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Davy Rothbart On ‘My Heart Is An Idiot’

“This American Life” contributor Davy Rothbart on life and love on the road, and his latest collection, “My Heart Is An Idiot.”

Davy Rothbart (wikipedia)

Davy Rothbart (wikipedia)

Davy Rothbart has made a name for himself with hip, hilarious, out-there essays on public radio’s “This American Life.”  Tales of life on the road as artist, provocateur, searcher for love.  Passions gone right, gone wrong, gone nowhere.  Chance meetings, and falling in love.

Obsessions that blow in like dust storms, like tornadoes, and leave all kinds of  wreckage and wonderment in their wake.  Now Rothbart has put together a big collection of those tales.  “My Heart,” says the title, “Is an Idiot.”

This hour, On Point:  life and love on the road, with Davy Rothbart.

-Tom Ashbrook


Davy Rothbart, an author, filmmaker, contributor to This American Life, and the editor/publisher of Found Magazine. His new book is My Heart Is An Idiot: Essays.

From Tom’s Reading List

L.A. Times “The love of Davy Rothbart’s life is a character from Allison Anders’ 1992 film “Gas Food Lodging.” Shade, played by Fairuza Balk, is the wan and ephemerally beautiful daughter of a New Mexico trailer park waitress. From the day Rothbart — the editor of Found magazine and a “This American Life” favorite — first saw the film, he’s fallen only for women with slivers of Shade to them: wraithlike girls who are often more fiction than fact.”

The Rumpus “Modern literary fiction is so often told from an immersive first person perspective that sometimes the line between the classic essayist and the contemporary novelist disappears.”

New York Times “Davy Rothbart had misplaced his usual hype music, so Rage Against the Machine would have to do. Mr. Rothbart, a writer and a creator of Found magazine, the repository for forgotten notes and photos, normally listened to Metallica’s“One” to get himself pumped for a show. But on Monday evening he popped a CD with “Bombtrack” into the player in his rented Dodge minivan and began fist-pumping along.”


Video: Trailer of My Heart Is An Idiot


One by Metallica
Pink Houses by John Mellencamp

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  • http://www.facebook.com/garret.woodward Garret K. Woodward

    As a journalist myself, I’ve spent the better part of a decade on the road, writing and wandering in search of people, places and things, chaotic or not, for good or ill. Rothbart in an inspiration for me. I find being on the road is ironically my true home, and a place where I can make sense of my hometown and things gone right or wrong in the past. What is it about the American open road that appeals to him and continually keep him in search? Is the “search” the true passion, regardless if anything is “physically” found?

  • VTDesigner

    What a great title. There is no better description for the heart and how it acts seperately from ones mind. The heart will say what the mind wont. Thought ide never feel it again – I did – and acted on it. It was worth every painful moment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711166966 Deborah Marsh

    It sounds to me like Davy Rothbart has confused love with lust. His heart would do well to wise up and learn the difference.

    • viacarrozza

      I thought I was listening to a young boy when I turned up my radio.  He’s a 37 year old man.

  • J__o__h__n

    Did an independent translator confirm his mother’s backing up of his claim or did he fake that like he did when the principal called?

  • http://www.facebook.com/atomicdesignads Robert J Zeleniak

    I must be getting old. This seems a bit off to me. Is this what’s considered cool these days? Why are we interested in someone who tormented his mother and is now capitalizing on it to get a laugh and make some cash?

  • http://www.facebook.com/garret.woodward Garret K. Woodward

    What is it about the American open road that appeals to him and continually keep him in search? Is the “search” the true passion, regardless if anything is “physically” found?

  • http://www.facebook.com/crowell.jon Jon Crowell

    I’m not buying this schtick.  Does this guy ever think about anything important?  Tom — ask him what he thinks the meaning of life is — and then listen while he gives you some platitude that neither he nor anyone else would be willing to die for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/garret.woodward Garret K. Woodward

    Is Davy worried about becoming a victim of his own creation, where as he ages and moves along, people expect the “monkey to dance” when they meet him? The same character assassination that took out Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson…

    • J__o__h__n

      He doesn’t really do anything though. 

    • Regular_Listener

       Like the actor Leonard Nimoy, for example, who will forever be known as Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise?  I thought of this myself when I saw an excellent documentary about the life of wacko journalist Hunter S. Thompson (titled “Gonzo”).  Toward the end he was burned out and depressed, but still trying to do his wild man act, unable to age gracefully…

  • J__o__h__n

    What is Dishwasher Pete up to?

  • neighborpet

    This episode reminds me of Dishwasher Pete!  Does Davy know him?  Getting zines from Factsheet Five was a magical time….

  • jeannw

    How do you do this kind of adventure when you are a woman traveling alone… it’s not fair!

    • Regular_Listener

       I have a pretty female friend who travelled around India and parts of the Middle East by herself, hitchhiking and hanging out with people she met, etc.  It is not safe and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it has been done!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1366774592 Jyl Johnson

      I find it much easier to have a great trip and meet interesting people when I travel alone…It means there are no people getting fussy, bored, or impatient while you allow yourself to really absorb and wander and stay out  or stay in…But Davy and Peter use their time driving from place to place, reading over the things they collected in the previous city.  I love it.  I want to travel the US by train…so I can read/stare/meet people/see things.

  • krebs77

    How is it that Davy Rothbart was on the air for the better part of an hour and neither guest or host made it clear that “being on-the-road’ for a 79-city tour is part of his chosen profession? He gets paid. He earns royalties. He’s allowed “cost of doing business” tax write-offs.  Plane tickets, gas money and week-long wilderness treks don’t magically manifest.  Why keep that aspect of his writing career “behind the curtain?” Not romantic and crazy-sounding enough? It’s a good job. I’ll take it.

    • Mike_Card

      And he’s unfamiliar with creative non-fiction?  Tell me again why I would ever buy his stories.  No, really?

  • bmj789

    You should do a show about what is happening in eastern Congo with the M23 militia in North Kivu and the impact this insecurity – as well as the instability of the past two decades – has on the people on Congo. Harvard’s Jocelyn Kelly and Morehouse College’s Laura Seay would both be wonderful contributors to this much needed discussion.

  • http://www.chrismillerwebsite.wordpress.com/ ChristopherM

    I remember Davy Rothbart coming into a Milwaukee coffee shop I worked at a bunch of years ago – he was scheduled to do a Found magazine presentation at a bar down the street. Apparently the bar was closed, so he asked if he could do his thing at the coffee shop instead. It was pretty brief, but it made the night for me :)

    I also remember he was selling packs of trading cards of regular old people at his merch table. I bought a couple packs. They were totally among my prize possessions for years – just brilliant, I loved em. I don’t know if I still have them or if I lost them or what. I miss them.

    Does anyone out there still have any? Wanna trade? Who was responsible for making those? I feel like he told me they weren’t his creation, but I’m not sure. I’m going to be so thrilled if anyone even knows what I’m talking about … anyway, cheers

  • humbow

    I listened to this, shaking my head, and not even Tom’s cool amusement made it better. Davy Rothbart displays–in spades–the very worst sort of self-aggrandizing self indulgence out there. The very best thing I can say about listening to this was that it’s pretty admirable that he manages to just put it out there with no embarrassment. Yikes.

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