I wrote a novel about three years ago and it took like two and a half years to edit. On July 22nd, it comes out in hardcover, Kindle eBook, and audiobook and you can preorder it here in any of those formats. You can also read more about it there. I don’t really know how to talk about the book, although I think I will probably be having productive conversations with a therapist about it in like 20 years. It’s my first and last book.
When people ask what it’s about, I generally look at the floor and say, “It’s a novel,” and then if they press me, I say, “It’s a novel about being supported by your parents,” or, “It’s a novel about being supported by my parents,” or, “It’s a novel about a blog,” or, “It’s a novel about a Tumblr about a popular music reviews website.” I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but if you read the book and generate a concise and appealing description of it, email me and I’ll try to naturally work your description into situations where I have to talk about what my book is about, e.g., at my grandma’s birthday party in August, on dates, during interviews.
I suspect, if you liked this blog, you might really like the book. And if you hate-read/hate-followed this blog, I guarantee you will love the book and you should pre-order it now. The cover is above and I am the one in the black shirt. The model for the cover was this Minor Threat press photo but the cover didn’t turn out badass like the press photo.
Anyway, this has been the book’s official announcement. I hope you like the book.
Ah, god, this book comes out tomorrow! Specifically, that means you can read/download it starting at midnight tonight from here, and you can read it for free if you sign up for a 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited. Cheap at twice the price! I recommend getting the hardcover because it’s nice to have physical objects and because of the John Waters quote, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”
Anyway, my publisher has given me permission to publish on Tumblr three chapters from the book (it has like 74 chapters), and I thought that the following three chapters would be best. I hope you like them.
On an afternoon in the middle of May, Emma sounds weird on the phone and I ask her if everything is okay and she says,“Yeah, everything is fine,” in the tone where you know everything is not fine but there’s no reason to press it because the person who’s not fine isn’t going to reveal why in this conversation.
I take the Chinatown bus and then the commuter rail out to her school, and she picks me up at the train station but waits in the car instead of coming out to the platform to get me. I get into the car and NPR is playing softly, and Emma kisses me but doesn’t look me in the eye. She starts the car and we drive away from the train station and down the main road in the college’s town, and we talk about how her brassicas are growing.
We pull into the parking lot of the convenience store near her college. We get out of the car and go into the store, and she picks up a bag of honey-wheat pretzel rods and I grab some Coors Lights out of the fridge, and then we get up to the counter and she asks for a pack of Camel Lights and pays, and then I sheepishly ask for condoms and then pay for the beer and the condoms. When we step outside, I say,“I can tell that something is wrong, Emma — what’s wrong?”
She says, “Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it now. Let’s get back in the car. It’s freezing, honey.” She shivers a little and breathes and looks at her breath in the air to prove how cold it is.
We get into the car, and she starts the car and breathes hot air into her hands and rubs them together and looks upset, and I say, “Okay, something is clearly wrong. What is it?”
We drive for about thirty seconds in silence before she says anything. Then she looks at me and says, sullenly, “I got a temporary job for after graduation,” and then she looks back at the road.
I look excitedly at her and go, “Ah, that’s great. That’s amazing. What kind of job?”
She says,“Working and coordinating work on a farm.”
I think for a second and say, “So then what’s the problem? Why are you upset?”
We drive for another ten seconds and then she looks at me and says,“It’s for seven months … and it’s in California.”
“So we wouldn’t be able to see each other?”
She says, hesitantly, “You could come visit me,” and I say, “I don’t think I have the money for that,” and she says, “Could you ask your parents for the money?”
I consider that for a second and realize it’s not feasible because they’d never give me money to fly all the way across the country to visit a non-Jewish girl, and then I say, “I don’t think they’d give me it,” and she says, “Why?” and I say, “They said they’ve given me enough money already and to stop asking.”
Emma looks disappointed. I ask, “Are you sure you’re definitely going? Are there no other jobs you could find?”
She says, “Yeah, I have to go. I didn’t get any other offers after sending out a million résumés, and this one happens to pay pretty well.” We’d talked about having trouble finding jobs before, but I didn’t know she’d been applying across the country. It wasn’t nice that she didn’t tell me, but pointing that out wouldn’t accomplish anything.
I don’t know what to say so I ask,“What kind of farm is it?”
“A huge farm in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, and it’s in a beautiful valley, and they have plenty of livestock and flowers and gardens, and they grow all sorts of crops, including both brassicas and probably weed, though it didn’t say weed on the website, but it just has that sort of vibe.”
“We should go on Google Maps Street View and see if we can see any wild weed growing on the mountainsides from the road.”
“It’s so idyllic — if there is a way that you could come visit me there, I’d squeeze my hand so hard your fingers would break.” We pull into the parking lot in her dorm and she turns the car off, and we get out of the car and close the doors behind us and come around the back of the car, and I put my arms around her and we kiss for a second, and then she lays her head against my chest for about five minutes and maybe sobs softly. I think I can sort of feel it through the hood of her jacket, but I might be imagining it, but given the circumstances it seems likely. I don’t think I will visit her; I don’t want to see the men she works around and have to wonder if she’s sleeping with them.
On a Sunday morning two weekends later, me and Emma sleep in Shira’s room in Camilla’s apartment again because Shira is out of town again. I wake up first and I look at Emma, and then she wakes up and looks at me and yells, almost at the top of her lungs, “Stop looking at me, swan!” like from Billy Madison. She smiles at me and breathes morning breath into my face.
I come out into the living room, and Camilla is sitting on the couch, watching TV and trying to do her homework. She looks up at me and says, “Stop looking at me, swan. I’m trying to do my homework, swan.”
“Why are you calling me ‘swan’?” She says, “Isn’t that what Emma calls you?” I say, “She was quoting Billy Madison. It’s not an all-the-time thing.” I walk over and sit down next to Camilla. I ask if she has seen Billy Madison, and she says, “Yeah,” and I say, “You don’t remember that line though? That was one of the most key lines in the film,” and she says, “It just slipped my mind.” She looks down at her homework again and crosses something out harshly with her pen.
“Is everything okay with you?” I ask, and Camilla says, “No, everything is not okay with me. Where is your roommate? He’s not picking up my calls or answering my texts. Why is it okay to date me for a year and then dump me and then fuck me whenever he feels like it and then not pick up my calls or answer my texts? I don’t understand. Where is he?”
Mike slept over at this girl Angelica’s house last night, I think, so I say, “No idea? Maybe he’s at home with his parents or maybe his phone broke. Or, like, you know he always loses it and stuff. Just give him a minute.”
“You know that’s not true. You know where he is, you’re just not telling me.”
“Hey, just relax and let’s go get brunch, and then I’m sure by the time we’re done he will have called or texted you back.” Camilla agrees to go to brunch, and so I go back into Shira’s room and put on my hoodie and pick up my BlackBerry and text Mike: “Hey man, call Camilla back and make something up about last night, I just covered for you and she seems mad.”
Me and Emma and Camilla walk to a diner on Houston Street, and on our way there Mike texts me back, “Okay I’ll call her back now.” Then Camilla gets a call from Mike and she walks out of earshot and they talk for about five minutes.
“Mike’s coming to meet us for brunch.”
I say, unthinkingly, “Are you mad at him?”
She looks at me suspiciously and says,“Why would I be mad at him? He just woke up. His phone died while he was sleeping … Is there something I should be mad about?” I shake my head and turn back to Emma.
Half an hour later in the diner, I am complaining about Pitchfork to Mike. Camilla and Emma are talking about meeting up with one of the other girls they went to boarding school with, and we are all eating different kinds of omelets.
Emma and Camilla’s conversation sort of drops off and they start listening to ours. I’m in the middle of saying, “Stewart Morrison is a buffoon. I think he’s the worst staff writer they’ve ever had.”
Mike says,“Why? I think he’s average.”
“His writing is like knee-jerk message-board style. You remember when the guy from Bon Iver went on like a two-hour Twitter rant about him?”
Emma says, with affection and exasperation, “Honey, could you stop complaining about this all the time and do something about it?”
I say, “The problem is that there’s nothing you can do about it because the site doesn’t have a comments section so there’s no way for listeners to make their opinions known to the writers. You can’t even email them because their email addresses aren’t public! That’s why I get like this.” Mike and Camilla laugh but I’m not joking, but I understand why they’re laughing.
Camilla takes a bite of her omelet and Emma says, “Why don’t you start a blog where you write reviews of their reviews? That’s what I would do if I were you. You could just write everything that you want to write about each of their reviews and get it out of your system, and then maybe other Internet music herbs like you would be really into it.” Camilla giggles at the word “herbs,” pronounced with a strong H sound.
Mike asks me to pass the ketchup so I pass it, and then as he’s pouring it I say,“Do you wanna hear a cool fact about ketchup?” Mike nods and I go, “It’s the world’s only perfect food. There are five flavors that food can have: bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and umami.” Mike gives me a quizzical look so I continue, “Umami is, like, savory. And ketchup is the only food in the world that has all five flavors. Isn’t that cool?” Mike and Camilla and Emma nod, and I look at Emma and say, “I mean, it’s perfect in one way, like obviously you wouldn’t want to eat only ketchup, but it makes sense in this particular scheme.” Emma smiles like she’s remembering the last time we talked about perfect things but doesn’t say anything.