I started this 10-second rabbit project a little over a decade ago as a way of channeling the artistic curiosity of the inspiring people around me. At parties I’d collect unsigned, loose-leaf doodles from people around a room, and then we’d guess who drew each based on our assumptions about one another. Like handwriting analysis, but with bunnies. Why bunnies? Because they’re tough to mistake for any other creature, thanks to the exaggerated stretch of their ears. They’re fun to draw even for people who possess no art skills at all. (Plus, imagine asking Jonathan Lethem to draw a chicken.) I later began asking authors at readings to sign their books with a rabbit, scrawled in 10 seconds or less. The time limit gave the whimsical scheme structure, and it also put participants at ease; I wasn’t asking for serious art. Still, they’d often protest, “I can’t draw!” before inevitably conceding, and eventually admitting they enjoyed the break from routinely asking to whom they should inscribe the book. Margaret Atwood, for one, embraced my request with a glow: “This is great!” she said, adding a carrot. Others (I’ve amassed 70 of these over the years), both reluctant and charmed, would sigh a “here goes” as I counted to 10.
David Lynch, “Dark Splendor”
Lynch drew his rabbit in his newly published book of lithographs and drawings. We were at Book Soup in L.A. at the time, and when I asked him for it the people in the room kind of collectively held their breath, then exhaled when he finished. His assistant handed the book back to me as if it were a newborn baby, then Lynch said something along the lines of “thank you, that was interesting.”
Bret Easton Ellis, “The Rules of Attraction”
At first I thought he wasn’t going to do it, then he dropped a couple F-bombs and told me to start counting. Months later when I ran into him at Chateau Marmont for the launch of “Imperial Bedrooms,” he fondly remembered our interaction as a mild assault.
Mark Z. Danielewski, “House of Leaves”
It is surprising that Mark Z.’s rabbit deviates so dramatically from an ordinary figure? That it’s slightly unsettling? Not really. Also: confidence.
Nicholson Baker, “Traveling Sprinkler”
Nicholson Baker drew his bunny for me at Skylight Books in L.A. It’s amazing how shy, kind and unpretentious it looks, since the description pretty much sums up the author, both in his writing and how he seemed to be in real life.
Judy Blume, “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”
I love how Blume channels Aesop with the placement of her rabbit — whether she did it intentionally is anyone’s guess. This is also my son Felix’s first official rabbit. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll carry on the tradition.
Joy Williams, “The Visiting Privilege”
Definitely one of my all-time favorite authors. I’d say Williams’s rabbit is concentrated rather than small. Tiny like the zero-redundant details which make the difference between a good sentence and a great sentence. And she’s definitely a master of that. The dog being beside it makes sense, too.
Gary Shteyngart, “Super Sad True Love Story”
The most neurotic-looking rabbit in my collection. Coincidence?
Jonathan Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn”
When I think of Lethem’s writing style, complexity and control both come to mind. A laid-back professionalism. Having said that, his rabbit with its perfect posture looks to me as though it would never suffer fools.