ID: I'll say. But I was always about eccentric costumes and Greek tragedies.