That's me, no doubt saying something self-deprecating as I hold up a copy of Fobbit and make Karl Marlantes crack up. I love this picture, snapped by book blogger Diane Prokop at Powell's, because it so perfectly captures the warmth and generosity of Mr. Marlantes. As anyone who's read Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War or What It Is Like To Go To War knows, Karl is a man who visited Hell and returned to tell us about it in such eloquent passages as this description of Marlantes' alter-ego Lieutenant Mellas facing combat head-on in Matterhorn:
He felt that this was possibly his last moment of life, here behind this log with these comrades, and knew it was indescribably sweet. A longing sadness arose with the fear, and he looked one more time at his comrades’ intent faces. He wet his lips and said good-bye, silently, not wanting to leave the safety of the log and their warm bodies.I had the honor of being joined by Karl for two recent events: at University Bookstore in Seattle and at Powell's in Portland. The two of us talked about our diverse combat-zone experiences, the ratio of truth to fiction in our novels, and how long our war novels had to ferment before publication (35 years for Karl, 6 years for me).
Then he stood up and ran.
He ran as he’d never run before, with neither hope nor despair. He ran because the world was divided into opposites and his side had already been chosen for him, his only choice being whether or not to play his part with heart and courage. He ran because fate had placed him in a position of responsibility and he had accepted the burden. He ran because his self-respect required it. He ran because he loved his friends and this was the only thing he could do to end the madness that was killing and maiming them….He ran, having never felt so alone and frightened in his life.
Frankly, I've got a case of Book Tour Brainfog right now (and I'm only just over halfway through the number of my stops), and I can't remember all the details of what went on that night at Powell's (other than the fact I got to meet authors Alexis Smith and Peyton Marshall [whose novel Goodhouse about genetics forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux sounds phenomenally good], reconnected with novelist Pauls Toutonghi, and finally met e-friends Deb and Andrew face to face). So, rather than write a piece of fiction about what went down that night in the bookstore, I'll turn it over to Diane Prokop who so skilfully documented it for her blog:
Before reading from his book, Abrams talked about the genesis of Fobbit saying that while he was deployed in Iraq, he kept a journal. “Out of that journal, stories started to form, and eventually they coalesced into what I’m holding in front of you now. I started writing Fobbit while I was in the war zone and really worked on it in earnest when I came back in 2006.”Read the rest of Diane's report here
Marlantes asked Abrams whether he had known he was going to write Fobbit when he was deployed. Abrams said, “When I went over to combat, I went over as a novelist. I had already written books. I’d been writing short stories published in places like Esquire and small literary reviews and magazines. I went over with the idea that this experience would probably change me in some way, and I would eventually get something out of it. I didn’t know it was going to take this shape or form or that it would be a comedy. I just figured I should pay attention to what was going to happen to me over there in the war zone. As I was over there keeping my journal and recording things that went on in the task force headquarters where I was at, some of the absurdities started to come through. The story kind of wrote itself, really.”
Wire to Wire. I read the first two chapters while sitting in Powell's cafe, sipping a latte and eating a bacon-cheddar biscuit. As good as that biscuit was--and it was VERY GOOD--Scott's novel was even better. It's a black-veined noir thriller set primarily in Michigan and involves hobos, glue-sniffers, corrupt sheriffs, a showgirl named Vulva Voom, a trunk full of dynamite, and some of the best damn writing I've stumbled across in the last year or two. I hope to have a proper review of Wire to Wire here in the near future, but for now let me just say that if you like your stories dark, bitter, and occasionally funny, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of the book as soon as you can.