The title STORIES FOR BOYS carries all sorts of connotations and possible meanings.  So often, stories associated with or geared toward males include characters like Batman, James Bond, Robin Hood, King Arthur. These characters all exhibit stereotypical characteristics associated with the “ideal” male: strength, unemotional, straightforward, and super noble. But all of the boys (from the narrator to his father to his children) in this story, however, deal with complex emotions; in short, the book shows every kind of human weakness and explores emotional pain. How did you see yourself tackling such themes generally alienated from men, especially under the title STORIES FOR BOYS?

Masculinity, especially for boys, but also certainly for men, is so narrowly defined by our mainstream culture.  That notion, which is spelled out in your really good question, is in the air that all of us breathe.  I wanted this book to explore notions of masculinity—sometimes lightly, by poking fun at myself (as when I refer to Christine calling me by my superhero name, Mr. Incredible) but most often seriously, by attempting to capture the widest range of my actual emotions, from confusion to sadness, anger to grief, and all the shades in between.  It’s a terrible myth that to feel deeply, to grieve, to cry (Boys Don’t Cry) is a weakness, rather than a strength.  Obviously this is a cliché, however true, and so books and stories are necessary to explore how and why.  But there is certainly this notion that it’s better to be quiet or stoic or to supply an answer or a solution (however bad) than to only listen or acknowledge one’s mixed feelings and confusion and hurt.

Two Revelations

On Thursday, May 3rd, 2007, at about six in the evening, in Spokane, Washington, my mother and father had a fierce argument. Fights and conflict were rare for them, and never lasted long. They’d been married thirty-nine years. They had a happy marriage. My father said, “If you want me to go, then I’ll really go.” He went upstairs. A few minutes later, my mother followed. She found him sitting on the end of their bed, his eyes unfocused, his head and shoulders sagging. “What did you do?” she shouted. “I took some pills,” my father answered. “ You won’t have to worry about me anymore.” My mother went into the bathroom. All the bottles from the medicine cabinet, a pharmacy’s worth of drugs including the Ativan and Trazodone my mother took for bipolar disorder, were out and open and empty on the counter. She called 911.