David Shapiro is the pen name of a writer who created a Tumblr blog called Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. He then wrote a novel (You’re Not Much Use to Anyone, out now) about a character named David who created a Tumblr blog called Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. We talked about his career and his money.
What do you do?
I work as a summer associate at a white-shoe law firm. I hope to get an offer to come back to my firm after I graduate law school next year, meaning I would start full-time around September, 2015. I also write a little bit at The Wall Street Journal (in the paper) and The New Yorker (online). And I also wrote this book, obviously, the reason we’re here.
What does white-shoe mean?
It generally refers to old, large, well-respected law firms. Like, my firm has about 1,000 lawyers. It’s peculiar—in America, in general, the biggest corporations are the best at one particular thing. ExxonMobil is the biggest/best at producing oil and gas. Pfizer is the biggest/best at making pharmaceuticals. In other parts of the world, it’s different—Samsung, the biggest/best corporation in South Korea, makes toilet seats, phones, coffee machines, cars. They own an amusement park. In May, when the CEO of Samsung had a heart attack, they took him to Samsung Hospital. But law firms in America, the biggest ones (which are generally the best ones), can provide any kind of legal service that you need—much closer to the Samsung model than the Pfizer model.
So that’s what I do, this summer. I work in the private equity group.
Is your real name David Shapiro?
No. My legal name isn’t David Shapiro. I’m a lawyer and law student under my legal name, and I write under the name David Shapiro. I picked it because it’s like the John Smith of Jewish names. It’s hard to Google. I wanted to separate my writing life from my legal life because when I was 22, me and my friend wrote a Village Voice story about heroin dealer/addicts and I thought no employer would ever hire me if they knew I had spent time with heroin addicts. That seems naive now (I didn’t actually do the heroin with them), but I felt paranoid about it then.
But being David Shapiro has some definite upsides—someone on Tumblr the other day reblogged my post announcing my book, and he said, “I’m so psyched about this book, I loved his scholarship on the Shakespeare author debate, I’m definitely going to order this,” and I was like, “Sick!” There is David Shapiro the poet, David Shapiro the party photographer, there was a David Shapiro in the index of my constitutional law textbook.
My publisher was not excited that I had chosen this name because it does indeed make my work very difficult to find through Google, which makes the marketing department’s job harder. I used David Shapiro, Jr. for a while, which is the opposite of David Shapiro, because among Jews, it’s untoward to name someone after a living person, so there are almost no David Shapiro’s, Jr. There is one, actually—I think he is about 14 and he may or may not have frosted tips [in his hair]. But then I switched back because it sounded really stupid. So now I’m David Shapiro again.
I am a 29-year-old woman, married for four years. I am a playwright, actor, blogger, screenwriter, tutor, and babysitter. My husband is a software engineer. My money-making schedule is varied and inconsistent and sometimes I will just freak out about it—especially now, because I’m pregnant.
When we moved in together, PT and I combined our pillows without thinking about it. We just put pillowcases on them and piled them on the bed. Two of them went to the bed in the furnished extra room that we rent out as often as we can (n.b. we have not used Airbnb yet!). Some were mine and some were his, but all of them—save for the one Ikea pillow I picked up at some point in the past seven years in New York—were of unknown provenance; and they were gross.
After an entire young-adulthood spent in shared city townhomes with shared kitchens in which to blame messes on other people, you will move into your own apartment. Here are the things you learn, ever so abruptly.
My first job out of college was fact-checking restaurant listings. Every day, I called 25 restaurants in New York City to see if any of their information had changed, asking if their curtains were still red, their bathrooms still adorned with lavender sprigs, if their salad was still served with strawberries, if their servers still donned bow ties. With time, I had a mental Rolodex of places I wanted to eat, and Peter Luger Steak House, a restaurant so fancy it has its own Wikipedia page, was at the top.
My family has been the key reason I’ve always been able to push myself forward. They always tell me how proud they are of me, the way I stand up for myself, resist what people try to convince black girls they should believe about themselves
My first job out of college was one of those elusive Real Jobs, the kind that required me to be somewhere from 9-to-5, with a one-hour lunch break, and paperwork and clunky computers with outdated operating systems. I interviewed for the role in my one and only suit: a houndstooth Michael Kors skirt suit purchased on deep discount at a Loehmann’s in San Francisco. The skirt had a slit in the back that came uncomfortably close to my butt, and the jacket was double-breasted, equipped with a fierce pair of shoulder pads. The shoes were suede, low-heeled, pinchy in the toes, leaving blisters on the back of my heels that hurt for days after the fact. Looking in the mirror, I told myself that this was what a professional wore. I It remains the most uncomfortable item of clothing I’ve worn to date.
For the last seven years, I’ve been an adjunct professor of writing at three different institutions, while raising three kids mostly on my own. At the University of Oregon, that meant an annual, full-time salary of $27,000, though they offered me great benefits. At other schools, my salary ranged from $2,000/class to $4,000/class, though my cap was typically four or five classes a year, and never any work in the summer. This meant many summers (which would sometimes stretch to fall) on food stamps supplemented with a few trips to the food bank. It meant shopping at Goodwill, borrowing money from my mom or brother, floating checks, free lunch applications, payday loans. It also meant that I relied on friends for non-monetary help, too: picking up my kids from theater or chess, or getting groceries after I had back surgery, or just letting me vent and worry aloud about how hard it was to make ends meet.
Here’s the problem: my boyfriend has HUGE student loan debt. Like, staggeringly large. His salary is pretty low… which doesn’t bother me except that he’s barely making any inroads on paying off his debt, and doesn’t really have a plan to do so. I don’t mind being the bigger contributor to our rent, bills, etc., but I don’t want to sink my life savings into paying off his debt, not least because of the, let’s face it, entirely real possibility of future break-up or divorce. A girl’s gotta be practical.
Photo: Vinoth Chandar
My husband’s dream of moving his band’s weekly practices from a high-rent industrial building to the cottage crumpled, and we realized that in order to avoid financial ruin we would have to use it as a source of extra income. Since we still wanted to banish certain out-of-town company to the cottage, we decided to furnish the space and offer it for short-term rental on AirBnB.
The Eurocup is just like the World Cup, but without all those “soccer is my religion” South American teams adding to the competition. In the summer of 2008, I took the standard solo trip around Western Europe, staying in a combination of hostels, couches, and dusty German hardwood floors. The dollar was at an all time low against the Euro, and I was on a budget of about $20 a day—so most of my experiences involved cheap beer, street food and wandering around looking for free tourist attractions. But one way I was able to break out of the American “backpacking through Europe” cliché and experience some bona fide culture was to join in with the locals in every country to root their national soccer team on to victory as the Eurocup unfolded on just about every screen on the continent. On Thursday I might be an avid fan of the Spanish and their incredible ball possession skills, but when my train rolled in to Paris I was raving about the French defense.
Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean I have to wear jeans from K-Mart. I love Kut from the Kloth jeans, which sell for $40 at Nordstrom Rack, but I recently found two pair in my size at Thrift Town, for $4.99 each. Thanks to label whoring, I can be the best-dressed person at the welfare office (and that is including the employees).