Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Roxane Gay on Good Stories

The good Roxane Gay has a very thoughtful post about good stories up at HTMLGIANT in which she discusses Little House on the Prairie books, Dylan Landis' Normal People Don't Live Here, and Dear Everybody, of which she says, in part, this: "Dear Everybody is one of the finest, most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read ... Kimball writes his characters with a tenderness that moves me profoundly ... The complexity in Dear Everybody builds subtly, but by the end of the book the immensity of the story that has been told is staggering." Thank you, Roxane.

#58 William Walsh, Private Man (Now Less So)

William Walsh is a private man and there is little public knowledge of him. We know that he was born in the 1960’s, an event that quite possibly took place in Massachusetts. Not many specifics are known of his early life, but we can be certain that certain things happened—that he fell down while learning to walk, that his parents didn’t always understand him when he first learned to talk, that his baby teeth fell out and that the Tooth Fairy visited him without him knowing it. At some point, he learned to tie both of his shoes at the same time. When he was in the first grade, he was sent home from school for whistling. That was the last time that he did anything wrong or was in any kind of trouble. He was so good that he once played hopscotch with Pope John Paul II in Vatican Square. He always did his homework. His adolescence may have been awkward and he once ate his weight in clams. Regardless, he grew up, filled in, and became quite dashing. Later, there are public records concerning his attendance of Stonehill College and then the University of New Hampshire, concerning his marriage to a woman to whom he vowed everlasting love and, following this, the birth certificates for four children (he was recently spotted playing ski-ball with one of them at Dave & Busters). Other evidence for William Walsh’s existence includes his writings—a documentary novel called Without Wax, a formally inventive work about the adult film industry. But we should not draw any conclusions about William Walsh from this novel, his short stories, or his derived texts. This would not be dependable biographical information. Little else is known about William Walsh, but he was last observed watching late night television somewhere in Massachusetts. If you go look for him, then he might still be there.

[Note: This postcard life story was written, as a kind of challenge, based on what I know of William from our emails and the once we met (that is, without an interview). However, since then, Bill has read so many great postcard stories about how people met their wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend that he decided to write his own addendum about meeting his wife, which he did here at The Kenyon Review.]

[Book Updates: William Walsh is the author of Without Wax and Questionstruck and Pathologies can be pre-ordered and Ampersand will bring out an anthology he edited in 2011.]

Source of Lit: At Emerging Writers Network

Emerging Writers Network, Dan Wickett and David McLendon say some really nice things about a story I published in Unsaid that is called "The Clothes that They Were Wearning, the Things that They Did." Dan calls it "sensual" and David says this: "It's as if his mother ate pages from the OED and manuals of style while Kimball was in her womb." This is part of ongoing series where Dan and David have been writing about the work of each author from Unsaid #4, one of the single best issues of a literary magazine ever published.

What We Do With Loss

I have an interview with Dawn Raffel up at The Faster Times. We talk about her new book, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, syntax, layering, breaking off, and what a writer can do with loss.

More interviews @ The Faster Times: Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, Rachel Sherman, Laura van den Berg, Ben Tanzer, Brian Evenson, Robert Lopez, Samuel Ligon, Dylan Landis, Joseph Young, Andrew Porter, Padgett Powell, Zachary German, Christopher Higgs, Sam Lipsyte.

Fictionaut Five

This also went up while I was in Argentina, a very nice interview with the good Meg Pokrass, the Fictionaut Five. I answer questions about writing the life stories of objects and one of my pseudonyms, Andy Devine, among others.

#112 The Difficulties of Being Giancarlo DiTrapano

Giancarlo DiTrapano (Gian to his friends) was born in West Virginia, which is beautiful and where there is lots of drinking and lots of drug-taking and underage sex, where there are lots of mountains and rivers and the music is usually classic rock and roll--Van Halen, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, which is also beautiful. When Gian was little, he was stung in the eye by a wasp. When Gian was 9, his older brother, Lidano, died in a car crash when a couple out for prom night pulled onto the highway and hit the car Gian’s brother was in, which then struck a utility pole at 60 mph. Everybody except for one passenger died. Gian’s brother was the first person close to Gian who died and it started a chain of deaths throughout his young life that he thought would never end. Luckily, Gian had his sister, Lia, who he loves more than anybody in the world. Plus, his parents are miracles. And, fortunately, after a while, people stopped dying so much. Gian moved to New Orleans for college and studied philosophy there, mostly because his cousin Meredith did. At some point, Gian moved to Rome and learned how to speak Italian in Sezze. At another point, Gian moved to New York City. After this, he broke up with his girlfriend of 10 years, which was difficult, but he had fallen in love with something else. Another difficult time was Gian’s other older brother, Dante, going to prison. Also difficult, Gian suffers from cluster headaches that can last for a month. Once, Gian saw somebody on a TV show, walked to his computer, googled the person, emailed the person, and then walked out of his apartment. A few hours later, the person had emailed Gian back. They met for a drink and have been dating ever since. Now Gian works as a bartender and as the publisher of New York Tyrant. The rest of his life, Gian would like to get to the end of it without too much more suffering and pain.

[Update: There is a great article on Tyrant Books in Publishers Weekly.]
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Invented Genius

The good Dylan Landis posted a great write-up of Andy Devine's book WORDS. After noting that Andy Devine is "an invented genius," Dylan says this: "I am amazed to find myself joyful over the whole thing." And then: "This feels like getting my brain rubbed right through the dura mater." And then: "The book made me bizarrely happy."

Bowling Green

I can't believe I'm getting on an airplane again so soon after all those flights to and from Argentina, but I get to see my family in MI later today, and then I'm looking forward to talking (4pm) and reading (730pm) at Bowling Green on Thursday. OK, Airplane, Let's me and you work this out.

Shya Scanlon Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #257 bl pawelek

Barry Pawelek was born at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, NC, in 1968, the first son of three to a two-term Vietnam Vet. His family soon moved to the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where his mother worked as an emergency room RN, and his father jumped from job to job, being everything from a florist to a wrestling coach. Very active in sports as a teenager, Barry taught hockey to kids until, in the winter of his 16th year, he had a bad fall on the ice, and was unconscious for two days. Fortunately, he woke up. For the next two years or so, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but in time his memory became noticeably unreliable for what Barry calls “secondary memory.” Though he could still remember things most dear and important to him, things of lesser importance, like directions, or the names of acquaintances, were now increasingly lost. He now sees this as one of the defining moments of his life. Barry has been writing since he was in his teens, but although he has notebooks of evidence, he has only one distinct memory of writing during this early period: one summer his father worked as a park ranger, and he spent time with his father in the woods. He remembers the feeling of carrying his binder around, of writing among the trees. It was “horribly bad stuff.” He wrote sporadically during his 20s, but he was a voracious reader, having earned a BA in English Literature from Cal State. Encouraged by a teacher, he went on to earn an MA in Literature from Loyola Marymount. It was at Marymount that Barry began to take creative writing classes, and as a result to take writing more seriously. In the beginning, he had a very “shotgun” approach to submitting, and though he found some success with publication, he was not proud of either the work, or the publishing credits. In 1998, he stopped submitting altogether, and began to think less about getting it out there, and more about self-improvement. During the next ten years, he focused on his own private artistic practice, which includes writing, painting, and photography, on his family, and on his career in public relations. Barry is a Communication Project Manager for a water company, and no one at work knows about his issues with memory. This is partly because he keeps his private and work lives separate, but also because he has successfully been able to mask the matter by taking exhaustive notes, and because the nature of his work follows short project lifecycles. Barry takes a journal with him everywhere, and writes down everything that seems important. When he travels by car, he uses a GPS to make sure he knows how to get where he’s going, and how to get back. But when he wants to remember something important, to savor an experience, he also stops, focuses, puts the scene into perspective, and tries to embed it in his memory. Barry was married in 2003, and has two children—Eli, who is five, and Abbey, who is three—with his wife, Jennifer. Jennifer is the best thing that ever happened to him (he realizes that everyone says this, but he knows it to be true). She is extraordinarily caring and patient with him, and is his best friend. Barry feels incredibly fortunate to have waited until his mid-30s before having children, because by this time he could let go of his youthful selfishness. He does not have any real regrets. Everything serious, he’s talked through and apologized for. The small things he simply forgets. In 2008, Barry began again to submit his writing for publication, but this time he was very selective and smart about where he wanted to be published. The first publication he sought out was Willows Wept Review, and Molly Gaudry was the editor who accepted his poetry. Barry does not consider himself an accomplishment-driven person—he enjoys building relationships and promoting things that are important to him—but he does look forward to publishing his first book. In 2009 he wrote a novella, but he’s not in love with it. Sometimes he goes back to old journals—much of which he does not remember writing—and types some of it out. But generally, his writing keeps getting better, and whatever he most recently wrote, he likes the best.

[More bl pawelek.]

[Note: You can read Shya Scanlon's postcard life story here. And you can read bl pawelek's postcard life story of James Beach here.]

The Nervous Breakdown

I was in Argentina for the last two weeks and I'm still thinking about the different ways that things happen there, my 40 new tios and primos, and the best helado I've ever had in my life. While I was there, I was the Featured Fiction Writer at The Nervous Breakdown, which included excerpts from Dear Everybody and a self-interview (I find it much easier to ask other people questions). Thank you, Gina and Shya.

Now in Paperback

DEAR EVERYBODY is now in paperback. I've been told that it is on display tables at McNally Jackson and other great bookstores, and its now available online at Powell's and Amazon and all that. Everything is the same, even the cover, except it's $5 cheaper and it has that great pull-quote from The Believer review about the book being a "curatorial masterpiece" for which I will forever be thankful.
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An Outtake from 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES

The DVDs of the two documentaries that I made with Luca Dipierro -- 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES and I WILL SMASH YOU -- are now available here.
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