Nick Bruel is an author, illustrator and cartoonist, and is known for his series of children's books, Bad Kitty. In his spare time, he collects PEZ dispensers and hangs out with his wife and his cat, Esmerelda.
Nick: The time is 5:13 am. I’m standing here inside the downstairs bathroom of Nick Bruel, the world renowned children’s book author and illustrator, parkour master, Amway representative, and long standing member of the Flat Earth Society. Good morning, Nick. Thank you for joining me here today.
Nick: You’re welcome. I think. Why am I here?
Nick: I’ve been tasked today to interview you to find out some of your favorite things…
Nick: Like what? Ice cream?
Nick: Well, no, not precisely …
Nick: I like rum raisin. Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin ice cream. That’s my favorite. Done?
Nick: No, not done. I was thinking more along the lines of … wait. You like rum raisin? No one likes rum raisin.
Nick: I like rum raisin.
Nick: Since when?
Nick: Since always. It’s delicious, and I don’t have to defend myself. Are we done?
Nick: No! We’ve been tasked by the Multnomah County Library system in Portland to find out how you operate, to learn more about you by learning your favorite media.
Nick: Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon?
Nick: Which is the one with all the street poetry, kombucha bars, and man buns?
[What follows is a long, uncomfortable silence.]
Nick: Sigh. Fine.
Nick: So, let’s start with your favorite movie.
Nick: My favorite movie of all time is a little known short film from Estonia called Man With A Broken Rainbow Of Love by the great director … excuse me … auteur Miloslav Krizkovenszvynzvz. It tells the story of a poor but rich-in-spirit doorknob salesman who’s raising a family of marmosets in his garage while quietly succumbing to the ravages of an earlobe fungus over the course of 3 hours. It’s an allegory of Stalinist Russia.
Nick: 3 hours?! I thought you said it was a short film?
Nick: The director’s cut takes 4 days to watch.
Nick: Well, actually, the library wants material that can be found in their collection.
Nick: Because this way people who read this can get to know you better while also promoting the library’s collection.
Nick: I see. So when people check out the same things I like from the library, they can feel like they’re ME?
Nick: Sort of.
Nick: They can pretend like they’re ME? The people of Oregon can go to the library and pretend to be Nick Bruel! That is beautiful. Just beautiful. Sniff.
Nick: Are … are you crying?
Nick: No. Shut up. I’m not crying. You’re crying!
[Audible scratching at the door]
Esmerelda: Meow?! Meow?!
Nick: GO AWAY, ESME! I’m conducting an important interview!
Nick: No, you can’t use your litterbox now! I told you that I’m conducting an important interview! Go poop in the recycling or something!
Nick: I HEARD THAT! Where were we? Oh, right. Uh … so can you name a more conventional movie that you like?
Nick: Does the library have the films of Buster Keaton?
Nick: I’ll check. [Looks intensely at toothpaste tube] Yes!
Nick: Without a doubt, Buster Keaton was the first true master of comedy. I love Chaplin, but Buster Keaton’s work best exemplified how comedy and timing work hand in hand. He might be best known for his stunts, but Keaton’s true genius was in how he set up his jokes visually. To this day, there are film directors who borrow from Keaton and his visual style.
Nick: Okay! Great! Let’s move on to favorite music.
Nick: I like anything with cannons in it.
Nick: Sure. Cannons.
Nick: What music has cannons in it?
Nick: What music … are you kidding me?! Haven’t you ever heard the 1812 Overture by Peter Tchaikavsky, you peasant?!
Nick: Oh, well, sure …
Nick: I’ll have you know that before degrading myself to this whole children’s book thing I do now, I had a promising career in place as a classical cannon player. I even studied at The Sarasota Online Cannon Conservatory And Clown College, which everyone knows has the most rigorous cannon certification process in the entire country! Even better than Yale’s!
Nick: Well, of course. Everyone knows that …
Nick: And I’d be playing the cannons to this day if not for that terrible day 12 years ago when I burnt my hand lighting the wick during rehearsals. Sniff. Sniff. My doctor says … sob … I’ll never be able to light another cannon wick again.
[Audible scratching at the door.]
Nick: NOT NOW, ESME! I’M BUSY! JUST CROSS YOUR LEGS AND THINK OF THE DESERT!
Where were we?
Nick: Ummm … favorite book?
Nick: Well, I’m quite fond of the work of a blind, Inuit hermaphrodite named J.D. Salinger who …
Nick: Hang on! J.D. Salinger was not a blind, Inuit hermaphrodite!
Nick: He wasn’t?
Nick: No. I understand that his eyesight was quite good.
Nick: My bad. Well, in any case, I’ve always liked how Salinger focuses on character development above all else. I don’t think anyone can turn words on paper into the life story of a friend you grew up with like Salinger, and nothing exemplifies this better than 9 Stories, a collection of short stories he published in The New Yorker. A standout in this collection is “The Laughing Man” which tells the tale of a youth sports club bus driver from the point of view of one of his riders. It’s an amazing, multi-layered tale of friendship, young love, adventure, and the power of a creative spirit. I read this book about once every 3-4 years to remind myself of what good writing looks like.
Nick: Never heard of it.
Nick: Well you should read it.
Nick: Maybe I will. What about picture books? Got a favorite picture book?
Nick: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. To me, it’s one of those rare books that transcends its purpose as a book. It’s message of unconditional generosity is so important that I’ve held a theory … a belief, really … for a while now that if every single person on the planet Earth read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, then there would be no war. It’s a theory that can never be prove, much less tested, but I stick to it anyway.
Nick: A lot of people don’t like this book. They think the tree is acting too much like a martyr and that the boy does nothing more than take advantage of him.
Nick: Yeah, well some people can go suck eggs. If you step back for a moment and just contemplate that this is a story about what it means to be a parent to a child who you love unconditionally, then the message becomes more clear. I can back this up, because I knew Shel Silverstein and once had a conversation with him on this very topic. He told me that of course this book was about parenting and that he loved watching people practically lose their minds over this book of his.
Nick: Did Shel Silverstein think people should go suck eggs over it?
Nick: No. But he was thinking it.
Nick: Well, Nick, I think that about wraps things up. I’d like to thank you for joining me here today.
Nick: It was my pleasure.
Nick: No, no! The pleasure was all mine!
Nick: Oh, well if you insist!
Nick: Ha, ha!
Nick: Ha, ha, ha!
[Audible scratching at door.]
Esmerelda: MEOW!! MEOW!!
Nick: OKAY! OKAY! I’m opening the door! Jeez! Just light a match or something when you’re done this time. Sometimes I think you’re made out of eggs.