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So let’s talk about The Object Parade. Nonfiction, right?

Wait—can I just say—I’d so much rather someone else were asking the questions.

 

That’s funny.

Why? What do you mean?

Collar

PrintThis circle of dirty red canvas and nylon hangs from a hook on a mirror in the bedroom, alongside a couple of baseball caps and Gertrude’s plummy scarf. An inch wide, a quarter-inch thick, buckled on the first of four holes, heavy duty and over-sized. Fred brought it home the day we left her at the vet to be cremated, and retrieved (in a box) a week or so later. And here’s the thing: it smells of her—of Roxy, our first dog—a chocolate Lab with a narrow head, the last of her litter, so tiny when Fred picked her up at the Labrador farm in Sierra Madre that she nearly fell between the seats in the Beast (our old wagon) before he got her home. This is her collar, removed eleven years later and still faintly sour: that odor, greasy and rotten, foul and sweet—it used to stick to my fingers, I remember; poor thing, she suffered in the heat.  

I grew up on true crime television. While I was never allowed to watch horror films, which my mother was sure would influence my malleable mind, she never seemed to think that a steady diet of real-life murder could affect me negatively. I vividly remember watching America’s Most Wanted as a kid and having her lecture me afterward about all of the terrible things that could happen to me simply because I was a child, kidnapping being the most obvious, though murder was always there in the background, a constant possibility, post-kidnapping. She knew about the Adam Walsh murder, which happened the year I was born. She told me the gruesome details, emphasizing how easy it would be for me to be taken, just like him, if I drifted away from her in a grocery store.

urlSometimes I feel that the city is vanishing from fiction. The books I’ve been reading and reviewing lately have taken place in nowhere towns along highways; or they have taken place in transit, zigzagging from one locale to another, the author never settling in anywhere; or they have focused on interior landscapes, the ‘where’ of the characters’ lives less important than the ‘why.’

For this reason, I read Anthony De Sa’s Kicking the Sky with pleasure. The novel begins as a coming-of-age story, but from there it broadens out, poking around in the dark corners of a city in transition. Midway through my reading, I made a note that the book kept getting bigger as it moved forward, instead of narrowing its focus. I thought this was a flaw. But no—this turns out to be the book’s design.

Kevin close-up in elevatorSo, Bonnie, what exactly is a chupacabra and why do you have one in your new linked collection, What Happened Here: a novella & stories?

Well, Bonnie, there are a lot of different people’s versions of chupacabras, which means goat suckers in Spanish. Some even think they’re extraterrestrial. I tend to go with the story that says they were first spotted in Puerto Rico, then moved into South America and Mexico, and more recently have been seen in southern parts of the United States. They’re part wolf and part dog, and yet can jump like kangaroos. They’re missing a lot of hair.

What Happened Here cover hi-resI knew all about the crash when I moved onto Boundary Street in 2003. Everyone in San Diego did. Twenty-five years earlier, the deadliest airline disaster in U.S. history occurred above our homes before we lived here. It’s still the deadliest in California. PSA Flight 182 and a Cessna collided mid-air over our North Park neighborhood.

The perspective from the ground was shown afterward on the cover of TIME Magazine and newspapers around the world:  The flaming Pacific Southwest Airlines jet carrying a hundred and thirty-seven passengers plunged towards what was now our backyards.

giffelsauthorphotocredittoTimothyFitzwaterDavid, I’d like to begin, if I may, by saying “thank you” for taking the time to talk with me. I’ve been a big fan of yours for as long as I can remember, and this is kind of, almost surreal for me.

Please. It’s my pleasure. Don’t be nervous. You’ve got five minutes.

 

Some might say that The Hard Way on Purpose is the greatest book written about coming of age in postindustrial Akron, Ohio, in at least the past half-decade. Would you agree?

Considering the publishing industry’s insatiable appetite for essay collections about life in America’s Rust Belt, that’s high praise. Thank you.

Who do I dream of, if I do not dream of Sylvie? In whose arms do I imagine myself, if not in hers? In whose embrace do I slumber in my most precious heart?

She was my only. No crush or boyfriend could compete. She was the beginning and end of my experience with falling in love.

Hard Way on Purpose CoverLord, I lived inside those books.

And they were not books that, conventionally speaking, you would choose to live inside, were you choosing to live inside some books. You would choose smart, new volumes: coffee-table books on hibiscus or vintage Vespas, I think, or you would choose something well glossed and shrink-wrapped, written by someone unthreateningly attractive and slightly more clever than you, someone like, say, Elizabeth Gilbert or Calvin Trillin, with whom you could put up for a while, like a hiking partner on the Appalachian Trail. (Yes: you would choose Bill Bryson.)

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Area woman and aspiring writer Jodi Tannenbaum, after a third attempt at getting published by the literary website McSweeney’s (in its “Lists” section), found herself “totally in the middle of that scene from Swingers.”

“You know that famous scene,” she said, “where the guy, not Vince Vaughn… the other guy…he calls a girl he likes and says something embarrassing on her answering machine, so he calls back again to explain, and then again to explain that—wait—what do you mean you didn’t see it?”

Alena Graedon by Beowulf SheehanDid you know that some parts of your novel are hard to understand? I’ve heard it’s your first, and I thought I should tell you so that you can fix that for the next one.

You’re right. Sorry about that. There are some pretty obscure words in the book, like “dulcarnon” and “panicles.” Partly, it’s because the narrators work together at a dictionary, so they come across words that the rest of us don’t, and sometimes they use them. It’s also, though, because one of the protagonists is reading a dictionary while she writes her account.

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Al•ice /a-lEs/ n : a girl transformed by reflection

On a cold and lonely Friday last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary. And not only from the big, glass building on Broadway where its offices were housed. On that night, my father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, Chief Editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, slipped from the actual artifact he’d helped compose.

That was before the Dictionary died, letters expiring on the page. Before the virus. Before our language dissolved like so much melting snow. It was before I nearly lost everything I love.

JLportrait4So you’ve written a novel called “The Geometry of Love.” Sounds like a love story.

That’s right, it is.

 

What does geometry have to do with love?

There’s a love triangle in the story that turns into another love triangle. The protagonist, Julia, has to choose between two men. Then the man she longs to be with has to choose between her and another woman. So there are two connected triangles, as it were.

GeometryOfLove_FinalCoverWebIn his ground-floor office on Ninth Street, Frank McCloud, LAc (licensed acupuncturist), stood next to me, staring off into space as he took my pulses. Thin and straight, he incarnated health and longevity. Walking in, I expected a preliminary medical interview, but instead he directed me right onto a treatment table. The gentle koto music in the background (Japanese) didn’t quite jive with the scrolls on the wall (Tibetan) or the silk jacket he wore (Chinese), but the general Asian effect was soothing.

Liza Monroy_005Wait, you did what?

I married my best friend for his green card shortly after September 11, 2001. He’s gay and from a Middle Eastern country I call Emiristan to help protect his identity. His student visa was expiring and he would have had to return to live in the closet in a homeland where he could be killed were it found out that he happened to share a gender with the person he romantically loved. I much preferred for him to stay in West Hollywood and with me. In Emiristan, he would likely have had to enter an arranged marriage with a woman, so he entered one with me, instead. Ours had fewer restrictions and no expectations.