The Dodo Bird Has Landed – Q&A with author Steve Stack

Steve Stack, author of “It is Just You, Everything is Not Shit” has come out with a new book, entitled “21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and other stuff).” Steve Stack also happens to have a (not-so) secret identity, as the publisher of The Friday Project, an experimental Harper Collins imprint. He joins me today on my blog for a little Q&A session, as part of the blog tour for his new book, and for some cake.

Your new book “21st Century Dodos” catalogs a host of modern-day items (134 at last count!) that have become extinct with the advent of more modern technology and the rapidly evolving society that we live in. While I found that many of the items were particularly British in origin, there was much that I could relate to – and indeed almost every item has a similar American counterpart – and I’m sure – a counterpart in most parts of the world. Everywhere you look, new technology replaces old technology at lightning speed, and the 4NonBlondes song “Bigger, Better, Faster, More!” has never been more apt. (And speaking of dodo-birds, 4NonBlondes has also gone off to that large dodo-oasis in the sky). I am honored to have had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at your book and to be able to ask you a few questions.

Well, I am delighted to be here, thanks so much for inviting me.

Your last book is described as somewhat of a guidebook to being happy – where did this new idea come from?

It had been brewing for some time and whenever I mentioned it to friends they would fire back with loads of suggestion for entries. Once I had over 100 I figured it was time to get writing.

I have always been nostalgic for days gone by so I guess this project was just a natural progression from that.

I’ve seen you refer to this as a “bathroom book”? I didn’t read it in the bathroom (maybe that’s because it was on my laptop) but still…is there something magical that happens if you read it in the bathroom? Some hidden message that can only be heard underwater – er…or the sound of a flushing toilet?

How can I put this politely? Most of the entries in the book are just the right length for a trip to the bathroom/toilet/rest room (depending on what you call it in your country.)

Everyone sort of knows it’s you…why the pseudonym?

Honest answer is that the last one sold pretty well so it made sense to keep Steve Stack alive. Originally we kept it quiet as it wasn’t really the done thing for a publisher to publish themselves but the then boss of The Friday Project really wanted to do the book, commissioned me to write it and it sort of took off from there.

In this book you detail so many “household” items that have “gone the way of the dodo bird.” What’s up next for extinction in your opinion?

Well, a lot of the entries in the book aren’t quite extinct yet so one of them is bound to be the next to go. I think it might be a race between VHS tapes and audio cassettes.

Are books an endangered species?

No. Even as someone who is involved in lots of digital publishing I still believe books are here to stay.

Is Steve Stack soon to be an endangered species? How do you find time for it all? As anyone can see, you are a devoted father, you blog about everything from music and books to movies and cake, you tweet constantly, you run a Harper Collins publishing imprint, you write books – and now, I heard a rumor – the new head of Authonomy? Do you sleep?

I sleep lots. And I don’t work Fridays. The secret is that you don’t actually have to do a lot of work to be productive. You just have to do the right work at the right time. And have great people working with you.

Can you share with us some things that in your opinion are not headed towards dodo-hood any time soon? An album/band you love? A book or two you’ve read and adored recently? A new author/book from your Friday Project imprint? A favorite Authonomy title?

Ooh, I’d love to.

I love the Swedish band Hello Saferide. Musically and lyrically they are leagues ahead of everyone else.

Florence and Giles by John Harding is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year, it is really rather special.

And I am very proud of The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman, a book I recently published. It is a beautiful little hardback with wonderful illustrations.

It seems from your blog that most of the books that you read and love are fiction – as are many of the books on authonomy – do you write fiction yourself? Got anything hiding in your drawers?

Nothing in drawers. Lots in my head.

A manual detailing the good things in life, an encyclopedia of extinct and endangered household items, what’s next?

I am toying with the idea of a book about the demise of the handwritten letter, something that does feature in the 21st Century Dodos. It would be part history, part appeal and part manual.

All good things in life must come to an end, as you have clearly shown us with your exotic collection of dodo-like items. Thank you for answering my questions and appearing on my blog. It’s been lovely.

It has, hasn’t it? Thanks for having me.

Now, for the most important part of the interview – cake! (A recipe, if you please…)

1 Purchase cake
2 Open box
3 Remove cake
4 Slice and serve with a cup of tea

You can find 21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and other stuff) here and as an ebook here

Yesterday Steve Stack visited Jonathan Pinnock’s Write Stuff where they discussed Marmite, low-slung jeans and disintermediation. Tomorrow he visits Claire Marriott at The view from my garret

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “The Dodo Bird Has Landed – Q&A with author Steve Stack

  1. Great interview, Rena (and, incidentally, how do YOU find time to do all the things you do??!). I’ve never understood the concept of reading on the loo. I truly believe it’s a man thing, but would stand to be corrected if any women admit to doing it.

    Letter-writing is an intrigue. Was reading a review of Diana Anthill’s new book this morning – her letters to friend Edward Field… long rambling things, carefully crafted, sent over a period of some years – and thinking the issue isn’t necessarily one of emails having taken over from letters per se (and whether this is a good or bad thing) but more a question of whether we are as focused when we write them now, perhaps because it’s so easy to send an addendum, or fire off a short aside, that we end up with a collection of long rambling things that couldn’t actually be printed off and stand together coherently… and maybe that’s what we’ve lost. The space between communications to *think* and *craft*.

    But… rambling… happens on blog post replies too.

  2. He runs The Frday Project, and doesn’t work Fridays? Well, that certainly *is* a new way of working…

  3. Fontaine.

    Brilliant interview, Rena. I am in awe of your creativity and energy. This is my first visit here and certainly won’t be my last.
    (The problem with reading while on the toilet is that whenever one goes into a bookshop one has the urge!)
    Fontaine.

  4. Nice interview – Steve / Scott, please write the book on letters! They are a much neglected art form. ‘See’ you tomorrow 🙂

  5. Bradley Wind

    I find reading on the john to be stimulating…as was this, thanks Rena! I wonder if Scott is a fan of Michio Kaku?

  6. Tim

    How interesting, Rena.
    Sandie does not understand the concept of reading on the loo. I don’t understand the concept of the weblogpagefacetwitterbook. I read and enjoyed your ‘conversation’ with this man with two names (I am in no position to be critical) and here I am, an hour later, bewildered. I have bounced from blog to blog to website (is there a difference?). I’ve found myself on Facebook, but not in a modern age egocentric me me me philosophy kind of way. I’ve read a blog about blogging! It’s all about traffic, apparently. Well, I was stuck on Putney Bridge for 45 minutes yesterday, don’t try telling ME about traffic.
    As you know I am having doubts about Authonomy – I love the community stuff and have had some valuable feedback, but know, KNOW The Umbrella Men will never be in the top five. I simply lack the stamina and the chutzpah to scramble my way up. This blogging business seems to me like the same thing on an industrial scale.
    Do you know the TV show ‘Grumpy Old Men’? I can’t remember why I ask.

  7. Tim, I think you need to read my first book!

    • Tim

      I’ve read it – it did no good. I’m a vegetarian with a shameful soft spot for bacon butties (as we call them up North). Such a hypocrite… And Rena – grump and grouch both fit, but in my experience not everybody loves one. Or any.
      Just goin’ down to eat some worms. They’re vegetables, right?

  8. Rena, thanks for this, you made me curious about the Dodos, enough to download Scott’s little book. Just skipping through – white dog poo, ha, ha, blackboards, indeed, the National Anthem … coming first to London it felt ridiculous standing up in cinemas to God save the Queen, and cap guns brought back spring carnival dances in village halls filled with gunpowder smoke, I can smell it now. Some Xmas presents are sorted with Dodos 🙂

  9. I just wanted to say thanks again for allowing me on your blog, it is hugely appreciated.

  10. I’m reading Ulysses on the bog. It’s taking a while. 🙂

    But seriously, sounds like a good book.

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