Adam O’Fallon Price is the author of two novels: The Grand Tour (Doubleday, 2016) and most recently The Hotel Neversink (Tin House, 2019). We recently discussed the joys and difficulties of writing a poly-vocal story, which takes place in a New England resort. The Neversink resort is at once a character, an atmosphere, and a stage that allows for a host of characters to change, stifle, murder, love, and defeat one another. 

 

Randal O’Wain: One of my favorite aspects of The Hotel Neversink is the little moments of reflection that each character presents throughout the book. As when Jeanie thinks, “My father was not an easy man. But why should people be easy? It is a cherished lie of the modern world, of America, that everything should be good and easy, as though comfort were a moral condition.” To maintain this level of interiority without sounding overtly authorial, one, I assume, must know the characters very well. Talk to me about the process of inhabiting so many different perspectives, thoughts, and feelings. How did you go about writing and structuring this novel?

 

Adam O’Fallon Price: The novel began as the story about one of the main characters, Len, when he’s trying to keep the hotel open in the mid-eighties and dealing with the Polish Policeman’s League, who was running amok. This story came from a man I met when we lived in upstate New York, the husband of my wife’s boss, who had grown up in Brooklyn in the forties, and gone to Catskills resorts for thirty plus years. He’d seen the rise, heyday, and demise of the whole institution, and was a wealth of these incredible stories. So after I wrote that one, and maybe a couple of others, it became clear that the hotel itself was a mainspring that could power so many different stories and voices. And in a weird way, I think occupying this space suggested different characters and different character perspectives. The hotel as seen by a young girl would be radically different from the hotel as seen by the hotel detective. I think always having the hotel there as a shared, immutable feature of life, gave me something solid and objective against which I could imagine all these different subjective experiences. I think the hotel gave me a way in to character perspectives that I would not have otherwise had, or had as easily.

 

Cum hitting the psoriasis on my elbow made my elbow sting. His ex had psoriasis too, maybe that was his type. I found out she had psoriasis from her blog and I’d scrolled through the entire blog all the way back to the beginning. I asked him to say goodbye to me before he went to work but he didn’t, he left the room quickly when his alarm went off and didn’t return. I had work later in the day at my new job. I hated it but also I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had. I never managed to find one I didn’t hate, I just fantasized about getting into a car accident and being able to sue someone or else starting a petting zoo with my ex-boyfriend as a way to make money instead.

Blank

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Four

 

Why do people write stories? Because they’ll die soon, that’s why. Why do people read stories? Because they’re alive, for now, that’s why.

The editor was overwhelmed. Submissions poured in. Another 2000 words about someone’s grandma dying, $20 deposited into the account. By the end of the first week, a hundred stories a day.

The editor called me on the phone, “I don’t know what to do, man. I can’t keep up.” It was the middle of the day, I was in bed. The sun shined through the Venetian blinds.

“How many stories do we have now?”

“Over a thousand.”

“Well, it’ll get worse, just before we close.”

“I need help.”

“I’d love to help you pick a winner, Joey, but I’m on night shift. I’m in no condition.”

“Yeah. Okay. No worries.”

“Just batch select and reject them all. Send that form letter I sent you.”

The form letter said this:

 

Yo, thanks for sending your story about your grandma dying to the Good Luck novel. We got a lot of stories about a lot of people’s grandmas dying, and regret that there is no place in the larger work for the death of your specific grandma. Much Respect, The Editor.

Good Luck

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Three

 

The garbageman was at his kitchen window, looking out. I’m all alone, and I am the Devil, and I am misunderstood. 

He was like everybody I ever knew, everything I ever knew, an island, ashamed for some abstract reason.

Little birds swooped out of the trees and landed in a gang on his lawn, pecking at the grass seed. Each bird in competition with the next.

The man was zoned out, thinking of a way to throw himself in the garbage. But then he snapped out of it, saw the birds, heads bobbing, beaks snapping at his grass seed. Sparrows. Hopping and fluttering and eating.

He opened the window, leaned out and yelled. But the window was loose and fell down on his neck and now he was yelling at God, trying to yank the window up.

 

After a couple of incidents I got a reputation as someone who couldn’t look after kids properly. Bad things tended to happen. I had no explanation for it. 

I could have made more from the menial work the agencies offered, but that wasn’t the point. I liked to take the bus over to the other side of the lake, the parliament side, where my mother worked when she wasn’t sick. She was a night cleaner at the National Library and a day cleaner in people’s homes. I told people she worked in personnel. 

Here, the houses were nicer and the children were easier to handle. Their parents were embassy staff, museum board chairs, firm partners, acting-directors. During the summer, magistrates had heart attacks on the jogging paths. Now it was winter and the gardens were humble with frost. 

Finishing their homework was simple and graceless. I was allowed to declare which rules were unimportant. I told them whatever facts came to me, and they would listen,as long as I called them whatever nicknames they wanted. 

‘Drinking sea water is disgusting and will drive you insane,’ I told Julie. 

‘Ok,’ said Julie. 

Their parents left me money in glass jars along with invitations to eat whatever I found.These people would let anybody into their home. 

Depending on their spirit, I would have to keep them from hurling themselves down a flight of stairs or visiting their eyeball with the burning plane of a hair-straightener. There were three of them and all came to harm. 

 

It was the early morning in Kabukicho. The sun was only just up and everything was weird and tinted blue. The breeze pushed a piss smell from the gutters. There were cigarette butts in puddles along the curb. I was alone in front of a Family Mart. I didn’t know why I was alone. The morning light continued to open the corners.

A group of prostitutes talked and smoked near some drink machines. They wore long, padded puffer coats, mom jeans and white running shoes. They always dressed like that. Like Midwestern moms from the early nineties. I never figured out why, but it was consistent. We thought they were Chinese, but who’s to say.

Two of the girls looked at me and laughed.

I tried to smile back, but my smile was a failure.

What’s so funny, I thought.

 What do you think of men in general?

I don’t believe you can generalize men. Or, women. They each have their own brand of quirk.

 

You wrote a novel called What Drives Men. Did you write it from a male or female perspective? Since technically you are a female.

Technically speaking, it’s written from a male perspective though the various women who appear in the book have plenty to say about how they view things. Technically speaking again, Russell, a Gulf War vet, is my primary protagonist.

 

[The following is an excerpt from Shane Jones’ new novel, Vincent and Alice and Alice, now available from Tyrant Books. Get your copy today.]

 

§ § §

 

“You look like Bert, from Bert and Ernie,” says Alice when I walk into the apartment. It appears she hasn’t moved today, the apartment surrounding her looks untouched. She’s dressed in what she wore last night. 

“Thank you.”

“It’s the shape of your head,” continues Alice, who sits on the couch with her feet up on the table. The TV shows a man in a leather vest and American flag bandana with his outstretched arm aiming a gun at a crowd of forest-green ski-masks. In the background is a storefront framed in fire and people running in and out. Holding up one hand toward my jaw Alice pretends to turn my face in a deep study. “I don’t know if it’s because you’re getting older, but your head is longer and has a pinched quality to it now.”

“Like Bert’s.”

“Exactly,” she replies satisfied. 

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-One

 

A cloud was born over the Cape of Good Hope. It was first seen at sunrise by an ostrich staring out at the ocean waves breaking on the rocks. The ostrich often stood watching at first light hoping to see the Flying Dutchman, a spectral ship full of the spirits of sailors damned forever to fight that rough current at the tip of Africa. The ostrich saw no ghost ship, only a solitary cloud hovering over the sea in fair weather, and was disappointed.

The new cloud said googoogaga, but it was so high up the ostrich couldn’t hear. The ostrich didn’t speak cloud anyway. The cloud rolled over in the sky and cried for its mother and father but it had no mother or father. It had been born by warm air rising and expanding in the atmosphere, which, after rising high enough, had frozen into ice crystals that’d bonded with dust and pollen. But the cloud didn’t know this. It looked around for its mother and father and, finding none, it panicked and cried. No tears came. It was so young and inexperienced, it didn’t know yet how to make rain.

 

i had a son over the weekend

 

i have a son and he’s three. he has chestnut hair. the thing is i just haven’t been fertilized yet. but once i am, once he’s born, and once it’s been three years, i’ll have a son who’s three.

The following is an excerpt from Noah Cicero’s new novel, Give It To The Grand Canyon, which is forthcoming from Philosophical Idiot.

 

On the bus heading down the west rim, six in the morning, looking out the window. Barely anyone on the bus. I decided I would hike down to the bottom of the canyon. I hadn’t done it in over a decade and knew I had to do it again. The shimmering green world had always haunted me. I had to get back. The Grand Canyon had something to say to me, some truth, I knew it was down there, I just needed to get to the bottom.

The bus stopped at Yaki Point, the sun barely up, a pale light. I went over to the water bottle filling station and loaded up six bottles, put them in my backpack. The bag was heavy on my back, but I knew I had to carry it. There was no water on Kaibab Trail. There wasn’t going to be any water until I got to Bright Angel Trail.

I started hiking down, there were tourists at the beginning, all bumbling around holding one bottle of water. I walked by them telling everyone good morning, hello, have a nice day. I smiled and felt good.

 

I wake. I reach for my watch. I press the light button on the watch. I shut my eyes and try to fall asleep. I can’t. I get up. I sit on the toilet. I try to pee while I sit on the toilet. I brush my hair while I sit on the toilet. I wash my hands and brush my teeth. I dress. I go into the kitchen and prepare breakfast. I let the cat out. I let the cat in.

Karen

By Daisuke Shen

Short Story

 

One thing about Karen that you should know: she is a good person. Sure, she has her faults, like ordering catering for the office from Applebee’s. Even Steel wouldn’t eat it, and he usually eats everything.

 

Home Depot Harvey says when it comes to entryways you can’t go wrong with a pergola. The culturally appropriated East Asian architecture in rot-resistant cedar suggests a certain refinement of spirit, i.e. “Why, yes. I did read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college,” while simultaneously declaring, “Here is the front door. This way. Come inside. Relax.” I buy lumber and a DeWalt cordless framing gun and put them on VISA. Between my Chase and Alaska Airlines Mileage cards, my limit is $10,000. I haven’t been watching my purchases.

It’s Saturday. Lawnmowers cry from front and back yards. A house finch shoots out of an Oregon Grape and nearly kills me. I google “How to build a pergola” and watch a tutorial on YouTube. This is going to be trickier than Harvey let on.

Anne sticks her head out the window. “What are you doing, babe?”

“Pergola,” I say.