We're All Damaged

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Everything is Awful and I Want to Die But Here's a Joke I Heard

Like about half the country, I'm hurting badly right now. It's an overwhelming feeling, complete with nausea, hopelessness, and sudden bouts of startlingly raw emotion.

I've done my best over the past 24 hours to avoid lashing out. It'd probably feel good to point fingers and chastise those who disagree with me, but, I know that I'd ultimately regret it, and I'd just find myself with something else to feel shitty about.

I don't know why the election turned out the way that it did. I don't know if there's anything, reasonably, that anyone could have done to make things go differently. But, what I do know is that I can't work on my novel-in-progress in this emotional condition. A novel is a delicate thing--particularly a first draft--and me showing up at my keyboard on the verge of tears would almost certainly send things off the rails. I am, after all, a comedic novelist.

So, while I take a day or two off to wallow and eat mint chocolate chip ice cream in Costco-size portions, I thought I'd share a joke I recently heard that really made me laugh. My hope is that it makes you laugh, too, and maybe feel at least a little better.

I was in Oxford, MS last week with a friend to see a college football game. It was late Saturday night. I didn't particularly care about the outcome of the game, but, my friend did, and his team had lost, so we decided to get drunk at some college bars.

When it came time to go back to the house where we were staying, I discovered that the Uber situation in Oxford is delicate, and there isn't really a "traditional" taxi company in operation. Instead, the locals share random gypsy cabs to get around when they've been drinking. These cabs could be vans, sedans, SUVs, or, in our case, a stretch limousine from the 1980s with a big dent in the fender.

"Flag that guy down," my friend said. "See if he's got openings."

"What?" I said.  "You mean that limo?"

The driver--a small man with an exotic Russian accent--told us to hop in. When we did, along with a great deal of neon lighting, we found two large African-American men. One was tipped over on the plush seat with his eyes closed; the other smiled and said hello.

We exchanged pleasantries. The sleeping guy briefly woke up to say hi. After a chat about the football game, we collectively ran out of things to say, which led to a few minutes of silence.

"Well, this is awkward," said the awake guy. He had a big, booming voice. "How about I tell you guys a joke?"

Technically, I wasn't in the mood to hear a joke, but I liked that the guy was talking. Silence freaks me out, especially in small, neon-lit spaces, so I encouraged him to continue. This is what he said.

"So, an Asian guy, a Mexican guy, a white guy, and a black guy all climb Mt. Kilimanjaro together.  When they get to the top, they're all very excited, and they discovered that each of them is the first member of his race to make it to the top."

Side note: I really liked where this joke was heading. He went on.

"Out of nowhere, the Asian guy turns to his new friends and says, 'I'm doing this for my people,' and then he throws himself off the side of the mountain. Everyone was like, holy shit. But then, inspired by this act of selfless valor, the Mexican guy does the same thing. 'I'm doing this for my people!' and then he throws himself off the mountain, too. The white guy and the black guy just stand there and process what they've witnessed. I mean, they can't believe it. Then, suddenly, the black guy shouts, 'I'm doing this for my people!'...and then he throws the white guy off the mountain."

Stay strong, America. We'll get through this.

thenormannation@gmail.com

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Reading From The Books of Matthew and Jessica

Back in June, I had the pleasure of reading with the very hilarious Jessica Anya Blau at the Pratt Library in Baltimore. It was a fun night. I told a story about how my eyeball kind of exploded recently, and then I read the first chapter of We're All Damaged. Jessica told a story about her most recent trip to the lady doctor and read the first chapter of her latest, The Trouble With Lexie. The whole thing was captured here on a podcast. Check it out.

thenormannation@gmail.com

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Music

One of the best things about publishing novels is getting to write playlists for Largehearted Boy, which is a wonderful website that explores the beautiful overlapping of music and literature. Check out my playlist for We're All Damaged, which appeared on the site earlier this week. Any songs you wish I would have included?

thenormannation@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Twitter Questions

On Sunday, I asked the Twitterverse if they had any questions for me about, well, anything. Here they are, along with my answers.  

@MatthewHanover asked:
What are your desert island all time top five novels? 

This is the kind of question that a guy like me could spend hours and hours suffering over. I'm not going to do that, though. Instead, I'm going to answer quickly and just go with it. Straight Man by Richard Russo, The Catcher in the Rye by Mr. Salinger, The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter, Mary and O'Neil by Justin Cronin, and Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. And, honorable mention...The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever because there is so much brilliance there. The story The Swimmer will tear your heart out.

@MatthewHanover also asked:
Does Lad Lit have to be comedy?

When it comes to writing, generally speaking, I'm uncomfortable with classifying things by certain genres. It feels very limiting to me. I'm even more uncomfortable with the idea that something "has to" be something. However, that said, if you're a male writer and you write about a male character and you don't do so with comedy, readers will be far less likely to categorize your book as "Lad Lit." They'd probably just say it's literary fiction.

@blackstuff1991 asked:
How did Daisy's character develop? Better yet, what inspired her character?

It's tough to talk about Daisy in detail without unleashing spoilers. However, I'll say this: of all the characters I've written, none have changed as much as Daisy from first draft to final product. When I started writing the book, Daisy lived in New York, had no tattoos, and owned a perfectly harmless backstory. The Daisy that ended up in the final draft was the product of me trying very hard to shake up a story that needed to be shaken up. I wanted the "new" Daisy to do three things:

1. Leave the reader conflicted. Ultimately, is she good or is she bad?
2. Force Andy as far outside of his comfort zone as possible.
3. Reveal a level of depth to the story of Henry, Andy's dying grandfather. 

What inspired her? I honestly don't know. I just pieced her together over time, I guess.

@LadyGDuran asked:
What music do you like? Favorites? 

U2, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, The Stereophonics, The Black Keys, The Beatles, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and the Rolling Stones would probably make up my all-star team. However, over the last few years, I've tried to branch out and let some different types of music into the mix, like Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift (thanks to my daughters, mostly), and Bruno Mars. I also recently discovered an incredible band called Legends of Country. They're an all-Brit group who plays old school country-inspired music that is just wonderful. Check them out here!

@idgieatthedew asked:
Will reviewers be able to get their hands on it? DV was reviewed on the Dew and I look forward to more Norman.

Such a businessy question. Yes! Reviewers are a big part of the communications strategy for any book in this day and age, and We're All Damaged is no different. I'll DM you my publicity contact right now. She's very nice. Check your inbox.

thenormannation@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lad Lit Q&A

In the UK, which is among the greatest places on Earth, they have this term called "Lad Lit." It doesn't take a Comparative Literature major to figure out that it refers to the male equivalent of "Chick Lit."

Like a lot of writers, I sometimes take myself too seriously, and I've been known to get all prickly and self-righteous in the face of labels.

But...whatever. I'm a youngish guy, my main characters have all been youngish guys, and who the hell am I to question the word choice of the very people who brought us William Shakespeare, Nick Hornby, Mick Jagger, and Love, Actually?

Click here to read my Q&A with British author Steven Scaffardi on his Lad Lit Blog. And, be sure to check out Steven's books on Amazon.

thenormannation@gmail.com

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The 3Ws

Last week, my writer friend Allie Larkin asked me to be a part of her incredibly cool 3Ws series in which writers answer three simple questions:

1. What do you create?
2. Why do you create?
3. What do you consume? 

Here are my answers.  Do yourself a favor and check out the rest of the series, too. Some really great stuff there from some of the best writers working today. And, I definitely recommend following Allie on Twitter, because she is very funny.  

thenormannation@gmail.com


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Unfamous

Five years ago, I gave my very first public reading as a professional novelist.  It...it didn't go as planned. 

Here's my essay about that humbling little evening, which appeared yesterday on Lit Hub.

thenormannation@gmail.com