Talk Show 22: Allison Amend, Ryan Boudinot, Francie Lin, Ed Park, Heidi Pitlor & Nathaniel Rich

Jaime Clarke


TALK SHOW: Saturday Morning Cartoon

Allison Amend was born in Chicago on a day when the Cubs beat the Mets 2-0. She attended Stanford University and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her work has received awards from and appeared in One Story, Black Warrior Review, StoryQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner and Other Voices, among other publications. Her debut short story collection, Things That Pass for Love, was published in October 2008 by OV Books. Visit Allison at

Ryan Boudinot is the author of the story collection The Littlest Hitler.  He lives in Seattle.  Visit Ryan at

Francie Lin is the author of The Foreigner.  She is a former editor at The Threepenny Review, received a Fulbright Fellowship to Taiwan in 2001-2002, and lives in Greenfield, MA.

Ed Park is the author of Personal Days.  He is a founding editor of The Believer and the former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement. He has written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Salon, Modern Painters, and other publications. He writes a monthly science fiction column, Astral Weeks, for the Los Angeles Times, and blogs vertiginously at The Dizzies.  Visit him at and

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novel, The Birthdays and the annual series editor of The Best American Short Stories. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son and daughter. Her website is

Nathaniel Rich’s first novel, The Mayor’s Tongue, was published last spring. He lives in New York, where he is an editor at The Paris Review. Visit Nathaniel at

––Name your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon.

Amend: I wasn’t really allowed to watch TV. But on Sundays I’d sneak downstairs before Mom and Dad were up and watch the only thing on television on Sunday mornings at 7AM in 1982: Beyond the Magic Door, a Jewish show which I’ve since learned was part of the Kiruv (outreach) mission of the Chicago Council of Rabbis.

Boudinot: Thundar the Barbarian.

Lin: Scooby-Doo.

Park: Oddly, it might have been Hong Kong Phooey. I haven’t even started to think about the cross-cultural (or in this case, “racist”?) angles to this show. Oh, man.

Pitlor: I think I was born a very old person who found anything too brightly colored, intrusively soundtracked or slaptickly humored hugely irritating. I am not and have never been, not at three or five or ten, a fan of cartoons. I was the only child I knew who chose not to watch Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry. I distinctly remember declaring them “immature”––and this had to be in first or second grade. It’s not something to be proud of. I’ve always felt left out of the national hoopla that comes with each release of a new Shrek movie. A few cartoons I’ve found tolerable, though barely: Peanuts (I loved Linus and Woodstock, but couldn’t stand Charlie Brown’s endless moping and Lucy’s shrill manipulating) and Monsters Inc., though by the end of the movie, I was squirming in my seat and desperate to look at regular human beings again. Does Pixar even count?

Rich: Ren and Stimpy.

––What are your memories of watching this cartoon?

Amend: Vague embarrassment that my religion was being paraded in front of what I assumed was the whole world, coupled with curiosity that Jews existed outside of the kids I knew from Sunday School, and compounded by boredom. I also recall, though this must be a memory that I’ve grafted onto that time, that the title of the show was somehow dirty… It strikes me now as better suited to be the title of a porn film, or the name of a Vietnamese brothel.

Boudinot: All I really remember about this show was that it took place in post-apocalyptic time. The barbarian who gave the show its title looked sort of like Conan or He-Man, and he had a number of accomplices who rode around with him on horses, fighting bad guys.

Lin: Getting up at some ungodly hour before anyone else was up to watch, and feeling panic when I missed an episode. Also, I think I was in love with Freddy and made up lots of stories with him as the romantic interest.

Park: The secretary’s nasal voice cracked me up.

Pitlor: I remember seeking out any toy, book, piece of thread, anything really with which to occupy myself while my brother or friends watched cartoons. I remember being thrilled when I learned to change the channel myself.

Rich: I remember being so excited by the idea of a pet log that I dragged in a fallen branch from the sidewalk outside my apartment and made my mother set a place for it at the dinner table.

––What was one of your favorite storylines?

Amend: They were all the same, little kids with big noses and curly brown hair danced around a living dreidel. Can that be right? Dan Castellaneta played the adult. Yes, that’s right, Homer Simpson is Jewish.

Boudinot: I think the story I liked most was the one where they fought the bad guys, and the head bad guy said to his henchmen, “Seize him!”

Lin: Can’t remember exact storylines––they were pretty much all the same anyway. But anything with the Harlem Globetrotters, or with Scrappy Doo, was always a treat.

Park: I have absolutely no memory of storylines. In fact, I don’t even understand it: Why was it a dog who did kung fu? I’m sure there was a terrific backstory.

Pitlor: Of course in hindsight, the storylines blend together for me (slender, shrewd animal chases chubby, feckless animal. Explosives or heavy machinery involved, feckless animal turns tables). But I did look forward to the Peanuts’ Christmas. I still remember with enormous affection the little twig of a tree that Charlie Brown adopted. As a Jew, I think I sympathized with that tree each December.

Rich: ‘Space Madness’ which follows the adventures of Ren and Stimpy as astronauts lost in space. Here’s Ren, talking to a bar of soap: “You’re not like the others…you like the same things I do! Waxed paper…boiled football leather…dog breath…”

––Do you own any memorabilia?

Amend: Just the albatross of guilt and self-loathing that is the legacy of every good Jew.

Boudinot: Unfortunately, no.

Lin: No. Isn’t that sad?

Park: No. Though my wife bought a pink HKP T-shirt at a Target in Irvine, California, a couple years ago.

Pitlor: I don’t own any memorabilia at this point, but I did have a denim jumper that was embroidered with Snoopy and Woodstock patches and I was quite proud of it. When I look at my nieces’ cropped t-shirts emblazoned with glittery Hello Kitties or Hannah Montana holding a microphone, I remember my Snoopy jumper with a certain woeful nostalgia. See, I’m still a cranky old naysayer.

Rich: I wish––just the first two seasons on DVD.

––Can you remember the theme song?

Amend: Unsurprisingly, it involved the words “Beyond the Magic Door…” and a tiny door opened up into a large Semitic utopia. I was disappointed, many years later, when I went to Israel and it failed to look like the set.

Boudinot: Not at all, sad to say.

Lin: Of course! If this weren’t an email interview I’d sing it for you now.

Park: Somewhat: “Hong Kong Phooey, number one superstar…”

Pitlor: Who can forget the Peanuts crew, arms at their sides, bouncing up and down like popcorn beside the piano to the happy, jazzy Vince Guaraldi? For me, if childhood could be distilled in a few tunes, these would qualify.

Rich: I remember the lyrics to “Happy Happy, Joy Joy.” I hum it to myself in times of sorrow.