The Boy Who Was Raised By Cats
The Body, Brain, and Books: Eleven Questions with the late writer and podcaster Gabe Hudson
As many of you know, we lost Gabe last week. So many of us are still reeling. He was such a kind, tender, gentle soul. Full of love and hope for all of us. His questionnaire for Beyond was scheduled to post today and I decided to honor that. He was excited about sharing it. And it’s my hope that his beautiful words may help us with our grief.
Take good care of yourself and each other.
published 2 books with Knopf. His writing appeared in Granta, The New Yorker, The Believer, The New York Times Magazine, among others. His honors included being named one of Granta’s “Best Young American Novelists,” a PEN/Hemingway Award Finalist, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a Humanities War & Peace Fellowship from Columbia University, the John Hawkes Prize from Brown University, the Adele Steiner Burleson Award in Fiction from the University of Texas at Austin, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His writing was translated into 14 languages. He was Editor-at-Large for McSweeney’s for 10+ years. He served in the Marine Corps a long time ago and taught at Columbia University.
What are you reading now?
Everything I read rn is interview prep for guests on my podcast, Kurt Vonnegut Radio
So in no particular order, some things I’ve read and loved of late:
- ’s memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful and her newsletter For Dear Life with Maggie Smith
- 's newsletter CAFÉ ANNE
Akhil Sharma’s short story collection, A Life of Adventure and Delight
- ’s memoir And You May Find Yourself: Confessions of a Gen X Weirdo, and her magazine Oldster Magazine
Dave Eggers’ novel, The Eyes and the Impossible
- ’s newsletter Situation Normal
Merve Emre’s profound meditation on parenting in The New Yorker
- ’s newsletter Both Are True
- ’s newsletter Everything Is Amazing
Sam Lipsyte’s novel No One Left to Come for Looking For You
- ’s newsletter Beyond. I especially love her interview series The Body, Brain, and Books: eleven questions
What are your most beloved books from your youth? Did you ever hide any from your parents?
All books from my youth are my most beloved books from my youth. Basically, I had a turbulent childhood, very akin to Linklater’s film, Boyhood. I like to joke that I was the boy who was raised by cats (two Siamese cats actually, that I named Momma Cat and Poppa Cat.) Books were my refuge and peace and where I learned everything I know. I lived in libraries and would devour books. Every weekend I checked out 10 books from the library and would try to read as many as I could: while listening to Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band on repeat. I’m Gen X, and a lot of us had v. feral childhoods. Didn’t matter who the intended audience was for a given book: I read it. Fortunately, both my parents were big literacy people: especially my Dad. He read all manner of books to me as a kid, including Wallace Stevens poems and T.S. Eliot poems. I never had to hide books: if I was reading, nobody bothered me. Reading was a protective force field that I could erect around myself at any time.
What’s your favorite book to reread? Any that helped you through a dark time?
One of my favorite books to reread is Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. My 7th grade teacher gave me that book: when she learned I wanted to be a writer. The truth-telling in that book is, to me, next level. It just pierced my dome. I wrote about that experience in my newsletter, Kurt Vonnegut Radio.
What’s an article of clothing that makes you feel most like you?
I really like a German brand of wool cap, Wegner, that has earflaps for the winter. Here’s me wearing one of said caps:
What’s the best piece of wisdom you've encountered recently?
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Tell me about any special relationship you’ve had with an animal, domestic or wild?
Every relationship I have had with any animal is special. I am hyper-sensitive to the well-being of animals, wild and domesticated. I believe all animals are a kind of miracle. I especially love my dog, Coco. She teaches me how to find joy in everything. Look at that smile:
Coco dials me into joy and big-heartedness.
What's one thing you are happy worked out differently than you expected?
Like a lot of my friends, I was sorta broken-hearted by the nuclear meltdown of Twitter under the new ownership of the Big Moron. But now, I’m glad Twitter is no more (RIP, and nothing but love and respect to the really important relationships I forged on Twitter, and that I want to preserve.) Because it led to me focusing all my attention on building more substantive, and lasting community here on Substack, with my podcast.
The process of interviewing amazing thinkers and writers for Kurt Vonnegut Radio, and then assembling that podcast and sharing it with my people (subscribers), and forging relationships with other writers and creatives on Substack, has been one of the artistically and emotionally gratifying experiences I’ve had. Not to sound corny, but the process is making my heart grow. It’s also done wonders for my mental health.
Singing in the shower or dancing in the kitchen? Or another favorite way your body expresses itself?
I believe humans are fundamentally singing and dancing machines, that’s really our MO. When I was in the Marine Corps, we sang constantly, while doing all kinds of challenging physical stuff, not mention just running in formation. And not being conventionally religious, I found the experience spiritual. So I’m here for all the singing and dancing. I think both acts are profound in a way that is forever hidden to us. I feel like we’d all be a lot happier if we sang and danced every day.
What are your hopes for yourself?
I just want to be someone who carries the baton and passes it on. In regards to a certain kind of approach to life, that has to do with a certain kind of humor, that has at its core a certain insistence on our shared humanity, that contains within it the importance of creativity and decency and empathy and truth-telling and personal expression. If I can be of service to someone else on their journey, even if we never met, then I will be happy. I also think truth-telling is contagious, and so I hope to be someone who speaks their truth, in hopes of helping create an environment where others can speak their truth. In that regard, I certainly owe a huge debt to others who have spoken their truth.
What’s a kindness that changed your life?
I am nothing if not a litany of the kindnesses that others have shown me: every great thing that has happened in my life is the result of someone’s kindness and generosity of spirit. Because I know how life-altering kindness can be, I try to pay it forward every chance I get.
What’s a guiding force in your life?
As someone who spends their days interviewing people, a guiding force is to always try to recognize the humanity in every person I encounter. And to try to find what makes them amazing and unique, and what I can learn from them.
Meet me in the comment section
Do you have a litany of kindnesses that others have shown you? Are you a truth teller? Is there an animal in your life that dials you into joy and big-heartedness? What moved you about Gabe’s words? Any remembrances you’d care to share about Gabe?