David Duchovny is part of America’s cultural zeitgeist, for his iconic roles as FBI agent Fox Mulder, in The X Files, and Hank Moody, in Californication. But what he says has consumed his soul is writing; the cerebral actor is a prolific novelist, having written four books since the age of 55: Miss Subways, Truly Like Lightning, Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale, and Bucky F*cking Dent.
“I thought it was time for me to tell the stories from my heart,” he tells the Voice in an interview. Having grown up around Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side in the ’60s and ’70s, the city has been muse-like to Duchovny—three of his four books are set there. “New York inspires me, but I don’t know that I like it. But it’s in me. I grew up there. All the ghosts are there. All the places and smells and sounds are encoded by memory. And while things have changed there, I still retain moments…. So I can’t help but write about it. I don’t necessarily want to. It just depends on the story really.”
He continues: “As a young New Yorker, everything was right in front of me. It was like a petri dish of humanity; there was nothing forbidden or shocking or wrong. It was just a great neighborhood to grow up in, because everything was kind of equal. At least it seemed that way to me. My consciousness formed on the streets—it was so wild and full of every kind of person of every denomination, sexual orientation, race, creed, everything. That’s got to open a person up to be nonjudgmental about the world. I loved it.”
It was recently announced that Duchovny will be writing, directing, and starring in the film Bucky F*cking Dent, based on his 2016 novel about New York in the ’70s, a poignant father-son baseball story that topped the New York Times best-seller list. “I played baseball as soon as I could walk,” Duchovny notes. “My dad was a softball pitcher on semi-pro teams in New York City. I was a fan of the Yankees when they were bad—late ’60s into the early ’70s. I was at Princeton maybe a couple of weeks when Bucky hit the home run. I didn’t know about his nickname till I spent time on the Cape.”
Coming out now is a new, pandemic-inspired, Rear Window–esque thriller, The Reservoir. “I wanted to write a story about a former Wall Street guy who is quarantining at his home. Ridley wants to make sense of the chaos of the world and confront the meaninglessness of existence. And that kind of lures him into a delusional relationship with a woman across Central Park. This guy wants to be indispensable again, like he was as a young dad. He was looking at the feeling of being needed or feeling special. And it was leading him into these delusions, and then his fever just took him all the way.”
As a boy, Duchovny grew up a couple of blocks from the iconic Strand bookstore, and didn’t really go to Central Park much when he was a kid. “It was a trek to get there. But when I moved back to New York around 12 years ago, I fell in love with the park’s reservoir and was inspired to write this novella in my apartment.”
“David’s literary prowess and playfulness is on full display in this novella,” says Johnny Temple, of Akashic Books, Duchovny’s publisher. “I love the echoes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s because I have lived in New York City since 1990 and have never stopped wondering: What lurks behind all those apartment doors? The reservoir itself holds both mystery and history, nearly coming alive in his urban cosmology.”
Duchovny also has a new chapbook, Poems, Lyrics, Flip. Read in one direction, it features lyrics from Duchovny’s three studio albums plus several new poems, including one written from the perspective of Ridley. Looked at in reverse, it is a full-color flip-book of one of the time-lapse videos he created while writing the novella.
Duchovny is equally passionate about his poems. “Poems are writing around an absence—about writing about the things that can’t be written about. So that’s what makes them magical. And I think because I started off thinking of myself as a poet, when I was 15 years old, it influenced my prose style. I certainly give myself over to a poetic type of fiction writing.” He adds, “I’m happy that I started by writing poems. I’m happy that my first relationship to fiction writing was this economical, almost magical form of what a poem is.”
I age like a tree, each new ring an orbiting
round an empty marrow: the things I did
closed off at the center of my being,
of interest only to those who would chop
me down to see
What I might deliver coldly from another
—Excerpt from “Dead Seven,” by David Duchovny, from Poems, Lyrics, Flip ❖
Duchovny will be reading from The Reservoir on June 11 at Barnes & Noble, 33 East 17th Street, at Union Square, in NYC.
This article was updated from the print edition.