My guest for this episode of Life Stories, the podcast series where I interview memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, is Josh Hanagarne, the author of The World’s Strongest Librarian. It’s a fantastic book with a lot of amazing stories bundled into it: Josh has Tourette’s Syndrome, so he writes about dealing with that, but that aspect of his life also overlaps with the story of his withdrawal from the Mormon faith of his childhood and early adult years and the story of how he zeroed in on weightlifting—and, from there, other forms of intense physical training—to cultivate a strong sense of self-control, and of course the story of his work as a public librarian in Salt Lake City. And none of these stories plays out the way you might expect.
Josh experienced a few instances of Tourette’s-related symptoms while recording this conversation; in many cases, I edited those moments out the same way I excise awkward pauses and “ums” and “you knows” from any other interview. At times, however, just as I can’t always get out every “um,” his vocalizations couldn’t be removed without affecting the clarity of what was being said, so you will hear some unexpected noises during the interview. We actually touched upon this point tangentially during our conversation, when he discusses how he handled his tics in the writing of the memoir, wanting to depict their effects honestly but not wanting them to overwhelm the text—at one point, he essentially says, unless I explicitly say otherwise, just assume any of the tics I’ve mentioned are happening on a regular basis, even if I’m not writing about them.
We also talk about the generosity Seth Godin showed Josh in the early stages of his writing journey, the fan mail he wrote to Cheryl Strayed, and how his library patrons are reacting to his celebrity moment—among plenty of other topics.
Listen to Life Stories #34: Josh Hanagarne (MP3 file); or download this file directly by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). You can also subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released.