A Conversation with Simon Rich

SIMON RICH: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Simon.

SIMON RICH: Hey, my pleasure!

SR: Did the editors tell you what they wanted us to talk about?

SR: Yes, they said they wanted my opinion on “fiction’s relevance in contemporary society.” Pretty cool subject!

SR: Yeah, and we’ll get to it. First, though, there’s a rumor that needs to be addressed. Is it true that you recently beat your older brother at basketball for the first time ever?

SR: [Laughs] That just happened, in fact. Like an hour ago.

SR: That’s incredible.

SR: Yeah, it was pretty cool. But we probably shouldn’t talk about it here. I mean, the Believer’s a literary magazine.

SR: What was the score?

SR: It was pretty close: eleven to six.

SR: That doesn’t sound very close to me. I mean, you nearly doubled his score. That’s the equivalent of winning an NBA game by two hundred to one hundred, something that’s never been done before in the history of the league.

SR: I guess, when you put it that way, it was a pretty decisive win.

SR: You embarrassed him.

SR: [Laughs] If you say so! Listen, we should probably get this interview back on track. The editors were pretty insistent we keep to the subject.

SR: Before the game started, do you remember your brother saying anything to you? Any comments?

SR: Well, yeah, now that you mention it, he did say a couple things.

SR: Such as?

SR: Well, I remember he said, “You’re going down,” or “Get ready to go down.” Something like that.

SR: Huh. That’s interesting. So he assumed that he was going to win the basketball game.

SR: Yes.

SR: And, remind me, who did in fact win the game? Was it you or was it him?

SR: It was me.

SR: By a score of…?

SR: Eleven to six.

SR: So his prediction that you would “go down” turned out to be inaccurate: the childlike ravings of a fool.

SR: I guess. Look, it was just one game. He’s been beating me consistently for years. When I was in third grade and he was in seventh, he’d spot me ten points and still end up winning every time. Sometimes he’d take every shot left-handed, just to humiliate me.

SR: And now he is the one who’s been humiliated. Quite a reversal.

SR: It was just a friendly game.

SR: I understand there was some controversy over the score?

SR: It wasn’t a big deal. At one point, I was winning nine to five and he thought he had scored six.

SR: Are you embarrassed that your brother felt the need to lie about the score and be a cheater?

SR: Whoa, that’s not fair. I think he was just genuinely mixed-up about the score.

SR: What type of calculus did your brother take in high school?

SR: I don’t see how that’s relevant.

SR: Just answer the question.

SR: OK, fine. He took BC Calculus.

SR: The most difficult form of math your high school offered. And what kind of grades did he receive in the course?

SR: I think he got straight As.

SR: Do you find it, I don’t know, a little odd that a man who excelled at advanced calculus would get “mixed-up” about an issue as basic as counting?

SR: I guess, when you put it that way, it is a bit odd.

SR: Describe the last shot.

SR: I was ahead nine to six, and I needed two points to win. So I dribbled back behind the arc and took a two-point shot.

SR: Did your brother attempt to block you?

SR: No, he was confident I’d miss. Because, you know, I was pretty far away from the basket and I hadn’t hit any two-pointers all day.

SR: What ended up happening?

SR: I made the shot.

SR: You iced it in his face.

SR: I mean, that’s one way of putting it.

SR: You smacked it down in his grill.

SR: I don’t know if that’s real slang. Look, maybe we should do this interview some other time. You seem really distracted and weirdly obsessed with this game.

SR: I’m sorry, I’ll get back to our topic.

SR: Promise?

SR: I promise. [Sighs] What’s your opinion of Tao Lin?

SR: I think he’s an incredibly talented writer. It’s amazing how much feeling he packs into those short, declarative sentences.

SR: Yeah. You know what else was “short and declarative”? Your ass-whomping of Nathaniel Rich at basketball.

SR: Come on…

SR: The game was only eight minutes long, but it made a pretty big fucking statement.

SR: [Sighs] Thanks.

SR: Did he cry when you beat him?

SR: Of course he didn’t cry.

SR: I bet he cried like a little fucking girl.

SR: He honestly didn’t care at all. When the game was over he gave me a high-five and bought me a soda.

SR: Is it possible, though, that his generosity was a facade? A way for him to mask his misery? I mean, we’re talking about a guy whose entire life just came crashing down like a house of fucking cards.

SR: I think this win meant more to you than it did to him. I mean, it was just one game—he’ll almost definitely beat me next time.

SR: You should never play him again.

SR: What?

SR: You should refuse to play him at basketball ever again. That way you’ll always be the reigning champion. If he asks for a rematch, just say, “It’s too cold,” or “I’m hurt.” Just keep doing that for the rest of your life.

SR: Don’t you think that’s a little immature?

SR: Many women have said that your brother is more attractive than you. After this victory, however, it is clear that the opposite is true. You are the more desirable brother.

SR: Whoa. That came out of nowhere.

SR: Your brother scored higher than you on the SATs. But who looked smarter on the basketball court, where shit actually matters? You did.

SR: This is getting weird.

SR: OK, we’re almost out of time. Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

SR: Well, I know my brother subscribes to the Believer. So, Nat, if you’re reading this, I just want to say I’m sorry about how this interview turned out.

SR: Yeah, he’s sorry I told it like it is!

SR: Also, looking back on it, I’m pretty sure I was the one who was mixed-up about the score.

SR: I think we’re out of time.

SR: I mean, you hit three two-pointers right off the bat. So that’s six points right there. And then there were all those layups you made later.

SR: How do I turn off this tape recorder?

SR: You probably scored ten points at least. Maybe even eleven. Also, my foot was definitely on the line for that last shot. But you didn’t say anything. It’s almost as if—

SR: Stop!

SR: Holy shit… do you think he let me win?

SR: I’m the one asking the questions!

SR: He did, didn’t he? Unbelievable! What a cool brother, huh?

SR: [Sighs] You said it—not me.


Megan Milks is the author of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body (Feminist Press, 2021), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender fiction, as well as Slug and Other Stories and Remember the Internet: Tori Amos Bootleg Webring.

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