It’s an image of a particle collision. Abhijat Mital, one of the book’s characters, is a theoretical physicist. The book’s about a town whose residents are in conflict over plans to build the Superconducting Super Collider (a tool for studying particle physics) under their homes, schools, and farmland.
Did you pass high school physics?
Barely. And only thanks to a kind physics teacher who was either unable to do basic math while computing my grade or–more likely–was just ridiculously kind and indulgent with his students.
Will I understand particle physics after reading this book?
No, but you may understand more about curiosity and ambition and why it’s often so challenging to communicate successfully and responsibly about complicated scientific ideas.
What should people eat while reading this book?
Sarala, Abhijat’s wife, has a thing for novelty American convenience foods, so you should eat your way through her obsessions: Rice-A-Roni, Pop Tarts, Jell-O, green bean casserole, and a Hungry Man Deluxe Turkey Dinner. Ideally all in one sitting.
What beer pairs well with this novel?
For sure, one of these.
Imagine your characters are in a bar fight with a fictional character from another book. Who are they throwing down with, what’s their beef, and most important, who wins?
Abhijat vs. Willy Wonka
Beef: Who gives a better tour of a strange and mysterious facility?
Winner: Abhijat. No children are harmed during the tour he leads through the National Accelerator Research Lab during Lily and Meena’s third-grade field trip.
Sarala vs. Anne of Green Gables
Beef: Who am I kidding? These two are kindred spirits and would totally love each other.
Meena vs. King Joffrey
Beef: He’s like the mean kid in school who would totally pick on Meena’s best friend, Lily (or, you know, shoot at her with a crossbow). But not to worry–Meena’s got her friend’s back.
Winner: Meena for sure.
Lily vs. Holden Caulfield
Beef: Who’s more frustrated over phony adults?
Winner: Neither? Both? They decide to share a pitcher and commiserate.
Randolph vs. Pippi Longstocking
Beef: Who’s more well traveled and resourceful.
Winner: Pippi. Hands down. She can lift a horse up over her head! Randolph can’t compete with that.
Rose vs. Governor Willie Stark
Beef: Who’s the more formidable politician.
Winner: Rose would clean his clock
If there was a video game of this book, would you be good at playing it?
Unlikely. According to my sons, I am terrible at playing all video games.
Would any of the people in your household like to ask you a question?
Hang on. Let me see.
[Long pause. Whispering in the background: “Come on, you guys—this whole interviewing yourself business is tricky! Help me out here!”]
Okay, they’re in. Here goes:
Son #1: How long have you been writing?
Me: Since I was your age.
Son #2: Did you like the Lego fortress I made this morning?
Me: It was amazing.
Husband (English professor): The novel investigates vexed notions of community. Are you primarily evoking a utopian Habermasian notion of the public sphere, or do you see Nicolet as a space of warring territorializations with glimpses of the salutary possibilities of rhizomatic affinity, a la Deleuze and Guattari?
Me: You know, I really don’t think you should worry your handsome little face about unpleasant things like that.
Our houseguest, Michael (who’s also an amazing painter!): What one word is used most in the book?
Me: The? And?
That didn’t go well.
You get what you pay for.
True. I’m taking the reigns back. If someone created Monopoly: the Charmed Particles edition, what would the figurines be?
That’s a weird question.
Just roll with me on this one. You know, like instead of a top hat or a racecar or a thimble?
Hmm. Okay. Card catalogue cabinet, Conestoga wagon, airmail envelope, tiny set of encyclopedias, a license plate reading “Quark,” and a miniature dried piranha.
What kind of people will like this book?
Awesome people who are the best.
What kind of people will hate this book?
Son-of-a-guns. Jerkwads. Sucker MCs.
CHRISSY KOLAYA’S poems and short fiction have appeared in anthologies by Norton, Milkweed Editions, the 50th Anniversary Best of Crazyhorse collection, and other literary journals. In support for her work, Kolaya has received grants from the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, the Jerome Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, and the Minnesota State Arts
Board, among others. She’s lived in New York, California, Indiana, Illinois, and Alabama, and now lives and teaches writing at University of Minnesota, where she’s also the co-founder of the Prairie Gate Literary Festival.
Author photo by Nina Francine Photography