Hostile Questions: Frank Portman

Frank Portman? Yeah, I’ve heard of him. Big tough guy. Wrote a zeitgeist novel called King Dork, then followed it up with one brilliant enough to make the brilliant doubt their brilliance. Oh, and he’s in a band. Is that supposed to make me swoon? Let’s start this concert already and see which of us gets moshed.

Just who do you think you are?

Name: Frank Portman. Most people know me as Dr. Frank, which is kind of a “stage name,” in that I am called that on stage with my rock-and-roll band and in the credits and so forth. But really, I am primarily “the Doctor” in my own head and to all of my friends. I started using my last name when my first book was published (because I thought it might confuse people to see “Dr. Frank” on the cover and they’d say “who’s this weird doctor?” rather than buying the book) but it still sounds funny to me; and it often takes a beat or two before I realize they’re talking about me when they say it. Like a lot of things in this world, it started out as a kind of joke, and then it gradually became impossible to distinguish the joke from the reality. You make the joke, you become the joke: that’s nature’s law.

Where do you get off?

I was born in San Francisco, California, and like most people born here, I prefer to think of myself as a citizen of the world. Just kidding: I hate the world, really, and I’d never want to be a citizen of it, ever. But it’s a San Franciscan thing to say. Just giving you the flavor of it, you know: background stuff. I think you’ll find we’re more tolerant here, more sophisticated yet down-to-earth, more diverse, more progressive, and more in tune with our ethical obligations towards the planet than people are in whatever lousy city you happen to be from.

Just kidding again! That’s another thing everybody says around here. We like to think of San Francisco as the American city that is most like a small European city, and there’s some truth there, in that all the inhabitants think they’re better than everyone else, and it smells terrible.

What’s the big idea?

I wrote this book called King Dork. Then I wrote this other book called Andromeda Klein. Now I’m working on this third book called King Dork Approximately, a sequel to King Dork. I first became aware of Led Zeppelin when I saw the name spray-painted on a wall. I asked my mom to explain and she said: “he was a very bad man.”

What is your problem, man?

Hard to pick just one. My shoelaces never stay tied; I’ve got, like, a 15-second attention span (up from 10, though, so there’s progress); I still can’t figure out how to work this phone all the way; I look at the world with sense of childlike wonder; I basically live the lifestyle of a lazy 12-year-old on summer vacation. But I hear: there’s pills for that.

Haven’t you done enough?

Probably yes, but I’ve still got some rock and roll projects underway, including re-issuing my back catalog and recording some new stuff. And, like I said, I’ve got that King Dork sequel forthcoming. I’m also planning to see the movie when it comes out, if I can get some free passes.

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About the Author:

Dan Kraus, senior editor at Booklist is the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award.

1 Comment on "Hostile Questions: Frank Portman"

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  1. kaitestover@kclibrary.org' Kaite Stover says:

    I love hostile questions, but not as much as I loved King Dork, still one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. On a bus.

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