When Robert Plunket’s My Search for Warren Harding was published, in 1983, it was declared an instant comic classic for its depiction of a hilariously horrible, deeply closeted narrator on an absurd quest in search of a historical scandal. Plunket’s next book, Love Junkie—originally published in 1992, and set to be re-released by New Directions on May 14—depicted a middle-aged suburban housewife’s wrenchingly funny romance with a handsome gay-porn star. And then nothing. The books went out of print, and Plunket moved to a trailer park in Sarasota, Florida, where he wrote a gossip column—under the pseudonym “Mr. Chatterbox”—for Sarasota magazine, reveling in the foibles of small-town bigwigs.

But the cutting barbs and awful behavior of his two novels continued to bring in admirers, including Larry David, Amy Sedaris, and Madonna. He is currently at work on his long-awaited third book, a take on the American Civil War, which revolves around the very Plunketian rumor that Confederate president Jefferson Davis was captured while wearing his wife’s dress. A better connoisseur of horrible things would be hard to find. —George Pendle

Least Favorite number: I had a southern grandmother who was so old she was raised by a “mammy” named Hulda. Hulda taught her all the old superstitions of the Deep South circa 1880, which she passed on to me. To this day I still abide by them. I will not put a hat on a bed. I throw spilled salt over my left shoulder, even in a restaurant, and I always tie a knot in my handkerchief and sit on it when I play bridge. But the number 13 is the worst. I won’t set the volume to 13 on the car radio even though it’s the perfect level. I even skip page 13 on all the porn sites.

LEAST FAVORITE COLOR: The color purple.

Least favorite team: Whichever one hired that awful Aaron Rodgers.

Preferred deadly sin: I’ve never understood Pride. I’ve never felt the need to assert my own worthiness. It’s so transparently obvious. Now Lust, he’s always been my partner in crime. I keep kicking him out, but he always comes crawling back, and like a fool I let him in. But the sin I enjoy the most? I’d have to say two: Wrath and Envy. Show me a more successful writer and I throw a tantrum. Oh, the evil, terrible thoughts I’ve had about David Sedaris.

Food that makes you gag:
Butternut squash. Literally. Projectile vomiting at my aunt’s house.

BOOK YOU NEVER FINISHED: Anything by David Sedaris.

Film you walked out of: Like many people, I have a schizophrenic in my life. So I took him to see A Beautiful Mind. I was hoping for something insightful and reassuring. Well! Let me tell you—they are nothing like the guy in the movie. Where was the paranoia? The animals that laugh at you? The fights with the neighbors? The police? After 20 minutes I grabbed the schizophrenic and we got out of there.

SONG YOU NEVER WANT TO HEAR AGAIN: Steve Sondheim hated me so much he wrote a song about me. It’s called “Sweet Polly Plunkett” and it’s from the second act of Sweeney Todd. It seems that I stole his boyfriend. Guilty as charged. But he doesn’t have to go and slander me on Broadway. The lyrics! “Sweet Polly Plunkett, lying in the grass / Sweet Polly Plunkett, getting buggered up the ass.” Hal Prince made him change the wording, but really—at least he could have spelled my name right.

Character From History You Most Dislike: I love villains, but I draw the line at Charles Lindbergh. Can you imagine those three illegitimate families he had in Germany? And have you read his writings? Very white supremacist. Says we have to protect ourselves from the brown and yellow races. He was, in the end, a very creepy person.

But I love his wife and kids. Anne Morrow Lindbergh has always been one of my muses. Her diaries—terrific writing, by the way—show a woman in an impossible situation, married to an asshole with stupid, hideous ideas yet forced to support him because that is what a wife does.

Her book The Wave of the Future, in which she tries to defend her husband’s views about Fascism, is one of the most painful books I’ve ever read. But her Gift from the Sea was an enormous best-seller and created a genre—inspiration for the suburban housewife. And in her youth she was an aviation pioneer, accompanying her husband on his historic flights to Asia and such.

I haven’t even mentioned the kidnapping of her son, the biggest news story of the 1930s. And in the 1960s she wrote a poem that caused a scandal because it was so bad. That stopped her writing.

My point: somebody like Ryan Murphy is going to make a lot of money out of this woman’s life.

Item of clothing you’d never wear: A purse. Even though I am an avid collector of handbags and purses—I have over 65 Juicy Couture items alone, including six Daydreamers and an ultra-rare Once upon a Time tote, the kind with the oversize-bag charms—I would never carry one. That’s just too faggy for words.

Preferred form of revenge: Slash their tires. I used to carry an X-Acto knife in the glove compartment, especially for this purpose. The trick is to slash two tires. That way, even if they have a spare they’re still fucked.

Favorite curse word: “Blow me, you douchebag.”

Idea of misery: Wetting my pants in public. It’s already happened once.

Worst advice you’ve ever got: “It’s O.K. to use your friends as characters.”

Worst advice you’ve ever given: “Stay in the magazine business.”

Last words before execution: “Please! I beg of you! I won’t do it again! I promise! Please! Don’t do this! I have money hidden in Panama. You can have it! It’s a lot! I swear! You guys can all split it. I have a sister! She’s 16! Or maybe you like boys. I’ll do you! I’ll do you right here and now, all of you, the whole firing squad … ”

Robert’s Inessentials

Clockwise from top left: Juicy Couture Pretty in Purple Eau de Toilette; a Chanel handbag; the inspiring Anne Morrow Lindbergh; the sickening butternut squash; the unlucky number 13; the awful Charles Lindbergh.