Toss in some wavy lines, an equal sign, and a squiggle,
then a lilac log, boulders with faces, a few phrases
like rock walls, twin marks from wagon wheels on granite.
The tell-tale lilacs give away the cellar hole:
magnetic lilacs, like nineteenth-century girls
in pinafores and blossom sprays, stationed
beside their no-longer houses. They look about to sing.
Banana curls. Purple ribbons tying their waists.

Cushman Jacket PhotoYou’ve written a novel about knife fighting?

Yes.

 

Do these things really exist?

I hope not.

cut Shrunk1 – Terminal

You find your seat in the tail section, jam your bag in the foot space, buckle tight and pull some hair out of your arm, then a few strands from your eyebrow.

You don’t do this because it hurts.

You do this because you’re nervous and afraid of dying.

Budapest

By Peter Gajdics

Poem

Stewed plums in cottage cheese
dumplings squirt sweet explosions in
my mouth. I left my flat on Wesselényi
utca beside the Dohány Street
Synagogue and this is what I found,
taste. Also mined into the roots beneath the
surface of my life is what most
frightens. I am at odds with what’s
inside. The isolation
each day is palpable, and when night arrives
like a visitor I cannot derail, I am hardly
ever able to sleep at all. Blue dreams in

author-photo-lower-res-copyOf Maud Casey’s most recent book, Alice Sebold said, “The Man Who Walked Away cast a spell from which I never wished to wake.”

Indeed, this book is spellbinding. Between the mental patients, the overly-confident doctors who treat them, the women suffering from hysteria, the dazzling acrobat, and the man who simply walks across Europe, this book is like a an eerie, unsettling dream that you cannot shake from your head.

Maud and I shared a fascinating discussion about The Man Who Walked Away, in which Maud brought up “ovary belts,” the difficulty in simply being human, and a “hunger for peace.”

photo-earley-pub--190x190What is your debut novel, A Map of Everything, about?

It’s about “everything,” of course. But at its core: The narrator’s sister has a terrible car wreck as a teen and suffers traumatic brain injury and physical debilitation. The novel thus becomes about family and family tragedy; accident and injury; addiction, sexual identity, and healing; and love. The structure is based on the periodic table, with each subchapter based on one of the elements. The excerpt here, for example, is element number 51, Antimony, described as “Metalloid; Primordial; Solid.”

Map-Cover-Color-small51. Antimony (Metalloid; Primordial; Solid)

Take June to the tanning salon where you work and give her a free tanning session. You will have to help her undress. Feel the tension that comes with regarding her scarred nakedness. It lifts your shoulders and hardens your abdomen. Help to maneuver her into the coffin-like bed of glass. Once she’s secure, go to the front desk and offer to cover things while the other girl working there goes on a break. As soon as she walks out, find the pill bottle in the drawer. Take one of the red pills—it’s the mildest of them.You have to drive June back home, after all.

Lenney_DINAH 043.fnl_sm

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.