Dave Barry muses on parenthood and other topics

By Maggie Galehouse / Houston Chronicle

Published Mar 16, 2014 at 12:01AM

Dave Barry has written close to 30 books. Sounds like a lot, right?

Not really, Barry says.

“There’s a lot of white space in them,” he cracks.

When I tell him it took me just four hours to read his latest — “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty” — he says:

“Oh really? That’s how long it took me to write it.”

He’s kidding. Dave Barry is always kidding.

Most of us got to know the humorist in the newspaper.

From 1983 to 2004, Barry wrote a weekly syndicated column for the Miami Herald, winning a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1988. A lot of those columns got collected into books.

Over the past decade, Barry has written five Peter Pan prequels for younger readers with Ridley Pearson, along with some other (allegedly grown-up) books on his own, including “Insane City” (2013) and “I’ll Mature When I’m Dead” (2011).

His new book covers parenthood, Viagra, manliness and Israel — among other things.

Barry, 66, lives in Coral Gables, Fla., and divides his time between writing and carting around his teenage daughter, Sophie.

Q: Can you describe your brand of humor?

A: I just kind of write about my own life and try to pick things I figure other people are going through. My humor is not some weird, crazy thing. It’s “Oh yeah! I had the exact same experience!”

Q: President Obama has been a big supporter of fatherhood initiatives and now you have a book that claims to be about parenting. Is it fair to say you two are tag-teaming this issue?

A: I don’t know what he thinks about fathers, but he’s got girls so he probably has no clue. And he’s probably not so embarrassing to his children because he’s the president. I always feel that I’m feeling my way, especially with Sophie. I don’t know from day to day what it is that she’s thinking. When my son was a kid, there was no social media. But Sophie is networked with all her friends — pretty much every other 14-year-old girl in North and South America. She is nonstop focused on all her friends, and at times I cease to be part of her universe. We have a soccer carpool. I’ll be driving five or six 14-year-old girls. I’m in the same space with them, and they’re all shrieking and texting and singing. I’ll say something — like, “Oh, look at that!” And they’ll all stop like it’s an interruption, a blip in the space-time continuum. I can’t believe President Obama’s daughters are like that with him.

Q: Does Sophie mind that you write about her?

A: She really doesn’t mind. My kids figured out early on that their dad was kind of weird. Secretly, they both kind of liked it.

Q: At the Justin Bieber concert you took Sophie and her BFF to — the one you describe in the book — did they really invite him to their bat mitzvahs?

A: They really did. They threw their bat mitzvah invitations onstage. I saw them land just in front of Justin Bieber. It’s possible that the soles of his shoes did touch the invitations. But he didn’t attend the bat mitzvahs. And it’s his loss, I have to say.

Q: Sophie doesn’t even like Bieber anymore, does she?

A: She dropped him like a used Kleenex. She’s into One Direction now. Who knows how long that will last.

Q: We are becoming a nation of illiterates, your book claims. You blame our increasingly bad grammar on “a combination of factors, including the Internet, reality television, ‘hip-hop,’ global climate change and Starbucks.” Are these in any particular order?

A: No.

Q: You’re on book tour. In your new book, you write: “… book tours can be grueling because you go from city to city appearing on TV and radio shows where you will be interviewed by perky on-air personalities who have not read your book and sincerely do not give a $%& about it. If they were interested in books, they would never have gotten into radio or TV in the first place.” Dare I ask, has this tour been any different?

A: This morning I did a TV satellite spot. You sit in a chair and every five minutes for two hours they switch you to a new station. When you do that, the percentage of people you talk to who have read your book is about 10 percent. I don’t blame them, exactly. That’s the way the system is. But you have to steer them. Sometimes all they know is that it’s me sitting there.

Q: Although you still write occasionally for the Miami Herald, you’ve been mostly untethered from newspapers for the past decade. Your thoughts on the current and future states of newspapers?

A: I still read newspapers. My wife works at the Herald, and my son works at the Wall Street Journal. Most of our friends are newspaper people. But there’s no getting around it. The industry has been gutted, and the new business model doesn’t work very well anymore. They can’t do the same kind of journalism they used to do. I don’t think newspapers will survive, I really don’t — not on paper for sure. Maybe in some Internet form. The question is, what will happen to journalism?

Q: I interviewed Mitch Albom last fall and asked about the alleged breakup of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band of writers that includes you, Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan and Scott Turow, among others. Albom said: ”Like all really bad bands, we can’t even do our breakup right.” And he mentioned that you got the band back together for the Miami Book Fair last November. So, what’s the status of the band now?

A: Nobody knows. It’s true, I got us back together at the Miami Book Fair — everybody except Stephen King. We had a lot of fun and then we disbanded. Again. If someone else tried to get us together again, we’d do it, because we’re pathetic that way. We could never end our songs right, and we can’t end our music careers right, either.