The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hi there. Every Wednesday I post book reports on Susan Henderson's weblog, available here: http://blog.myspace.com/susanhenderson and here: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SusanHenderson/. Now they are here, also.

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The Susan Henderson Weblog Wednesday Book Club, with Pasha Malla

This week’s book: Nothing in the World, by Roy Kesey (Bullfight Media, 2006)

Is Roy Kesey my “friend”? I like Roy, and a photograph exists of him kissing my forehead, so I am going to say yes. If he feels otherwise: tough! BFF, Kesey! Best friends, forever…

Roy’s Nothing in the World won the Bullfight Review’s Little Book Prize. It is a great little book -- or novella, specifically. On May 14th Roy read from Nothing in the World at the KGB Bar in New York City with some guy called Peter Carey and a large, funny Englishman named after a Bob Dylan album. I was there! I drank two Brooklyn Lagers because it is the only palatable beer I know how to order in America, and afterward I went out with Roy and a bunch of other people and everyone drank more Brooklyn Lagers until our conversation devolved into an argument about which is more bizarre: a dildo made of frozen human feces, or a dildo made of frozen human feces with arms.

Friends’ books are weird. You start reading and you think, “Hey, so-and-so wrote this!” You imagine them at their computer, typing the sentences. You picture them pushing away from the screen in disgust and lighting a cigarette, weeping with shame. Or pushing away from the screen in triumph and lighting a cigarette, weeping with glory. You are holding a little piece of your pal in your hands -- and not a creepy piece, either, like a lopped-off ear.

I have to admit feeling jealous holding and reading and shelving books by friends. I know these people; they are my peers, whether, like Roy, they are infinitely more talented than me or not. I always experience a weird mix of happiness, pride and envy when writing successes befall people I know, especially people I like. “Good,” I think, “they are doing well.” They deserve it; they are nice and work hard and their work is invariably more deserving of accolades than, say, some nasty plagiarist or the children’s author, Madonna. But part of me -- that green, grumbling, petty part of me -- also thinks, “Okay, where’s the love for Malla?” Is this horribly small of me? I’m just trying to be honest.

I went out for a beer last week with a young woman who recently published a collection of stories here in Canada. She is very nice, and her book (released, somewhat remarkably, in hardcover) is doing well. But my feelings of resentment for this woman I found clouding any chance at friendship or making out. We are about the same age, have had similar “career” paths, but write vastly different stories; most importantly, she has a book out with the same publisher who, despite initial interest, recently rejected my collection. I have been telling myself that her stuff is marketable, while mine is not -- in reality, I’m sure hers is probably just better. But it’s comforting to make up these excuses.

Friends of mine have been awarded the Best First Book Prize in Quebec over each of the past two years. They are good guys, and their books are wonderful and completely deserving. Still, I found that before the announcements were made, that awful, jealous part of me reared up its ugly little green demon-head and half-wished they wouldn’t win. I wanted to be able to wallow in rejection with them. “I am bookless, but your book is a loser,” I wanted to be able to say. “We are the same, brother. Now let’s get wasted!”

Where this competitiveness comes from is probably insecurity: I have always imagined real authors as these faraway figures living in mountaintop estates drinking port wine on a throne while stroking two mastiffs at their sides. (Or something.) But certainly never, never my pals. That’s too close! What’s wrong with me that I can’t be more like them and get a damn book out there and win some awards? We shop at the same grocery stores. I’ve barfed in their toilets and peed in their bathtubs. And that one time when they said it was the chair squeaking when we met those girls in that bar with the ostrich heads on the walls, it was totally a fart! Everyone knew it, asshole.

Ultimately, I want everyone I know and like to do well. It would just be nice if I was doing a little bit better. Ideally I would be able to look down on my friends from my number four or five (let’s be realistic) spot on the bestseller list and pat them on the heads in a not-too-condescending way and say, “Good for you, there’s no shame in a small press publication. Before my stories went up for auction, at my darkest hour, I had also considered going that route.” But I would totally fly them out to my villa on a mountain in Switzerland for the weekend, leave free autographed copies of my book on their pillows, let them pet the mastiffs, have my cook prepare a meal of succulent lobster and maybe even blurb their own books for them on my amazing Frank Lloyd Wright-designed website, briefly. I wouldn’t be above that. They’re my pals, after all.

For further reading:

Ali, Anar. Baby Khaki’s Wings. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2006.

Kaslik, Ibi. Skinny. Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2004.

Nasrallah, Dimitri. Blackbodying. Montreal: DC Books, 2005.

Singh, Jaspreet. Seventeen Tomatoes. Montreal: Signal Editions, 2004.

Tausch, Julia. Another Book About Another Broken Heart. Montreal: Conundrum, 2004.

7 Comments:

Blogger Anne C. said...

Hardcover? Really?

Wed May 24, 10:39:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger craig said...

awesome Pasha - funny and dead on!

I barely know you, but I know how I will feel when you get in hardcover... no really, it will be great, really.

Wed May 24, 10:56:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

Pasha....so....I don't know you either, at all, you are very honest, and good on ya, really, but I was wondering while reading..who Pasha, who, and it's not probably insecurity, it is insecurity, you are fabulous, admit it and be done with it..loololol....who do you think that we, not, well, everyone, okay, me...whose work do I read and think wowoooowowowowoowoowwowoow!!! it's you! This will all happen for you. Of this there is no doubt....I'm glad to read that you're open to it..xoxo

Thu May 25, 04:28:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Myfanwy Collins said...

You are a funny man, Pasha Malla. I cherish this sort of honesty.

Thu May 25, 09:19:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I'm insanely jealous of this post.

Thu May 25, 01:00:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Ah, you know how it is when you read interviews (or blog posts) with Successful Writers you admire, and you're relieved to learn they suffer the same numbing insecurites as you do? Yeah, like that, PashaMalla.

Thu May 25, 05:24:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Hey, Pasha! I bet that picture of Roy kissing your forehead will be worth some money some day soon!

Fri May 26, 08:42:00 am GMT-4  

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