SCSU_13_TimParrish_2936fwIt seems like one of us should know a lot about this book. Which of us do you think it is?

Let’s take the plunge and see.


Funny. The Jumper has a lot of big action and big characters. It starts with an illiterate man, who’s grown up thinking he’s an orphan, and who also has the impulse to jump into the void, receiving a telegram from someone claiming he’s his father. And then there are the characters: a gambler who has been in maybe the biggest denial in the world for over twenty years; the eccentric, depressed, larger-than-life woman who was put into a fundamentalist-Christian-style Hindu school as punishment for being “loose” as a teen; the moralizing leg-breaker, the misanthrope who raised the main character and lived in terror of a geological structure…What genre would you call this?

Realism. The older I get, the weirder and bigger I realize reality is.

Justin St. GermainYour book came out two months ago. Are you finished with your book tour?

We should probably stop calling it a “book tour.” I only did five readings, and I only had to get on a plane once. Although I’m going to the Texas Book Fest next week. I’m excited. I’ve never been to Austin.


That’s surprising. It’s in the Southwest, and you’re a Southwesterner.

The question of whether Austin qualifies as the Southwest, and/or where in Texas that dividing line falls, has occupied hours of my life. I might survey some Austinites (Austinians?) about that. I think I’ll know better once I’ve been there. Southwesternness is like pornography: you know it when you see it.

41dnwiHcHsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_DAY ONE


Jimmy held the piece of paper as though it were both a gem and a bomb. Telegram. He knew he knew what that meant. He’d seen it in movies and on TV, heard people talk about it, but it was the brain scramble now, what his mind knew scurrying away from sense like a jackrabbit. This was what sometimes happened when things counted, when he needed the right word at work to prove he understood the bit of info that would say, “I’m smart, I’m like you, I get it.” He flapped the telegram against his palm, shifted on the couch and glanced at his watch. His roommate would be home any minute, but until then . . . . Sound it out. Tell-uh-gram. Tell-uh-phone. Yeah, talk to the phone. Tell-uh-gram. Talk to a gram? Tell-uh-vision. Talk to what you see? That could work, but he knew it didn’t. What else? He rummaged. Tell-uh-port. What did that mean? To send space people to another place. Yeah, he knew that, and he knew that lots of folks probably didn’t know. So tell wasn’t tell like to tell. It meant, what?, things going, things sent. Sounds, pictures, space people, a letter. A letter sent. So why not just let it be a letter and not a telegram?

bookofmenAvailable from Picador

Eighty pieces of short fiction and nonfiction on manhood by some of the world’s best writers, presented by Colum McCann, Esquire, and Narrative 4

To help launch the literary nonprofit Narrative 4, Esquire asked eighty of the world’s greatest writers to chip in with a story, all with the title, “How to Be a Man.”

The result is The Book of Men, an unflinching investigation into the essence of masculinity.

The Book of Men probes, with the poignant honesty and imagination that only these writers could deliver, the slippery condition of manhood. You will find men striving and searching, learning and failing to learn, triumphing and aspiring; men who are lost and men navigating their way toward redemption. These stories don’t just explore what it is to be a man or how to achieve manliness, but ultimately what it is to be a human—with all of its uncertainty, complexity, clumsiness, and beauty.

With contributions from literary luminaries as diverse as the subjects they capture, and curated by the editors of Esquire, National Book Award winner Colum McCann, and Narrative 4, a global nonprofit devoted to using storytelling as a means to empathy, The Book of Men might not teach you how to negotiate a deal or mix a Manhattan, but it does scratch at that most eternal of questions: What is a man?

Please note that this title has already shipped and is no longer available.

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feeling and seeing are different things:
hemlock, juniper
    to thirst for fascism
   (as my love accused me
    when i was seventeen)
that thirst is but my want to see
       thalatta! thalatta!
strung tightly, and fixed into lengths of fence
(so far can the vision go,
  here and no further forever)
lines of difference cast gridded across the town
    and on those lines a train
howling: that train is feeling
    which goes straight along the powerlines
    and which, electric, draws the eyes–

frankenstein behind the scenes

Last Halloween, I’d asked a few Nervous Breakdown contributors to share their favorite terrifying movie scenes, and D. R. Haney was among them with his contribution from Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I, on the other hand, had picked the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka, which I explain so you understand why I like collaborating with Duke. My brain grows three sizes bigger by association. He’s like a cinematic moral compass for which true north is James Dean. And this year for Halloween, Duke and I decided to discuss the classic tale that produced another old-school Hollywood icon.


Soon after we learned that our mother was dead, my brother and I went to a bar. We’d already worked the phones. Josh had called our grandparents, who’d been divorced for forty years but both still lived in Philadelphia. Grandpop said he’d book the first flight he could, but air travel was snarled from the attacks nine days earlier. Grandma was afraid of flying, so she stayed in her rented room in suburban Philly, wrecked and helpless. I called my dad’s house in New Hampshire, but he wasn’t home. Eventually he called back. I told him she was dead and a long pause ensued, one in a litany of silences between my father and me, stretching across the years since he’d left and the distance between us, thousands of miles, most of America. Finally he said she was a good person, that he’d always cared for her. He asked if I wanted him to fly to Arizona. I said he didn’t have to and hung up.

Greta Gerwig

Women catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend. –Carolyn Heilbrun


On a blistering August day in 1989, my boyfriend, Adrian, and I were trudging up 123rd Street on our way to his dorm, and I was lagging behind. He always seemed to be several steps ahead of me, which wasn’t surprising, since I was barely five feet tall, and he was close to six. But he felt that I should have walked faster, and he diagnosed the problem as hesitation, fear. (He studied the existentialist theologian Paul Tillich, who wrote a book called The Courage to Be.) Whenever he noticed me falling behind, he made this observation: “You fear to step.” It made me laugh, and also caused, as he seemed to intend, a stab of shame about the pervasive anxiety that in fact kept me from moving forward. “You fear to step,” he announced, as we sweated up the hill, and I protested that my feet hurt because I wasn’t wearing any socks. I began to compose a mantra of my own inadequacy:

Laura BW 2 Your first book, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, came out in 2009. Now it’s 2013. What have you been up to for the last four years?

I lived in Gettysburg, PA, for a year and once saw a civil war reenactor at the grocery store. I lived in Baltimore for three years and fell hard for that place. Baltimore has its issues, but art is everywhere. For a year, I taught fiction at an all-boys high school. The rest of the years, I taught fiction to college kids and to adults. I learned to throw a decent left hook. I leaned how to sleep on planes. I got married. I wrote another story collection and a novel and started another novel set in Cuba. I moved to Massachusetts. I have to say, it’s been a good stretch, these last four years. 



There are four of them.

Dana, Jackie, Pinky, and Cora are cousins. Pinky is also Dana’s little brother. They call themselves the Gorillas because all gangs need a name—see Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Stopwatch Gang, Winter Hill Gang—and also because they wear gorilla masks during their hold-ups. They are criminals, but they still have rules: no hostages, small scores, never stay in one town for more than a week. It’s late summer and they’re roving through the Midwest, from motel to motel, making just enough to keep going. Dana watches the impossibly flat landscapes of Lafayette and Oneida pass through the car window and wonders how they all ended up here. Why didn’t they go to school and get regular jobs and get married and live in houses? The short answer: they are a group of people committed to making life as hard as possible.


I am filled with a rage fueled by sadness. Rage like a sourdough mother, a lump of material from which my outbursts grow. I cannot adequately express my emotions. My spectrum is happy to angry. The points between, obscured. This sourdough mother journeyed with me from my Irish childhood and has accompanied me across two continents and through several long-term relationships and two marriages. Its raw materials are to be unearthed in the fights and arguments of my childhood, long forgotten, but somehow embedded in my subconscious, dormant but alive.

I remember rocks hitting teeth
and punching a kid in the mouth
the way he bled on his white shirt
that said, “Dino the Last Dinosaur”

there were trips to the beach
we dug down so far the ocean showed
my brother and me in the pit we made
under a violent sky, drawn sloppy
w/ blueberry scented markers

h1203034Two Dollar Radio, the Columbus, Ohio boutique publisher of works such as Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps and Joshua Mohr’s Termite Parade, recently announced the addition of a micro-budget film division, Two Dollar Radio Moving Pictures, set to release its first three titles beginning in 2015 with Editor-in-Chief Eric Obenauf’s I’m Not Patrick.  Subsequent films will include The Removals, written by Nicholas Rombes and directed by Krilanovich, and The Greenbriar Ghost, co-written and co-directed by Scott McClanahan and Chris Oxley.  I recently spoke via phone with Obenauf to learn more about Two Dollar Radio’s crowd-funded foray into indie film.


**Please send your phone pics to phonepics [at] thenervousbreakdown [dot] com.

We pull truths out of us
like magicians pulling foot upon foot
of rainbow scarves out of throats.

I gag on each knot, and your truths
string our past selves up by their necks,
push them off high rafters. Every day

I grieve for what I thought we were.