So, let’s get this straight: your book gets a couple decent reviews and all of a sudden you think you’re hot shit, right?

Um, well, I don’t…

 

Sure you do. I can see it right there.

See what? Right where?

 

I saw a huge sort of aura around you when you walked in, but then I realized it was actually just your ego.

I don’t really know what you’re talking about.

 

You know what you are? You’re smug.

I don’t think I am, really.

 

Sure you are. I’ve seen it all before. Five years ago, you couldn’t even get a short story published, then you get some sucker to buy your book (not even a very big book, mind you, only two hundred seventy odd pages, which is penny-for-pound, not a lot of writing) and suddenly you think you’re God’s gift to the literary arts.

I think maybe you might be mischaracterizing it a little bit.

 

Oh, I might have the wrong house, but I’m in the correct general neighborhood, right Shakespeare?

I don’t think…

 

The proper street, if you will.

It’s not really…

 

Arrogance Alley?

(silence.)

 

Conceited Court?

Maybe we should talk about the book a little.

 

Oh, sure. Me, me, me. All right, Tolstoy, what’s it about?

Well, it’s about a young refugee who comes to the US, his struggles to integrate, and it’s also about an American soldier who goes off to war. It’s about the intersection of their two stories.

 

Oh GAWD that sounds depressing.

It’s not, really. I think it’s actually an uplifting and life-affirming story.

 

Said like a man trying to sell a book.

Um…

 

Very eloquent. So tell me, Victor Hugo, what qualifies you to tell this story?

What qualifies me?

 

Yeah. What are your credentials?

Well, it’s fiction, so…

 

What! You mean it’s not even real? Oh, Holy Mother of God, what are we even doing here?

We’re, um, we’re talking about the book.

 

Give me a break! I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but there is a lot of real shit going on in the world today. Compelling stuff. Who has time for a bunch of made-up crap when there’s so much real on the menu?

Well, sometimes we need to create fictions in order to tell the truth.

 

Wow, you do sound full of yourself. Listen, I know what’s going on in the world. I watch YouTube. Just last week, I saw the evolution of dance in six minutes, a baby water buffalo escape from both a crocodile AND a pride of lions, and a cat that helped a kid go to sleep.

Right, but those aren’t really stories.

 

We’re not talking stories. We’re talking REALITY, baby!

No, I’m talking stories. I’m talking about taking reality, which is frenetic, disorganized and confusing, and molding it into some sort of form that illustrates its underlying truth.

 

Hey, once you’ve seen a spoiled teenager throw a tantrum because her dad bought her the wrong-colored car, you’ve seen all the truth you need.

But those are really just unstructured anecdotes.

 

Whatever. I had a professor in college that used to talk like that.

And? Did you take anything away from that class?

 

Not really. I was asleep most of the time.

So surprising.

 

Stephen Dau: Listen, I don’t mean to interrupt, but you two have been sitting here in the corner of this café talking to yourselves for the better part of an hour. People are starting to stare.

 

I was just talking to Hemingway here about his “process.”

Okay, I’m starting to feel schizophrenic. Maybe we should wrap this up.

 

SD:  That’s a good idea. We’re already making a nuisance of ourselves.

 

Fine. I gotta go anyway. Someone just sent me a link to a video of two Canadian kids launching a Lego man into near space. Looks freaking cool.

And I’m going to try to get back to writing. If I can avoid distracting myself.

 

SD:  Okay, well, good luck.

 

Yeah, you’ll need it. Hey, but first, take a look at this!

 

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Originally from Western Pennsylvania, STEPHEN DAU attended the University of Pittsburgh before working in post-war reconstruction in the Balkans and international philanthropy in Washington DC. He subsequently studied creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and received an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. In addition to his debut novel, The Book of Jonas, his work has appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McSweeney’s, and MSNBC, among other places. He lives in Brussels.

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