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Davy Rothbart and the Beauty of Litter-ature

If one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, then Davy Rothbart is king of the heap. The 29-year-old creator of Found Magazine may not be living the life of a rock star, but he is traveling the country in a van and stopping in all 50 states for what he calls “Found parties” to promote his just-published Found: The Best Lost, Tossed and Forgotten Items From Around the World. The collection of discarded or lost notes is both hilarious and chillingly sad. Witness: “LOSS CAT, Speckles, Does Not Call When Come, Limps, Dirty, Not Tag, Reward, Needs Medicines. Foam. Call Ward.”

L.A. WEEKLY: Why do you collect these things?

DAVY ROTHBART: It engages the imaginative process, where you just start thinking, “Who is this person, what’s going on in their life?” It’s a great jumping-off point for forming a story in your head. I was driving through Kansas, and I saw this kid with a surfboard and it was stuck between two tractors and he was standing there surfing, a thousand miles from either coast. So that image has always stuck in my mind, and I wrote this story that’s also the title for my short-story book, The Lone Surfer of Montana.

What is your collecting strategy?

Well, my house is pretty chaotic. I have no organizational skills at all. I just spread out all the finds in the basement, and sometimes they work interestingly together. I take scissors and tape, and put them on colored paper to get different gray tones. I’m a pretty low-tech kind of guy.

Was there anything you couldn’t put in the book?

A lot of pictures of people’s private parts. You wouldn’t think that so many people would take pictures of their private parts and then lose them. They’re funny, but they’re not that interesting ultimately, and they don’t have much human story.

Has anyone in the book contacted you?

It’s happened a few times, and they’ve been a bit hurt or more often totally mystified. I explain to them why it means so much to me and I can relate to it.

Are notes left on windshields fair game?

Absolutely. I advocate a broad definition of found. I wouldn’t take it if it was meant for someone who’s yet to receive it, but I am not above reading that note and putting it back.

FOUND: The Best Lost, Tossed and Forgotten Items From Around the World | By DAVY ROTHBART | Simon & Schuster | 252 pages $14, paperback

Davy Rothbart (www.foundmagazine.com) will be at Book Soup on Thursday, May 20, at 8 p.m.; Skylight Books on Friday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m.; and the MOCA Store Santa Monica on Sunday, May 23, at 3 p.m. See Readings for complete information.


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