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.
The newest quarterly edition of Scratch Magazine just released, and this quarter’s Scratch is on the theme of “security,” both financially and in other ways. The entire issue is fantastic, but one of the pieces that stuck out was Kima Jones’ five-part “Baby Gotta Eat” piece. (Although Scratch is subscription-based, you can read all of “Baby Gotta Eat” for free.)
Kima Jones is a poet and a writer, but that is only one of her many jobs—she also has a full-time job and a part-time weekend job. As she writes in “Part I: For Further Consideration:”
I have always worked two jobs, my whole life. Two jobs and school. Two jobs and relationships. Two jobs and family. At the end of the summer I am leaving my second job so that I can write more and read more and sleep. I will make less money, but I will have more time for me. I think, Am I worth it? Am I worth it? Is my work worth my own time?
She also writes about the financial mathematics that dominate adult lives:
Mostly my lists look like this: a list of my dream items, a list of my outstanding debts, a list of my recurring bills, a list of household items to buy, a list of groceries. I feel like an adult and responsible and on top of things when I cross items off of my list, but the crossing is slow. There are things I won’t spend money on anymore—namely, manicures, pedicures, or the salon. Luxuries have long gone out of the window. Instead, I remember having health insurance is a luxury, being employed is a luxury, having an apartment that is mine all mine and being able to keep the rest of the world out is a luxury. There are days when I come in this house and take a nap because I don’t have the answers or the funds or the energy to think about it anymore.
And then, in Part V, she gives us a chart of her writing income and expenses. I love charts. I was so glad to see this chart. It puts her perspective literally into perspective.
So read Kima Jones’ story and then, if you want, we could start a comment discussion about our own “wrath of the math.” Or, we could take our lead from Kima Jones’ “Part III: The Real Question” and talk about how we manage money and food, and whether we have a bag of rice hiding in our cupboards waiting for the truly lean days.
+ 7251.11 Euro + A new city manager + A man’s watch. “‘Buying a nice watch is not about status to me, nor is it about impressing others. I am buying it because it is a beautiful creation,’” sayeth the investment banker. AskMen approves: “Besides the great choice in aesthetic, going to a brand where the timepiece is an absolute investment is the best thing Paul could have done with this amount of money.” I might not taking further financial advice from AskMen.
+ An un-retouched photo of Lena Dunham + A college degree in Texas. More info here. Sorry I ragged on you earlier, Houston! + A tiny, tiny home + The beginnings of a fortune + The ability to coax Jonathan Adler from bed + The ability to pay off your fine for posting “revenge porn” + Um, a wife?
Yes, I am offering a $10,000 reward to anyone that introduces me to the woman that I propose to. She does NOT need to say yes for you to get the reward. No, if you yourself call and we marry, you don’t get $10,000 but you do get me. In that case, I’ll donate it to a charity that promotes parenthood as being the most important job in the world.
Or you could, you know, write The Goldfinch. And then buy a watch.