Not My Job: We Quiz Novelist Jennifer Weiner On TripAdvisor Whiners
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask interesting people about things they're simply not interested in. It's called Not My Job. In 2001, Jennifer Weiner published a novel called "Good In Bed" about a Jewish journalist...
SAGAL: ...Struggling to balance career and a personal life in Philadelphia. Despite its science fiction-like premise...
SAGAL: ...It became a bestseller, as has many of her other novels, meaning that what she really is is good at desk.
Jennifer Weiner, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
JENNIFER WEINER: That's a lot less fun. But...
WEINER: But my mom would have been a lot happier probably with that title...
SAGAL: I understand.
WEINER: ...You know?
SAGAL: I understand. So you came to Philadelphia as a journalist.
WEINER: Came as a journalist.
SAGAL: And you published your first novel in 2001.
SAGAL: Which was, like many first novels, autobiographical.
WEINER: A little bit, yeah.
SAGAL: So if you write an autobiographical novel called "Good In Bed," aren't you bragging a little?
WEINER: Everybody says that, like, the happiest day of your life is when you get to go tell your parents that someone is publishing your book.
WEINER: And I'm sure this is true for every author who did not call their book "Good In Bed..."
WEINER: ...And has to go tell mom. And my mother, who had been incredibly dismissive when I was writing - you know, every time I said, I'm working on my novel, she'd say, oh, yes - the novel - like, that kind of thing.
WEINER: So she didn't believe me. And so I got to go home, and I said, you know, Simon and Schuster is publishing that novel. And she started to cry, and she gave me this hug, and we had this moment. And then she sort of draws back a little and says, what's it called? So I say, "Good In Bed." And she says, what? And I say, "Good In Bed." She says, "Good And Bad?" And I say, no.
WEINER: Not that. I said, it's "Good In Bed," Mom. And she sort of draws back, and she says, Jenny, how much research did you do?
SAGAL: As an autobiographical novel, though, did you include identifiable details about people you knew...
SAGAL: ...And had grown up with and perhaps who had mothered you?
WEINER: (Laughter) Yes. I mean, my mom had been married to my dad at one point. And then they got divorced. And then, about 10 years after that happened, my mom fell in love with a woman, you know? And we were - me and the - my siblings, we were shocked by this and hadn't seen it coming. And - she always liked softball, and I'd be, like, that is a stereotype - but, you know?
FAITH SALIE: What was it like? I mean, usually, we ask people, what was it like to come out to your parents? What was it like for your mom to come out to you?
WEINER: It was weird, man.
SALIE: What'd she say?
WEINER: Well, I mean, she didn't tell us, right?
SALIE: She showed you (laughter).
WEINER: That's exactly what happened.
LUKE BURBANK: Does she know that you know this, or is this the first she's going to hear of it?
WEINER: No, no, no. She - it's...
SAGAL: Did she just, like, pull up in a new car, and you were, like, Mom, a Subaru? I didn't expect that.
WEINER: So what happened was my youngest brother, Joe, went home to do his laundry and calls me at work at the Philadelphia Inquirer and says, there's a woman living in the house. There's shoes, and they're not Fran's shoes. And there's clothes, and it's not Fran's clothes. And then he said, and I was in mom's bathroom looking for toenail clippers, and I found all these love letters signed Karen (ph). So the first thing I do is buy Joe toenail clippers. So we're going to...
WEINER: This is never ever going happen again. You know, and then, like, I'm the reporter and also the oldest, so this is now my job. So I call my mother up, and I said, you know, anything new? And she says no. And I say - I wanted to give her the chance...
WEINER: ...Right? - to come clean. And then she says, there's nothing new. And I say, Joe says there's a woman living in the house. And there's this pause. And then she says, that's my swim coach.
SAGAL: Oh, my God.
WEINER: See, now, I should have known then, right (laughter)?
SAGAL: Did you...
WEINER: But I was just, like, Fran, you know, you're 54, and it's not an Olympic year, so...
WEINER: What the hell (laughter)? And then she says, you know, that's Karen, and she's the aquatics director at the West Hartford JCC. And we're in love. We've had two dates, and she's moved in. Bye.
SAGAL: She literally said, we're in love, goodbye.
WEINER: We're in love. You know, see you for Passover...
WEINER: ...Kind of thing. It's...
SAGAL: And you said to yourself...
WEINER: That night will be different from all other nights.
SAGAL: It's true.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Boy.
SAGAL: It's a kind of an act of hubris to write a novel - any novel. Had you always wanted to be a novelist?
WEINER: I always had. But what I discovered when I got out of college is you can't, like, go apply for a job. Like, there's no, like, classified ad - like, novelist wanted.
WEINER: And I had to go get a job. And I got a newspaper job in State College, Pa...
WEINER: ...Yes, Penn State - Penn State in the house. And I had, you know, great pretensions at my craft and my art...
WEINER: ...And my fiction. And one of the first assignments that they gave me was I had to type school lunch menus for five local school districts.
WEINER: I'm sitting there...
WEINER: You know, I'm sitting there going, you know, hotdog in bun, you know...
WEINER: ...White or chocolate. I mean, it knocked the pretension out of me real, real fast.
SAGAL: Your latest novel, "Mrs. Everything..."
SAGAL: ...Is about your mother.
WEINER: Well, it's loosely inspired...
SAGAL: Loosely, right.
SAGAL: It's loosely inspired...
WEINER: A little more thickly veiled this time.
SAGAL: Yes. Yeah. It's a woman...
SAGAL: ...Who's gay and who grows up at a time when that is totally not allowed.
SAGAL: And I was reading it. It's really gripping and interesting. And there's a sex scene...
SAGAL: ...Pretty early on.
WEINER: I know (laughter).
SAGAL: What was it like to write a sex scene involving...
WEINER: Oh, it was horrible, horrible.
SAGAL: ...Your mother?
WEINER: It was - I just had to sort of pretend that she was never, ever going to read this and that I was never, ever going to see her again...
WEINER: ...And we were never, ever going to meet and she would somehow be, like, hit on the head and forget my name or the very fact of my existence.
SAGAL: Has she, in fact, read it?
SAGAL: And what did she have to say?
WEINER: She said, my daughter has a very vivid imagination...
WEINER: ...Which I guess I do.
SAGAL: I'm going for another swim lesson.
WEINER: Right? Exactly.
SAGAL: All right, Jennifer Weiner. We are delighted to have you here. But now it is time to play a game that we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: Weiner, Meet A Whiner.
SAGAL: It is the best-ever time not to be named Weiner but to be a whiner with so many places you can leave complaints. We're going to ask you three questions about negative reviews we found on TripAdvisor - in particular, reviews written by frequent TripAdvisor reviewer my own father, Matthew Sagal.
SAGAL: So we're going to ask you three questions about reviews left by my father...
SAGAL: ...Matthew Sagal.
SAGAL: Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - my father criticizing the size of your portions on your voicemail.
SAGAL: Bill, who is Jennifer Weiner playing for?
KURTIS: Lynn and Diego Wojciechowski (ph), who are celebrating their 25th anniversary here today.
WEINER: Oh, nice.
SAGAL: Don't let them down. But here's your first question. What did my father, Matthew Sagal, say about an Italian restaurant in Salem, Mass.? A, quote, "I was disappointed to find the bread basket did not have those crunchy breadsticks. I like them..."
SAGAL: ...B, quote, "I have little patience for excuses which we got, like very busy tonight. I didn't notice a busy night discount..."
SAGAL: ...Or C, quote, "despite what the waiter might tell you, pizza bagels are Italian food, and they should serve them."
WEINER: All right. I'm going to say he said all three of those things.
WEINER: OK. I have to pick one?
SAGAL: You have to pick one, yeah.
SALIE: There's, like, an attempt at a joke embedded in one, which is what I could see Peter Sagal's father making.
WEINER: All right.
SALIE: It sounds like he was trying to be funny.
WEINER: Yeah. Where's the late people discount?
SAGAL: That's the one, of course.
WEINER: All right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Here's your next question. There's another Italian restaurant that's got a bad review in Sarasota, Fla. What did my father say about their ambience? A, you don't get that warm feeling that they are glad you are there. It's more like, I wish all these people would go away so I can go home; B, I think those Chianti bottles with candles in them are nice, and I don't know why they don't have a few...
SAGAL: ...Or C, just so you know, the picture above the bar, supposedly of Rome, is really of Naples...
SAGAL: ...And they should know that.
WEINER: I'm going to say it was the mural one - the mural was...
SAGAL: You like that?
SALIE: The audience likes that.
SALIE: Oh, no.
SAGAL: It was actually the first one.
WEINER: Oh, they didn't make him feel welcome.
SAGAL: ...The feeling they didn't make him feel welcome.
WEINER: I'm really sorry.
BURBANK: He needs to go to the Olive Garden.
BURBANK: When you're there, you're family.
WEINER: You're family - and they have the breadsticks.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, geez.
SAGAL: All right. Here's your last question.
SAGAL: You get this one right, you win.
WEINER: All right.
SAGAL: As part of a...
SAGAL: ...Pretty negative review of a Massachusetts seafood restaurant, what did the reviewer - my father, Matthew Sagal...
SAGAL: ...Say to the server, Lorna? He sent her a message in the review. Was it, A, to Lorna - I won't send you the bill for the shirt you spilled sauce on because I probably would have done it myself soon anyway...
SAGAL: ...B, Lorna, just so you know, when I asked you to write down the specials, it's not because I'm annoying. It's because I'm hard of hearing; or, C, atta girl, Lorna. You should be working in a place that deserves you.
WEINER: Geez. I'm going to say he said something nice to the waitress.
SAGAL: You are exactly right.
SAGAL: Because that the kind of guy my father is.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Jennifer do on this quiz?
KURTIS: She is so interesting, we're going to give her 2 out of 3 and a win.
POUNDSTONE: There you go.
SAGAL: Congratulations, Lynn and Diego. Jennifer Weiner's new book is "Mrs. Everything." You should read it, especially if you are her mom.
Jennifer Weiner, thank you so much for being here on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. What a pleasure. Jennifer Weiner, everybody.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPILL THE WINE")
ERIC BURDON AND WAR: (Singing) Spill the wine, and take that pearl. Spill the wine, and take that pearl.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.