The Mark and the Void Review

The Mark and the Void was one of my favorite novels of 2015. I wrote a review of it for Full Stop, but, for whatever reason, never posted that review here. Now I’m posting it. The full review is below.

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Paul has an idea for a novel. A banker decides to rob the bank he works for. Only it’s an investment bank, and investment banks have no cash, no safes to crack, nothing but numbers on computer screens, changing totals from one account to another. It’s all so ephemeral. He can’t stuff it in a sack and head for the border. On top of this, the banker is being observed by a mysterious stranger. The banker feels the stranger before he sees him, but pretty soon the stranger becomes more than a creepy feeling. He becomes a presence, now approaching the banker with an idea.

So begins Paul Murray’s latest novel The Mark and the Void. The story follows Claude, a French banker working in the financial district of Dublin. He is approached by a writer named Paul who claims to be working on a novel about the banking industry after the global economic collapse of 2008. He wants Claude to be his muse and his everyman character. Claude grants him access into the world of international banking. Claude’s coworkers are energized by Paul’s presence. They fantasize about their roles in Paul’s novel and feed personal narcissisms about being the subject of literature, all the while ignoring the facts that they don’t read novels, that Paul’s last book was a commercial and critical failure, and that Paul seems a whole lot more like a conman than any kind of writer.

And, as Paul’s prefatory idea for a novel suggests, the idea of robbing the investment bank emerges.

At the end of the preface, Paul the character (as opposed to Paul Murray, the author) asks the reader, “What do you think? Would people buy it?” This forces the reader, not yet four pages in, to decide whether or not she could accept the possibility of Claude as a literary protagonist and accept the possibility that Paul is running a con on us all. These are not insignificant questions. There’s a reason why we have very few investment bankers in literature. They’re boring. Even when great writers shape protagonists out of everymen with mundane jobs — think of Joseph Heller’s middle manager in Something Happened — the results are middling at best. When lesser writers, like Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho, make an investment banker the protagonist, the banker has to be a serial killer to be even remotely interesting. But Paul isn’t promising to be a great writer like Joseph Heller, and he’s not offering gore and mayhem like Ellis. He’s instead giving you an impossible proposition: an investment banker robs his own bank, which has no actual money, rather than robbing the taxpayers and his investors, which is who investment bankers typically rob. In other words, Paul is telling you that you’re being conned. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to go along with it for another 450 pages.

Unlike Paul the character, Murray the author gives us good reason to go along with the con. His previous novel, Skippy Dies, is brilliant. It was short listed for the Costa and National Book Critics Circle Awards and longlisted for the Booker. It may well have set a record for the novel nominated for the most awards without actually winning one. Beyond the accolades and near misses, Skippy Dies is a stunning mixture of comedy and tragedy. It hints at a depth that Murray can mine for a few more books. Specifically, the elite Catholic boarding academy at the center of Skippy Dies has been taken over by a business teacher who seeks to exchange the religious focus of the academy for an ideology of the marketplace. Rather than producing graduates who embrace a Catholic morality, the children of Dublin’s economically elite families learn to view the private school as a pipeline into the financial industry. In this sense, neoliberalism replaces Catholicism as Ireland’s most influential religion.

From the start, The Mark and the Void promises to explore this theme with more depth. Murray introduces the notion that the marketplace is becoming the true religion of Ireland early in the novel. He describes the financial district of Dublin “as a private fiefdom, like Vatican City in Rome, only devoted to money instead of God.” And the financial industry of the novel operates like the medieval Catholic Church. Everyone tithes to it, whether they believe in it or not. It hoards the vast majority of the region’s wealth and turns that wealth into power. It holds sovereignty over the lives of the populous, dictating how society’s resources will be allocated, who will win and who will lose. It sometimes awards the most devout with small tokens of its overall hoard, but mostly keeps the earthly rewards to itself. And, like religion itself, the financial industry is based largely on faith. The only real value the paper in your wallet — or, more likely, the numbers on your computer screen when you check your bank account — has is symbolic. We have faith that these numbers mean something in exchange for real goods like food and clothing and transportation and housing. As long as we all agree to believe in that symbolic power, it does have value. And, like so many organized religions, those closest to the symbolic power tend to be the most corrupt.

Murray examines the intricacies of this neoliberal religion through Claude. Claude meditates on his role as a banker, and his willingness to sacrifice things like love, family, travel, and community — his “whole life,” as he puts it — for the job. He says that “every banker has in his head a number, or rather a Number. This Number represents the amount of accumulated wealth he has decided will be enough.” The second he reaches this number, he’ll get out of banking. But, as Claude observes, “the bigger problem is that as you approach it, the Number tends to change. It shifts upward.” In this sense, Claude’s Number fulfills the role of heaven for the neoliberal: it’s the reward for lifelong piety. Money is invested with a redemptive value. His whole life is worth trading for a certain amount of it. Forget even the symbolic power of money to buy real goods. He has gone beyond the need for anything real. His necessities are taken care of. Even his luxuries are attainable and attained. There’s nothing the money can buy him now. Further, Claude, unlike his higher ups in the financial industry, isn’t in a position to make enough money to buy real power. Nor does he seek the power that the global one percent have to bribe politicians to reshape public policy in their image. He instead seeks that spiritual place where a Number symbolically redeems all his sacrifices.

Claude wants to articulate this for Paul, but he says, “I don’t feel confident that I could explain this without making it seem like more greed.” Because, on the surface, it is greed. Members of the financial industry suffer from a similar emotional disorder as the people on Hoarders, only the financial industry’s hoards are neatly tucked away behind so many secured internet spaces instead of visibly represented in old pizza boxes and dirty diapers. For Claude, though, it’s more than greed; “it’s something more mysterious.” Because the Number only makes sense in a religious context: as the realm of spiritual redemption or as an absolution for his sins against humanity. Likewise, neoliberalism — the ideology that privileges the concerns of the marketplace over all other concerns—only makes sense as a religion. It demands that we put all our faith and social safety nets into the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace, trusting it to make everything all right, to bring about paradise and equality despite the fact that this trust in the past has led mostly to world wars and profound inequality.

Claude takes a typical path to the church of neoliberalism. He comes from a small village in France. His father was a blacksmith and a veteran of the 1968 revolution. He simultaneously pushed Claude into banking and resented Claude as he became a banker. Claude, for his part, honors his father’s revolutionary past by studying philosophy in college. He focuses on the works of François Texier, a fictional amalgamation of Jean Baudrillard and Guy DeBord. Texier has his own theory of neoliberal religion. He observes that, at its inception during the Middle Ages, “the corporation was almost identical to contemporary ideas of angels . . . immaterial, ageless, capable of acting like human beings but bound by neither substance nor time; the corporation, an entity which we imagine as a uniquely secular creation, a paragon of reason and common sense, in fact began its life as an offshoot of a Christian myth.” Texier goes on to argue, “Today, though we no longer believe in angels, we still regard the corporation as a higher order of being.”

French philosophy of the ’68 revolution doesn’t bond Claude with his father. Claude has great difficulty embracing relationships with anyone. Love, family, and community are all too much for him. He escapes from them all through the world of banking. In a moment of clarity, he says, “Perhaps after all that is the true purpose of Business: to replace the shifting, medieval labyrinths of love with the broad, sanitized avenues of materialism, the lightless, involuted city of the self with something gridlike and rational.” Claude goes all in, living a monk-like life inside a cubicle and a condominium, purified in the glow of his numbers on a screen.

It’s no wonder that Claude and his coworkers are so open to Paul, even if Paul seems like a conman. The bankers’ world is devoid of art, devoid of any questions of meaning that go deeper than materialism. Even as a largely failed novelist, Paul introduces them to subjunctive worlds, spaces where they can imagine alternatives to the dominant neoliberal narrative. The only problem: contemporary Ireland — and contemporary global society, by extension — has no room for a novelist among the clutter of a wireless world. Paul has love. He married a stripper. He has family, including his mostly neglected four-year-old son, Remington Steele. He is part of a community, albeit a community of hustlers and conmen. He’s been ensnared by the trappings of the global boom, and now he’s struggling to untangle himself during the bust. Unlike the banking system that Claude works for, no government funds exist to bail out Paul. As much as the bankers need Paul and his art, Paul needs money to keep his home and feed his son and keep his wife off the stripper pole.

This establishes the dramatic tension of the novel. The neoliberal religion is failing to provide any meaning deeper than materialism. The banker turns to the novelist to help him examine the depth of love and life, but the novelist has been reduced to a desperate state. His time is spent clawing for a handhold on a slick and rocky cliff. If Claude is going to get his whole life back from the sacrifices he’s made to banking, he needs to recuperate the damage his financial sector has waged on artists like Paul. Or just on Paul himself.

In line with Skippy Dies, these powerful themes are carried through the novel on the shoulders of humor. The Mark and the Void is funny on so many levels. There’s direct political satire, like the Forbes article on Claude’s boss, Porter Blankly, which relies on glowing hyperboles to portray Blankly as a slightly more sociopathic Kenneth Lay. There’s corporate satire, like when Blankly coins the term “Think Counterintuitive,” a thinly veiled allusion to Steve Jobs’s “Think Different.” Beyond both slogans needing the “ly” to make them grammatically correct, there’s all the employees at Claude’s investment bank who make ridiculous and dangerous mistakes in their attempts to think counterintuitively. There’s Paul’s con, which would be obviously bad if his marks weren’t so illiterate. At one point, Claude wants to know more about Paul. Paul counters that the protagonist never knows much about his author. After all, Paul says, “Do you think Billy Budd knew where Conrad lived?” The fact that Paul’s attribution of Billy Budd to Joseph Conrad doesn’t set off any red flags makes it even funnier. Later, Paul tells Claude that Winston Churchill (born 1874) wrote parts of War and Peace (1869). Claude is fascinated to learn this.

Other sections of the novel are slapstick. There’s a lot of language play. There’s a bit of bathroom humor to keep things from getting too serious. There are touches of romantic comedy. And, as the plot careens toward its climax, there’s a lot of good, old-fashioned absurdity.

Murray also recognizes that every story needs love. At one point, the bankers debate whether or not a great novel has ever failed to deliver on a love story. Claude offers 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. His colleague, Ish, retorts, “Every story needs love. Even at the bottom of the sea.” So there are love stories. Claude falls for a Greek waitress named Ariadne. Paul struggles in his relationship with his wife. Ish tries to write herself into a romantic narrative. And, perhaps most significantly, there is the homosocial love affair between Paul and Claude.

In the end, Murray pulls off the impossible. He writes a funny, poignant, human, and philosophical novel about an investment banker. It raises deep questions. It makes shallow jokes. It argues for the need of arts and philosophy in the face of global consumer capitalism. It unpacks ideologies that are so prevalent they seem natural. Throughout the reading, it feels like we’re being conned, not so much by Paul Murray as by the world outside the novel. Still, for all the weight the novel carries, Murray takes care to make the experience of reading the book a whole lot of fun.

Southern Gothic Fiction

wte_frontcoverMore than a year ago, I entered a short story contest called something like the Southern Gothic Fiction Revival prize. I had no real thought of winning the contest. More than anything, I entered it as a way of donating money to Twisted Road Publishing. Twisted Road puts out excellent books. The two Pat Spears novels are among my favorites. The review I wrote about one of them will pop up on this site eventually.

Anyway, Dorothy Allison was the judge of that contest. She’s an amazing writer. I thought she’d have better taste in fiction than she does. As it turns out, she picked this ridiculous story about Flannery O’Connor, a textbook salesman, and a ukulele as the winner.

As it also turns out, I wrote that story.

On top of winning the contest, my Flannery O’Connor ukulele story was included in a short story anthology that was released in the fall of 2016. Being the master of self promotion that I am, I’m just now getting around to letting the world (or at least my blog and the Facebook page attached to it) know about it.

It’s a pretty kick ass anthology, regardless what you think of my story. I highly recommend it. You can order it and learn more about it here.

One Punk’s Guide to Getting on with It

I wrote this column for the Razorcake web site a few days after the presidential election. It fell from the front page of the site and into obscurity, but I like this article and I want to share it here. Hopefully, it’s the last thing I post about Trump for a while.

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It’s hard to keep from freaking out right now. We live in a country where a candidate who ran a genuinely fascist campaign was elected president. None of us know how this will play out. A wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a nuclear war, and mass deportations are all unlikely. Still, the fact that these scenarios are back on the table sucks. A lot of us feel devastated by this. A lot of us don’t know what to do. The corporate media is offering suggestions, but this is the same corporate media that spent the last year treating a fascist as a legitimate candidate. Your social media feeds have suggestions. Some of them are good. Most are just links to more content generated from the corporate media. And we can’t ignore that social media exists to sell advertising, not to foster discussion.

So what do we do about all this?

Well, by “we,” I mean punk rockers. And my suggestion is that we keep doing what we’ve always done. I’m not here to offer advice. I’m here to offer encouragement.

If you’re a musician, write a song about this moment. Bring that song to band practice. Make it sound good. Record it. Release it. Send it to Razorcake. We’ll spread the word. Then tour. Go around the country and nurture this scene. And don’t doubt that it’s a worthwhile way to spend your time. I think of myself as an adolescent in Reagan’s America, living in a backwoods Florida town where the adults around me voted straight Republican tickets and the kids around me would grow up to support Trump. When those first Dead Kennedys albums made their way to me, I felt like I’d grabbed a lifeline. They got me interested. I went to the library and flipped through the card catalog to find out what a Pol Pot was. Around that time, I also got my hands on a Maximum Rocknroll compilation of hardcore bands, which taught me about the El Mozote Massacre and CIA-trained Central American death squads.

One great record (or, really, cassette dubbed from a friend) led to another. In the late eighties and early nineties, I listened to The Clash, Minor Threat, Stiff Little Fingers, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Hüsker Dü, X, the Minutemen, and bands like that nonstop. This music helped shape my life. It made me a better person. It put me in the world around me, helped me understand that my concerns are just a small part of this greater social animal, that I have responsibilities toward others, and that my anger is valid, but it needs to be directed in positive ways.

When Bush was elected in 2000, everything sucked but the music. This was the height of Avail, Anti-Flag, the Unseen, Strike Anywhere, Dillinger Four, and so on. I remember being on a book tour and hanging out in a punk house in Milwaukee in the second year of the W. presidency. Someone put Reinventing Axl Rose into the stereo, and by the time “Those Anarcho Punx are Mysterious…” came around, everyone was singing like their life depended on it. The album had been released two weeks earlier, and we all knew every word.

I’ll never again doubt the power of punk rock music.

Now, we’re poised for another wave. I can’t wait to hear it.

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I also know that a lot of Razorcake readers aren’t musicians, but they’re just as active. I want to encourage that, as well. If you’re not in a band, make art. Make a zine. Paint. Draw a comic. Write a book. Do whatever it is you do. Now is the time to do it. History is on your side. I always go back to this idea from Harold Cruse in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. Cruse argued that effective social movements need to be fought on three fronts: an economic one, a political one, and a cultural one. In response to this, a bunch of black activists in the late sixties formed the Black Arts Movement. They originally conceived of themselves as the cultural arm of the Black Panther Party. They set up community theaters and put on plays. They started book publishing companies and published poetry and prose. All of it was under the banner of black art for black people. BAM theorist Larry Neal said that protest art was masturbating for white people. Don’t protest, he said. When you protest, you legitimize a racist system. Work outside of the system. Define yourself. Control your own art.

Most readers of Razorcake aren’t ready to take on the next fascist administration on political or economic fronts. But creating culture is what we do. This is one of the reasons why I migrated to L.A. a few weeks before W. took over as president in 2001. I moved into a termite-infested sweatbox with Todd Taylor. Together, we gathered dozens of punk artists, musicians, writers, graphic designers, and computer programmers and we started Razorcake. It was never just a magazine. It was and is a community. We did what we could. We’re still doing it. And you’re a part of us.

So while we’re doing it, let’s not forget a couple of things.

First, life is better face-to-face. It’s easy to fall into social media rabbit holes where you only communicate online with a narrow group of friends who all agree with you. That can be valuable for a short time. We all need to process what just happened. These social media spaces allow us to do that. But to move on, we need to spend time physically together. We need to go to shows, to readings, to protests, to parties, to zine fairs, to whatever events allow us to really interact with each other. Nothing tests your views like having to say them to people who can look you in the eye when you talk.

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Second, before we get all caught up in what will happen, let’s pay attention to what just happened. We were just given a choice between an eminently qualified woman and totally incompetent sexual predator who says incredibly racist things, but is at least a man. More than fifty-nine million Americans decided that the incompetent sexual predator is the right choice. Let’s remember that.

Let’s acknowledge that we live in a country where more than fifty-nine million people may not think it’s okay to grab a woman “by the pussy,” per se, but they have said that if you do grab a woman by the pussy, if a dozen of the women you’ve grabbed by the pussy file charges against you, well, that shouldn’t keep you from being the leader of the free world. And maybe these fifty-nine million people don’t necessarily agree that Mexicans are mostly rapists and murderers or that Muslims are mostly terrorists or that African Americans turn their communities into war zones, but they think it’s okay for the leader of the free world to think that.

There’s no reason to accept this. Instead, let’s try to reshape our culture into one where this doesn’t happen again.

Trump Supporters and Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger”

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Nobody talks much about Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Artificial Nigger” anymore, which is a shame. I understand why a story with a title like has fallen from favor. It’s a difficult story to recommend. It’s awkward for an English teacher to say to her students, “Read ‘The Artificial Nigger’ for class tomorrow.” O’Connor surely knew when she titled “The Artificial Nigger” that she was taking risks and forcing readers to deal with the specter of racism. She couldn’t have known in 1955 that the title would evolve from confrontational to repulsive, and it would doom the story to obscurity while her lesser works rose to prominence.

The story itself is a brilliant investigation into the fears that create racism and the ways in which racism is learned. It demonstrates subtly and clearly how traditional racism—the belief that races are real biological constructs and that the white race is superior to the black one—is devastating for poor white people. These are ideas that have been relevant for about four hundred years, but our current political climate has made “The Artificial Nigger” particularly significant. Reading the story introduces a pathway to understanding Donald Trump’s supporters that hasn’t really been explored.

Read the rest of this article on Morpheus.

My Next Book

I’ve spent the past few years working on an academic study of Thomas Pynchon’s novels, the systems of power in those novels, and his depictions of resistance to that power. I started the project as my dissertation, which I finished in late July, 2011. As I was wrapping up the writing of it, global events like the Arab Spring, the revolution in Tunisia, and austerity protests in Greece and Spain started to occur. In September of 2011, a handful of activists set up camp in Zuccotti Park in NYC, and the Occupy Movement was born. Occupy’s ideas of participatory democracy, their strategy to forego protests and instead develop alternative societies (even if they were just a demonstration of a genuinely democratic society) matched a lot of what I’d read in Pynchon. At this point, one would think that I may have participated in the demonstrations. I didn’t. I’m the worst about attending rallies, even if I’m sympathetic to the cause.

What I did instead was look deeper into the political and economic theorists who provided the foundations for both Pynchon and Occupy, and I wrote a book about it. The book is called, appropriately enough, Occupy Pynchon.

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I index and proofed the typeset version of the book just as our nation descended into the madness which resulted in the one percent taking over every seat of power in the US and unapologetically working to make this a nation by, for, and of the 1% (to borrow Joseph Stiglitz characterization). I took a little comfort in knowing that I’d at least written a handbook for resistance to this takeover. It may be an academic text geared largely for literature scholars, marketed to university libraries, and costing $60, but at least it’s out there. Or it will be this coming May.

So that’s been my rabbit hole. If you want to see more about the book, here’s the page from my publisher’s web site.

Utopia after Trump

more-utopiaIn 1516, England was ruled by an authoritarian narcissist who was redistributing the wealth of England to himself and a handful of his obscenely wealthy friends. Thomas More responded by writing the philosophical tract Utopia. He made up a place that was no place—literally, the word “utopia” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “not a place”—and narrated the tale through a man whose last name means “nonsense.” The tract dared to imagine a world better than the one More lived in.

Exactly five hundred years later, the United States has a president-elect who is an authoritarian narcissist with plans to redistribute American wealth to himself and a handful of his obscenely wealthy friends. Perhaps it’s time to once again look at this story of No Place told by a man called Nonsense and imagine a better world for ourselves.

Read this article on Morpheus.

Bumbling Sexual Predators

Sutherland in Animal House

I’ve often wondered where fictional English professors get their awful clothes. Donald Sutherland gives me the name of his tailor above.

I’m a little obsessed with English professors in movies. I don’t care how bad a movie is, if there’s an English professor in it, I watch it. Even if that movie is Some Kind of Beautiful, which takes bad film-making to the point where it’s almost so bad it’s good, but not quite. It’s just so bad it’s bad.

Most films with English professors are lousy. I watch them because I have this sick fascination with the cliche professor in movies. He’s almost always a white man, slovenly, flighty, and sleeping with a student. At the end of every movie, I daydream about writing a book about these slanderous portrayals and calling it Bumbling Sexual Predators.

I was talking about this with a buddy of mine, Mike Plante, a few months ago. Mike published the long-running film magazine Cinemad. He still does a Cinemad podcast. A couple of weeks ago, Mike interviewed me about being an English professor and films about professors for his podcast. You can listen to it here.

While you’re at it, spend a little time on the Cinemad site. There’s a lot of good stuff there.

And, for what it’s worth, my award for the best (and most realistic) English professor in a film goes to Regina Hall’s character in People Places Things.

Los Angeles Review of Books

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Steph Cha recently interviewed me for the Los Angeles Review of Books. It was refreshing to work with Steph. Almost everyone else wanted to talk about the ukulele aspect of my books, which makes sense. The work “ukulele” is in the title. I talk about ukuleles a lot. I even have a picture of a uke on this post. Still, the books isn’t really about ukuleles. It’s about writers. Steph picked up on that and wanted to talk about the writers and the stories behind the stories. I think it came out really well.

You can read the interview here.

While I’m at it, I’ll point out that Steph Cha is a pretty badass noir writer herself. Check out her Juniper Song series, starting with Follow Her Home.

City Lights

ferlinghetti1965_c Tomorrow will be the last stop on my book tour. I’m going to the famed City Lights Books in San Francisco. It’s kind of a big deal for me. When I was in high school, one of my teachers turned me on to the Beats, starting with Gregory Corso, but moving on to Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’m pretty excited about reading at the place where that literary movement began.

The reading is at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

A bookseller at City Lights asked me five questions for their blog. As far as I can tell, he didn’t use my interview. Since it’s written and I still have it, I’ve pasted the interview below. I hope to see you in San Francisco.

Five Questions for Sean Carswell

If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?  If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

I’ve been to City Lights several times. I go there almost every time I go to San Francisco. My most memorable visit had to be about ten years ago.

I’d designed a book cover for Bucky Sinister’s poetry collection Whiskey & Robots. I thought of the cover as an homage to the City Lights Pocket Poets series. Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Nancy Peters saw the cover as borderline copyright infringement. They sent to nicest cease-and-desist letter to the publisher for whom I designed the cover. I talked to Nancy and we smoothed things out. A few months later, I was in City Lights and saw a half dozen copies of Whiskey & Robots in the poetry shelves, cover out.

That was such a classy move by City Lights.

If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

I actually put one together for Largehearted Boy.

What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

The first novel I really loved was Sounder by William H. Armstrong. I read it several times when I was in second grade. I remember that we couldn’t renew books at the school library, so I’d check the book out, read it, return it, and wait the allotted time until I could check it out and read it again. I read it so many times that my brother, who’d seen the Disney adaptation of the book, took to yelling, “Sounder, come here, boy” a la Paul Winfield every time he saw me. That convinced me to find a new book.

If you didn’t have your current job, what might you do?

Become a bookseller at City Lights.

Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

I’ll just talk about books. I’d bring Herman Melville’s Typee. That way, if there were cannibals on the island, I’d have a guidebook for how to live with them. I’d bring Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, because I’ve been meaning to read it. I’d probably have time to do so on a desert island. If I liked it enough, I’d be inspired to build a raft and float home, just so I could read the other books in the series.

In case I didn’t like it, I’d bring Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. I’d sit on the shores of that island and keep reading that gigantic novel until it made perfect sense to me. That would keep me occupied for a decade or two.

California Cities and the Tour So Far

I’m seventy-percent through my book tour. All the flights and rental cars and hotel rooms are now in the past. The final three readings–San Diego (6/21), Los Angeles (6/23), and San Francisco (6/29)–are an easy drive from my centrally-located Southern California home. I figured this would be a good time to pause and reflect on my adventures.

The readings started in Brooklyn, at Greenlight Books.

Tour 2016_Brooklyn Sandwich Board

It was right around the corner from Spike Lee’s studios. I stopped by to see if he wanted to adapt my short story collection into a film. He didn’t answer the door when I knocked, so I just stood outside yelling, “Boomerang is a great movie! People need to recognize!”

Tour 2016_Spike Lee Studios

My next reading was in a suburb of Philadelphia. I went into the city before the reading and visited the Rodin museum. It gave me a lot to think about.

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I felt like my next couple of readings really blew the roof off of things.

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Minneapolis inspired people to get naked and dance in the streets.

Tour 2016_Dancing Statue

Some of the hotels I’ve stayed in have been pretty cool. The one in Seattle featured all the latest in high-fidelity stereo sound. I had a little trouble getting the record to play, though.

Tour 2016_Old Stereo System

Portland was cool, but I got into an argument with this fat guy on the street. I was like, “What do you mean it’s absurd to write a short story collection about writers and their metaphysical ukuleles?”

Tour 2016_Sea Lion Sculpture

Now, I’m down to the last three: Warwick’s Books in La Jolla at 7:30 on Tuesday, Book Soup in West Hollywood at 7:00 on Thursday, and City Lights Books in San Francisco at 7:00 a week from Wednesday. Come out and see me.

Tour 2016_Reading at Powells