Celebrating ten years of Found Magazine, the publication's founder Davy Rothbart is coming to Miami on a live tour with a cornucopia of found items. He's bringing birthday cards, poetry on napkins, and anything random that gives a peek into a stranger's life. It's exactly the kind of thing you would read in the pages of Found Magazine over the past decade, and it's coming to the Miami Theater Center at 7 PM on Friday, April 18.
But Rothbart will also have other, more personal tricks up his sleeve. He will be reading from his autobiographical book of essays, My Heart Is an Idiot, as well as stories he has written over the years for NPR's This American Life. New Times caught up with the very prolific Rothbart to discuss his new book, the documentary he directed, his PBS special airing Monday, and the graduation speech he will deliver to his alma mater this Spring.
Cultist: What can audiences expect at Miami Theater Center on April 18?
Davy Rothbart: I do an energetic reading where I share some of the favorites from Found Magazine. Notes and letters found on the ground people have sent to us from all over the country, so some old favorites and brand new ones. I rant and rave and get a little bit wild, because the found items get a little bit crazy, and I try to read them with the emotion they were written with.
What are some of the found items you'll be bringing to Miami?
Everything from love letters to some of the craziest to do lists that involves sword fighting to a personal budget that includes money set aside to buy crack.
Has anyone reading Found Magazine ever discovered something they personally lost published in the magazine?
I didn't foresee it happening, but it has a couple times and people have been cool about it. Most have been honored. One girl wrote me not too long ago that she saw in there a note she wrote years before to a friend about these two guys she was dating at the time, Chad and Kevin. She was trying to figure out what to do and asking for advice. She emailed me about seeing her letter in the magazine, and we went back and forth for a minute, and she updated me about the two guys. So, maybe we can have a where are they now section in a future issue.
I read the excerpt on your website about taking advantage of growing up with a deaf Mom from your book My Heart Is an Idiot.
The book's more about my romantic misadventures than a family story. I thought it was only fair, after years of publishing other's personal stories, to share my own personal stories. People have told me how much they related to the book. I've always been a romantic, and sometimes in the name of love, you'll find yourself in the weirdest, most crazy situations. But I think it was Mel Brooks who came up with the axiom "tragedy plus time equals comedy." Many times that were heart wrenching, I can now look back and see them as the comic moments they really were.
But they're not all love stories, you read the one about my Mom. There's also one I wrote about the days after 9/11. I took a Greyhound bus from Chicago to New York to do some radio work for This American Life, and I interview a bunch of people during this 48-hour bus trip. There's another one about a friend in Missouri who's serving a life sentence for a murder I believe he did not commit. His name's Byron Case, and I tell the story of investigating his situation.
Are you working on anything now?
The last two or three years, I'd been working on this book and this documentary, Medora. It's about a small town in rural Indiana and their high school basketball team, the Medora Hornets. Other places refer to Medora as a meth town. The factory has shut down and things are dire. So we focus on four boys who try to overcome difficult challenges in their home lives and on the basketball court (It will be airing on PBS local channel 2 at 11PM on Monday, March 31).
You've done a lot of interviews over the years, recently for GQ magazine. Now, you're being interviewed. If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you ask?
I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and went to the University of Michigan and I'm super honored they asked me to speak at the graduation address in May. So, I've been trying to figure out what to say, and I figured the speech will be about what advice I'd give to a 21-year-old me. That's the question I'd ask myself. What advice would I give myself coming out of college?
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And how would you answer?
I'm doing a 20 minute version of that at the graduation, but basically, focus on the things that interest you the most.