Ned Vizzini, It's Kind Of A Funny Story
I was excited and anxious to get my hands on this book because of the subject matter. It's Kind of a Funny Story is about a teenager who is depressed and suicidal and checks himself into the hospital.
The novel spans the five days Craig, the narrator, is in the psychiatric unit. It's very well written and at times, funny. I’ve suffered from depression for a long time and there are moments when I feel like I’m the only one who knows what its like to experience the cycle of feeling sad and distressed. Me -and maybe Sylvia Plath.
I think this is going to be an important novel to thousands of both teens and adults. I can imagine Oprah doing a show on teen depression and referencing this book. It was a really good read, fast paced and I couldn't put it down.
The story was based on your own experience in a psychiatric ward. Why did you make Craig fifteen years old rather than a guy in his twenties?
I enjoy writing about high school because it's such a primal arena for human conflict. But there's another reason that I made Craig fifteen instead of 23, the age I was when I entered the hospital. It's because these days, fifteen-year-olds face the pressures that I faced at 23. Their academic environment has turned into a college-industrial complex with kids competing to get into the right preschool, let alone the right after-school internship.
The ability of Myspace to make instant, small-scale celebrities has led to many people expecting a fan base when they leave high school. If you slip, as Craig does, you can quickly fall into hopelessness, as if you'd lost a career in your 20s.
What were you like as a teenager? And how have you changed since then?
As a teenager, I thought I had problems, but I had no idea. I thought that not being able to get a girlfriend was the be-all and end-all of human difficulty. I was also frenetic, constantly coming up with projects, writing, starting websites, pursuing anything that interested me. As I've aged, I've encountered much bigger problems, and I've become a lot more plodding. I'd like to think I've become wiser as well, and I'm working towards being the man I'm supposed to be, but sometimes I'm not so sure. Jeez. This is like therapy.
How much of the story was true, what did you fictionalize? And why did you choose to base it on your own experiences rather than write a non –fiction account of what you went through?
About 85% of It's Kind of a Funny Story is true. I really did want to kill myself and I really did go to the psych hospital, and I really did have the experiences that Craig has in the book (most of them), and I really did have a moment where I decided that it was better to live. What didn't happen were some of the more salient plot points: the love triangle, especially.
I chose to fictionalize so that I could add those elements without lying about myself. I also wanted Craig to be younger than me, so that I could add in some 20-something insights about being a teenager. Maybe when I'm 30 I'll have insights about my 20s.
What kind of music do you listen to when you write, if any?
When I write, I like to listen to music with long songs so that a song hasn't ended and I've written a few sentences. That means jazz--Miles Davis--and also opera. But I still go back to Weezer and Nirvana from time to time. These days one of my favorite bands is a country act from Brooklyn called the Useless Bastards.
The last page of the book is really good, it's powerful and positive and we really feel like Craig is going to pull himself together. Have you re-read the novel since it was published? If you did, what do you think?
I haven't re-read It's Kind of a Funny Story since it was published, but I read it over a number of times for editing, and I do like the ending. I like it especially because I really did have a moment like that, a moment where I decided to live. Unfortunately it hasn't been all gravy from that point on--sometimes, it's been very difficult.
I have the book around and I do hope that I can turn to it sometime in the future to give me help when I'm feeling depressed. That's really what it's there for--to help people and to tell a story and to show you that no matter how bad your life is, there's humor in it and there's life in that humor.