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States Pop Quiz #35: Giancarlo DiTrapano

The NY indie publishing kingpin talks ridin' dirty, never leaving his apartment (and loving it) and why the sooner the war on drugs ends, the better

As part of our States of Independence summer takeover, 50 American indie icons have volunteered to take the Dazed Pop Quiz; a quick-fire Q&A about what they love and loathe about life in the USA. Check back here every day for more from the series. 

Giancarlo DiTrapano is the alt-lit don of Brooklyn who is something of an impresario of the independent publishing scene in that fair city. The founder of Tyrant Books, the publishing house that rose out of his literary magazine, The Tyrant, DiTrapano publishes really, really good books. Editing and printing some of the most exciting releases of recent times, DiTrapano recently took over Dazed, kicking off our State of Literature week in style. With his strong line on the future of publishing and ability to attract the hottest names to his imprint – Ken Baumann, Marie Calloway, Blake Butler, Atticus Lish – you’d be forgiven for presuming there’s something true-to-the-title tyrannical to DiTrapano. Nope – turns out that DiTrapano’s rise and rise could be down to a deadly combination of not only having an excellent eye, but also being a really good laugh. We caught up with the man himself about growing up in the USA (Charleston, West Virginia to be exact), weird fratty bars and why Mount Rushmore is way overrated. 

Which living American do you most admire and why?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: The writer Blake Butler. His new novel, 300,000,000 is going to change the face of American literature on it's release in October of this year. People will talk about this book for years and years. That rarely happens. 

Which living American do you most despise and why?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: At the moment, that fucking pig cop from Staten Island who put the chokehold on Eric Garner and killed him. But it will probably be someone different next week.

Whose face should be on the $100 bill?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: John Wayne Gacy (mostly because I think he was cute).

What is your favorite quote about America?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." – Oscar Wilde. I just heard this recently for the first time and it's perfectly true.

What three words define the States today?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Big asses, heroin, and smiles all around.

Who gave you your first break? Do you still talk?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: The first man I slept with. He lost interest. Tore me up.  I see him every year when I go to Rome. He drives me to the airport. Last time he did, on the drive to the airport, I thanked him for making that pass at me some 20 years ago. It saved me a lot of possibly wasted time.

When and where are you the most happiest?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: When I met my current boyfriend. Everything turned dream-like.

What high school clique were you in? Do you stay in touch?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Stoners, rockers. I see them when I go home.

What food reminds you of home?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Tudor's Biscuit World makes a biscuit sandwich with pepperoni and melted wiz. Sounds weird, but it's Heaven. Called a Peppi.

What smell do you associate with the city of your birth?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: I lived in the river out back of my house every day when I was a kid. So the river smell. Not the water or the coal on shores, but the Kanawha had a smell. Could have been from the chemical plants, but it smelled wonderful regardless.

What noise reminds you of the States?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: You know when you're in a weird fratty bar and they play that song, "Mony, Mony"? When the bar crowd yells, "Get laid! Get Fucked!" during certain parts of the song, like a chorus. It's very strange and no one knows when, or how, or by whom, this phenomenon began. It's annoying as goddamn hell.

What's the best road trip you've ever been on?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: SF to ATL non-stop and alone one summer

Where did you first fall in love?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: In my hometown of Charleston, WV. When I was 16. I fell in love with a girl who I was with for ten years.

What would make you leave America forever?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: A plane ticket and a free place to live.

What is your favorite American building?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: I'm oblivious to architecture. I never notice it really.

Ultimate American film?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Over the Edge.

Favorite slang phrase?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: I say fucking, and man in 1 out of 4 sentences that I speak. It's a problem.

What is your ultimate American guilty pleasure?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Living in the heart of NYC and never leaving my apartment.

What law would you change or invent?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Cops need to be elected. You should be able to smoke anywhere. Even in hospitals.

Where in the States would you ride out the apocalypse?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: In my apartment in NYC. I never leave.

Most overrated US tourist attraction

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Mount Rushmore. It's dinky. People think it's big, but it's really little. Like super small.

Most underrated US tourist attraction

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Grand Central.

Ultimate American album?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: The soundtrack to Grease.

When was your last run-in with the cops? What happened?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: I got arrested for weaving through traffic in the city on a motor bike. I had no insurance and the bike and no registration and I had an expired license. I was riding a tad dirty but it was in my belt and they didn't look in there.

If you could change one thing about the US, what would it be?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: The war on drugs is an atrocity. The sooner that ends, the better. So many problems would be solved. Think about it.

Which fictional American do you most identify with?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Johnny Appleseed.

If you could vote for Obama again, would you?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Don't vote.

If you lost it all tomorrow, what would you do the day after?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Get it back.

What will America look like in 2050?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: It's probably going to look like shit to me since I'll be 70 . Or dead. Hopefully dead.

Does the American Dream still exist?

Giancarlo DiTrapano: Yes, I had one yesterday and my dead uncle who I just loved to death was in it, alive, and he was like glowing and just looked great, like a big friendly bear, and I hugged him and I could feel his thick arms around my back and I could smell him so strongly (he always had a nice smell) and he was laughing and happy-crying while he hugged me and I could feel his chest bouncing up and down against my chest as he laughed. I woke up laughing too, but my face was wet.