"The best thing about being an adult is that you can say no more often."
8 questions with our newest Judge, Esquire culture editor Tyler Coates
Book of the Month, Tyler Coates
Book of the Month: We're excited to have you join our Book of the Month Judge panel! In one sentence, tell us about what kinds of books you like to read.
Tyler Coates: I love epic Southern tragedies, coming-of-age stories, collections of cultural criticism and personal essays, and the occasional trashy celebrity memoir.
BOTM: You selected The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak as your Book of the Month, which tells the story of a 14-year old boy growing up in the 1980s who, attempts to steal a copy of Playboy (the one with Vanna White on the cover). What is the closest you've ever come to pulling off a heist?
TC: When I was a kid, I'd often sneak into my dad's collection of loose change, take all of the quarters, and fill up bank rolls when I collected ten dollars' worth. Then I'd give them to my dad, who would give me cash. I am pretty sure he was aware that I was essentially stealing from him and selling his own money back to him. He probably appreciated that I went to so much effort to get ten bucks out of him every few months.
BOTM: The Impossible Fortress is set in the 1980s, and is full of pop culture references to that era. What is it about that decade that people find so appealing?
TC: I think there's an inherent silliness to the '80s that no other decade has. I mean, the hair? The clothes? The culture? It was all so over the top, but unlike other decades' cultural output, the '80s was so bright, flashy, and neon. And it helps that the best teen movies came from the '80s'”or at least the first mainstream teen movies that felt raw and emotional and real. I think a lot of people of a certain age associate the era with childhood and adolescence, even if they were, say, born a decade later.
BOTM: You write that The Impossible Fortress is, 'œa book for anyone who felt like a weirdo as a teenager.'œ What would you tell our young protagonist Billy, knowing what you know now as an adult?
TC: The best thing about being an adult is that you can say no more often. You still have to do a lot of stuff you don't want to do, and you still have to meet the expectations of a lot of people around you'”from your romantic partners, your parents, your friends, and your boss. (Yes, the worst thing about being an adult is that you have to have a job.) But even though you have to do things for other people, you don't have to do everything for other people. You can finally be your own boss.
BOTM: On a related note, what's one of the weirdest things you've ever done?
TC: I once appeared in a commercial for a X-Box game in which I had to dance on camera to Salt N Pepa's 'œPush It' (alongside a pre-Broad City Ilana Glazer). I truly hope no one can ever find footage of this.
BOTM: You are the culture editor at Esquire, where you write about books, movies, TV, and politics. In 2017, which of these four things will provide the most entertainment?
TC: I'm not sure which of those disciplines will provide the most entertainment, but I do know that we need them to. The real world has stopped being funny and exciting and has begun to feel pretty scary and overwhelming. It's important to pay attention to the things that are happening around you, but it's also important to give yourself a break from time to time. That's where entertainment comes in. Take a Saturday afternoon to read a book, to binge-watch a show, to go down a weird Wikipedia rabbit hole. Politics will always be around, but arts and culture often feel like they're being threatened. The only way we are going to keep having good things is if we demand them.
BOTM: You've been counting the books you read on Instagram this year and just hit #6. Why are you doing this? How many books are you hoping to read?
TC: I'll be completely honest: I do it because I want to show off how many books I'm reading. I'm often jealous of my friends who somehow get through multiple books in a week, whereas I am a very slow reader (and sometimes opt to play a dumb game on my iPhone on my commute to and from work rather than pulling out the book I'm carrying with me). Maybe if I have a reason to hit my reading goals'”in other words, the attention of people who follow me on Instagram (it's horrible but true!)'”maybe I can read more books? I always set a lofty goal of a book a week, but I think the most I've gotten through in a year is 45 books.
BOTM: There's been a huge movement lately to de-clutter, but some things are worth holding onto. For you, it's Broadway playbills. What do you love about them? And, as a culture editor, what other interesting artifacts are you hoarding in your apartment?
TC: I have to admit: I recently got rid of my Playbills when I moved to a new apartment. I've been trying to de-clutter a bit myself, especially since I moved in with my boyfriend; suddenly the sentimental stuff I've been carrying around with me for years was taking up too much space. As for things I still hold onto: matchbooks, buttons, Criterion Collection DVDs and Blu-rays, and, of course, books. But even books are objects I let go of often'”I buy a lot of them, new and used, and often lend them out to friends with the understanding that they'll never get back to me. Sometimes I'll do a purge and donate books I've read and didn't want to keep (or books I know I'll never get around to). I like the idea of a book having many owners throughout the years. There's something very communal about it and I'm glad to participate in passing books among many hands.