Rick Marin on women, freelancing and Cadishness.
JESSE OXFELD |In Cad:
Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, Rick Marin chronicles his mid-'90s rampage
through the women of Manhattan, which commenced with the end of an ill-fated
(and iller-conceived) early-20s starter marriage and ended when, finally, he
met the right woman. Along the way, Marin moves from a TV-critic job at the
right-wing Washington Times, through the churning waters of New York
freelancer-dom, and finally arrives at the promised lands: first Newsweek
and later The New York Times. As he prepared for Cad's release
last week, Marin talked to mediabistro.com about his life, his career and all
his celebrity friends. (Read an
exclusive mediabistro.com excerpt from Cad, then buy
it at Amazon.com.)
So give me the quick-take, less-cheesy-than-jacket-copy
version of what the book's about.
It's my personal story, and then it's also the story of all guys. It's my take
on the Sex and the City, Bridget Jones genrethe view from
the other side of the bed. And it's all with a backdrop of making my way through
the world of journalism.
I remember when I worked at Newsweek right out
of college, you were there then, and you were this established, on-top-of-things,
big-shot writer guy, very put together. So I was struck, reading the book, by
how you portray yourself as self-doubting and insecure through everythingis
that you, or is that shtick for the book?
Certainly when I was starting out as a freelancer, at the beginning of the book,
I was just flailing around and writing about anything and everything for anyone
and everyone. It was a big deal for me to get an assignment on baldness cures
for GQ, that was my breakthrough. Plus, when you're writing about pop-culture
trends you always are calling into question the significance and worthwhileness,
if that's a word, of what you're doing. In the book I talk about when I was
at Newsweek, writing the Carolyn Bessette coverone of the best
selling covers while I was there, I may addthat here I am digging deep
into the fact that her colorist describes her hair as having buttery chunks,
and I'm thinking, is this what I went to the Columbia Journalism School for?
Also, there's that Hemingway line about journalism, from The Sun Also Rises:
"It's such an important part of the ethic never to appear to be working." I
tried to take that to heart: even if I was sweating, never let you see it.
How'd you pull that off, moving from freelancing on baldness
cures to writing Newsweek covers? I just worked like crazy. It was three years of
the same hard work, to the point where in my final year I wrote a hundred stories,
which must be some kind of crazy record, and was making a pretty good amount
of money at it. But I was working from nine in the morning to 11 at night. I
just couldn't say no to anything because I had that basic freelancer's insecurity
that I was sort of chronically unemployed, or unemployable, so I overcompensated
by working like a maniac. It was such a relief to get to Newsweek, and
a job with an office, where you're a hero for writing maybe one story a week,
after previously writing five stories a week, or whatever I had been doing.
So you were at Newsweek, then you moved from there
to the Times, and you left the Times to work on the book, right? Left the Times after two and a half years
to work on the book.
One of the things I found great about the bookand
by extension about your life, I guessis all these prominent or on-their-way-to-prominent
media people dropping in for cameos. Fareed
Zakaria [now the editor of Newsweek International] is an intern with you at
Harper's, Tad Low [creator of Pop-Up Video] is your drinking buddy,
Alex Kuczynski's [New York Times Style writer] in the Hamptons share
next door. How did you end up with such a Zeligness to your life?
It happens to everybody. You hang out with people with when you're younger,
and then you're always shocked that they amount to something seven years later.
You can say, 'I used to go to Billy's Topless with that guy.' It is kind of
What was it, then, that made you realize your life was
That's the challenge, when you're writing about yourself: to be able to distinguish
between 'this happened to me but nobody cares,' and 'this happened to me and
maybe it's interesting.' Because no one had written this story from the male
point of view it just seemed like there was an opportunity there. And I knew
from my days of freelancing an advice column for Mademoiselle, when I
was essentially giving the male point of view, there was always insatiable curiosity
among female readersthey're curious about what's going on in there.
So you've always been thinking about this?
I've been thinking about it for ten years. And I tried it back then, took my
abortive stab at it, my literary masterpiece, which maxed out at 13 pages. I
realize I couldn't write it while I was living it because (a) I didn't have
enough time because I was too busy going out on dates or trying to get them,
and (b) I had no perspective on it. I had to be well out of it before I could
write about it. Also, it needed to have the happy ending. I think of it as a
delayed coming-of-age story, and it takes sometimes something heavy to happen
to snap you out of this protracted adolescence that my generation was stuck
Now that you're out of adolescence, what's next?
I'm working on a screenplay of the book now. [Miramax has an option on Cad.]
Then the British edition is coming out this summer, so this will keep me busy
for at least the first half of the year. After that I have no plan.
Going back to the Times? No. Journalism is a young man's game. I don't
think I would go back to working full time at a place like that.
And what about you and Ilene [Rosenzweig, the heroine,
if there is one, of Cad, one-half of the Swell girls, and former New
York Times deputy Style editor], are you engaged? Married?
Engaged, getting married in May. On our fifth anniversary, this past August,
I proposed. She's making an honest man out of me.
Mazel tov. Last thing and then I'll let you go. So you've
got a smart-ass 20-something kid who's freelancing constantly, 9 a.m. to 11
at night, to make that 100 pieces a year, what's your advice on how they can
become the next big-shot published author?
Oh man, just work like a maniac. I just cold called, constantly pitching. The
trajectory usually in the beginning you're pitching nine or ten stories for
every one the editor will give you, and then, once you've sort of established
yourself, they're pitching you and you hardly have to do any work at all to
get assignments. But at first, at least, you've got be constantly pitching,
you've got to be out there and willing to write for anyone and everyone. Also:
Take notes. That's what Nora Ephron's mother said to her on her deathbed, take
notes. It's the ultimate lesson for any writer because you will go back and
wish you had notes on any period in your life. And when you don't, and all is
lost in the sands of time, it's a pain in the ass to try and recreate it.
Are you still taking notes?
I'm trying to take better notes now, it's not easy. You know I'll always remember,
there's some scene in a Philip Roth book where one of his surrogate fictional
wives is yelling at him and saying, 'Don't you dare write that down,' and he's
writing it down and this is all of course in the next book. That's the way to
do it, simultaneous note taking while you're living.