JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, coming to you from Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Fla. I'm Jonathan Coulton, here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Thank you, Jonathan. It's time to welcome our special guest. She's the New York Times best-selling author of "Bad Feminist," and her latest book is called, "Hunger: A Memoir Of My Body." Please welcome Roxane Gay.
EISENBERG: Welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.
ROXANE GAY: Thanks for having me on ASK ME ANOTHER.
EISENBERG: My pleasure. Roxane, you're a best-selling author, associate professor at Purdue, the founder of Tiny Hardcore Press. You write about a lot of very serious things, but you also write about a lot of very lighthearted things - pop culture, stuff like your love of "Sweet Valley High" books. You do recaps of the TV show "Outlander."
GAY: Yeah, I do. I do.
EISENBERG: You recently interviewed Nicki Minaj. So how did these two sides work together?
GAY: I'm just a Libra.
GAY: So I'm always seeking balance. But, you know, I think that in order for me to be able to write about racism and sexual violence and inequality, which is important work, and I'm privileged to be able to do it, you also need to take a [expletive] break. Like, the struggle needs time off. And so for me, that time off comes by way of popular culture.
EISENBERG: So it is, like, escape for you?
GAY: In some ways, but, you know, unfortunately I have a brain. And so when I'm watching or consuming pop culture, oftentimes I'm like, see, this is why systemic racism is a problem. And there are no black people on television. And - ahh (ph). Yeah. So it's hard.
EISENBERG: 'Cause there's no perfect piece of pop culture.
GAY: Well, there are a couple perfect pieces of pop culture.
EISENBERG: What's the perfect piece of...
GAY: "Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills."
GAY: I mean, if we were ever in doubt about God's existence...
GAY: ...Now we know.
EISENBERG: That He doesn't exist?
GAY: You are correct.
EISENBERG: So your latest book, titled, "Hunger: A Memoir Of My Body," it is an amazing book. You have said that this is the last thing that you wanted to talk about, the last story from your life that you wanted to tell. So what happened that you decided now was the time to tell it?
GAY: It was write the book or give back the advance time.
GAY: I was like, shucks, I better write it. You know, I actually sold "Hunger" before "Bad Feminist" even came out because I thought, well, if "Bad Feminist" flops, I want another book deal on the books, which was a real miscalculation on my part. But when I thought about what I wanted to do next in terms of my nonfiction, I thought, well, the thing I want to write about least is fatness. And that's when I knew, that's the thing I'm going to have to do. Because oftentimes, the things that I'm most reluctant to do end up being the most intellectually satisfying. And that was eventually the case with "Hunger," as well.
EISENBERG: And the narrative structure of this memoir is not the classic narrative structure in the sense that it doesn't end up with achievement, or overcoming everything and accomplishing. There's no pretty little bow at the end, which I actually love because I think that is realistic.
EISENBERG: Did you get any editorial pushback? Were you concerned...
EISENBERG: ...About that? No.
GAY: I didn't. You know, I say from the second page that this is not a triumphant book and I'm not going to be on the cover of my book standing in my formerly fat pants, like, in half of them - yay, look what I did. So I think that forewarned is forearmed. So I think the reader knew not to expect that I have figured everything out. And I think it's OK to be able to write a memoir where you're writing toward answers. You don't necessarily yet have the answers. And so my editors were really supportive.
EISENBERG: Now, you have a long-documented adoration of Channing Tatum.
GAY: Yeah. You know, he's my boyfriend so...
GAY: ...It is what it is.
EISENBERG: How did this start?
GAY: His neck.
GAY: It's just - it's so meaty, and I just wanted to chew it. And so...
GAY: ...He was in this great classic film called, "She's The Man." And...
GAY: ...(Laughter). I was just like, I want to be a soccer ball...
GAY: ...And I want him to hold me. And he's, like, a blank canvas. You could just, like, project whatever...
GAY: ...Onto him. And I just like this idea of this really hot guy who can dance, has abs and is very friendly. It's just - oh, my God. It's like an aphrodisiac.
EISENBERG: And then I know from your Twitter that you recently met him.
GAY: I did (laughter).
GAY: My life ended on that day. And (laughter), this is what the afterlife looks like. It's awesome.
GAY: Yeah. About a month ago, my agent sent me an email, and she said, please sit down before you read this. And she has never said that to me in five years. So I sat down. And it said, Channing Tatum wants to - I can't tell you what the project is, but - with you. And I was like, huh. What a great practical joke.
GAY: And so I responded, oh, sure, let's do it. And she's like, OK, Chance's people are going to coordinate something and I just - until I went to his house...
GAY: And I was expecting him to just be, like, movie star-ish. But he sat, crossed his legs in a chair and I sat across from him, and we talked for two hours like BFFs. It was really great. In my brief experience, he didn't try to put on airs about what he doesn't know, but he didn't pretend to be dumb either, which I really respected.
EISENBERG: I enjoyed one of your essays in "Bad Feminist" where you talk about not only loving Scrabble but actually becoming part of the competitive Scrabble tournament world.
EISENBERG: And are you still doing any? You probably...
GAY: Oh, yeah.
EISENBERG: You still go to some tournaments?
GAY: Oh, yeah.
GAY: (Laughter) Scrabble for life.
EISENBERG: So, you know, in this essay, which is a few years ago, you talked about how, you know, very serious players can always bring up a match where they played a, you know, a very high-scoring word. Can you give me one in your recent memory that is triumphant?
GAY: Yeah. I played entozoan for 243 points.
EISENBERG: And you're the queen of the bingo, which is when you use all of your tiles in one word.
GAY: I love the bingo to my own detriment because if I have I-N-G in my rack, it's over. I will not move until I can play my I-N-G word even if I don't have one. So I just, like, keep drawing and, like, exchanging one tile hoping I'll get a T, even though statistically it's not going to happen.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) That's right.
EISENBERG: You know all the statistics behind it, too.
GAY: I do. I'm not proud of it, but I do.
GAY: I never would have thought I was the kind of person - I always thought I was, like, too cool for that, but I've never been cool a day in my life. But when my friend introduced me to competitive Scrabble, I was like, are you serious? Like, what? And slowly but surely, I got totally wrapped up in the world, and now I have my own gear.
GAY: I have, like, my own portable board, and it has a special case with straps so you can wear it...
GAY: ...Kind of like a Ninja Turtle.
EISENBERG: And you...
EISENBERG: And your own tiles.
GAY: I have my own tiles. I have pink tiles because it's my favorite color.
GAY: Yeah. It's hardcore.
EISENBERG: That's awesome (laughter).
EISENBERG: Well, we have a pretty hardcore quiz for you. So are you ready for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?
GAY: Oh, yeah, about the best movie franchise ever.
EISENBERG: Yeah. So, Roxane, you are a fan of "The Fast And The Furious" franchise.
EISENBERG: What is it that you love about these movies?
GAY: Well, the driving face - so when they're driving they're like...
GAY: It's kind of like blue steel while staring at the road.
GAY: Anyway, the movies are driving face, and it actually has a really diverse cast - Vin Diesel, Paul Walker - rest in peace - and The Rock.
COULTON: The Rock.
GAY: Fast cars, women - well, women are objectified in the movie, which eh, but women also get to race cars, so, you know.
GAY: Yeah, and you take one with the other.
EISENBERG: Not everything's perfect.
GAY: The plots are just insane.
EISENBERG: So you also have a talent for anagrams.
GAY: Yeah, yeah.
EISENBERG: So you did them as a child.
GAY: I did.
EISENBERG: Well, we wrote a quiz that combines two kinds of stunts - the crazy car stunts in "The Fast And The Furious" and the crazy cranial stunt of anagramming.
EISENBERG: All right.
GAY: Now I'm stressed out.
EISENBERG: That's right, Hard Rock Live Orlando, you heard it here.
EISENBERG: And if you do well enough, Jess Rogers (ph) from Blacklick, Ohio, is going to win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's cube.
GAY: Oh, my God, the pressure, all right.
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. And if you need a hint, our puzzle guru, Art Chung, is standing by.
GAY: Oh, all right, Art.
EISENBERG: OK. Here we go. At the end of the fourth film weirdly titled "Fast & Furious," how do the heroes escape from Mexico back to the United States?
GAY: Through an underground tunnel.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) That's right.
EISENBERG: They drive cars...
EISENBERG: ...Through a series of secret, underground tunnels.
EISENBERG: And I don't mean...
GAY: As one does.
EISENBERG: ...The subway. I mean they drive cars.
GAY: And then the tunnels start collapsing on them (laughter).
GAY: I just get so happy.
EISENBERG: I feel like the exhaust from the cars would be a problem in these tunnels.
GAY: Oh, no, but these are elaborate drug tunnels that have ventilation and lighting.
GAY: True story.
EISENBERG: Right, it's...
GAY: El Chapo.
GAY: There's cleverness in every field. Let's not judge.
EISENBERG: That's right. All right. So we anagrammed the name of an actor in "Fast & Furious" - idle veins.
GAY: Idle veins - Vin Diesel.
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right.
EISENBERG: I - you know, it is unfair to make people do this in your head - in their heads. So I was just going to offer you a pen and paper.
GAY: I'm good.
EISENBERG: But no, you don't need it.
EISENBERG: In "Fast Five..."
EISENBERG: ...The crew causes much collateral damage by dragging what through the streets of Rio de Janeiro?
GAY: (Laughter) A bank safe holding a drug lord's money.
EISENBERG: Naturally, yes.
GAY: Yep (laughter).
EISENBERG: Just dragging a vault through Rio.
GAY: Just dragging it with Mustangs. And they're, like - just keep pulling it and the vault just goes along, and there's never little sparks or anything (laughter).
GAY: It's a miracle.
GAY: God loves thieves (laughter).
EISENBERG: Here's your (laughter) here's your anagram of an actor from "Fast Five" - acid slur.
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. Yes.
EISENBERG: In "Furious 7," how does the team get its cars into Azerbaijan?
GAY: (Laughter) They parachute out of airplanes with parachutes attached to the cars. And then poor Tyrese doesn't want to leave, and so he's slamming on the brakes. But Tej, who was played by Ludacris, hits a button, and he's flown out of the car anyway.
EISENBERG: Here's your final anagram - actor from "Furious 7."
EISENBERG: Zero child glue mire.
GAY: Michelle Rodriguez.
EISENBERG: Yes, Michelle Rodriguez is correct.
EISENBERG: I barely have to do this, but I will. Puzzle guru Art Chung, how did Roxane do?
ART CHUNG: She did amazing. Congratulations, you and listener Jess Rogers win ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's cubes.
EISENBERG: I have no doubt that you would ace both parts of that. Thank you so much.
GAY: Thank you.
EISENBERG: Roxane Gay is the author of "Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body." Roxane Gay, everybody.
GAY: Thank you.
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