A Monkey to Ride the Dog

sean_illo_45_by_brad_beshaw

Illustration from Razorcake #45 by Brad Beshaw

I recently submitted my eightieth column for Razorcake.  It seems incredible to me.  Eighty columns.  One every two months for thirteen years, four months.  For a punk rock zine.  Weird.

On the other hand, I feel differently about my Razorcake columns than anything else I write.  They are the only things I reread once they’re in print.  Or, I guess I should be more specific.

When I write novels or short story collections, I’ll read specific chapters or sections from the book after it’s published.  I’ll read these sections for a reason, though: to prepare for a performance or to fact check something.  I’ve never read one of my books all the way through once it was in print.

When my short stories run in literary journals, I frequently read everything in the journal except for the story I wrote.  When I write reviews or essays for various publications, I never look back over them in print, mostly because I revise short stories, reviews, and essays so incessantly that one more reading of the piece seems excessive.

But the Razorcake columns: I reread those just for fun.  Every two months, there comes a time when I’ve read the rest of the issue and I’m not ready to wait for the next one, so I sit down and reread my column.  I love those moments.

A couple of years ago, I decided to put together a collection of my favorite columns and submit it for publication as a book.  I went back through the first twelve years of columns, picked my top twenty-six, and wrote an introduction so that they’d make sense as a whole.  I intended to send it out for publication.  In fact, I did send it to an editor I know who works at a publishing house I respect.  He told me that he loved the columns individually, but when you put twenty-six of them in a book, it doesn’t work.

I felt pretty much the same way.  I was ambivalent about even sending out the collection.  When an editor I respected echoed my feelings, I decided to shelve the collection.

The columns were meant to be read one at a time.

With the eightieth column, though, I decided to unearth the collection and post it here.  Not all at once.  That doesn’t work.  Twenty-six consecutive columns is overwhelming.

Instead, I’ll post one column every other Tuesday.  This will start next Tuesday.  When they’re all live, I intend to return to this post and create a series of links so that you can find the whole collection in one place.

A note on the columns:

The columns in this collection are arranged in a more or less chronological manner according to when the events in the column occurred (not when the column was written). Outside of changing a few things we missed in the first round of proofreading, the columns are the same as the ones that ran in Razorcake. I edited nothing from the perspective of an older and wiser writer. I chose not to include several early columns because the best of them ran in my collection Glue and Ink Rebellion. I’m slightly ashamed of the poor quality of the rest of them. For that reason, most of the columns in this collection ran in Razorcake between 2005-2012.

If I thought that the real people involved would be embarrassed or put out by what I wrote, I changed their names. If I thought they’d be stoked or apathetic about their inclusion, I kept their real names. All of the stories are true inasmuch as any story can be true. Like anyone, I created somewhat arbitrary starting and ending points and left out details I thought would be irrelevant. Beyond that, these are the events as I remember them.

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