That’s really hard. What should they know about me? … Wait, why should they know about me?
Because you wrote a book. You want people to read that book. And people these days are interested in knowing about the people who write their books. It’s a spiritual value added tax.
Ah, okay. I see. Um, I’m a genius.
Yes, keep going.
Yes, very good.
I write fiction, non-fiction…
Why, what’s wrong with poetry?
Nothing, of course. But I can’t do everything. I have kids. A puppy.
Couldn’t you get your kids to do it for you? I don’t think poetry is covered under child-labor laws.
I’ll think about it. They do seem very excited that mom has written a book.
Is mom excited that she’s written a book?
You know what? I am. I think having written a book beats the hell out of writing one.
Yeah, that was a pretty long stretch. What was it? Six years?
Something like that.
What took so long?
What took so long? Have you ever invented a world? Made something from nothing?
Yes, I have. I’m you. But why don’t you tell the people out there what it’s like?
It’s really fucking hard.
Why’d you do it then?
Eh, what else was I going to do?
You did drop out of nursing school. The world needs nurses.
This is true, but I would have been a terrible nurse. I would have killed so many people.
So, so many.
The suffering would have been incalculable. I’m clumsy, forgetful, imprecise, impatient, easily distracted, queasy, self-involved, prone to panic, and gossipy.
There is no malpractice coverage that would have saved you.
Exactly. So in a way, writing this novel saved countless lives.
So at long last, tell us about the book.
It’s called The Houseguest. It’s about a group of American Jews on the eve of America’s entrance into World War II. There’s a rabbi with an overactive conscience, some militants, a junkman who sees ghosts, a burned synagogue, and a refugee who claims to be the last great diva of Europe’s Yiddish stage. It’s about the problem of caring, of giving a shit about people you don’t know personally and might never know, and trying to figure out how to feel human and not go crazy even though most of us are pretty fucking powerless, then and now.
What did you expect?
From you, nothing else, now that I think about it.
KIM BROOKS’ first novel, The Houseguest, is now available from Counterpoint Press. Her memoir, Small Animals: A Memoir of Parenthood and Fear, will be published in 2017 by Flatiron Books/ Macmillan. Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, One Story, Five Chapters and other journals and her essays have appeared in Salon, New York Magazine, and Buzzfeed. She lives in Chicago with her husband and children.