Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesday: People Like You by Margaret Malone

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

I didn’t intend to make this Margaret Malone Week here at The Quivering Pen; it’s just going to turn out that way. Yesterday, we read about Malone’s “first time” in which she said the joy of selling the first copies of her debut book was like a warm-honey feeling. Today, we turn our attention to the trailer for People Like You, a two-minute reel of film that will jar your senses and shake loose that honey from your bones. “What interests me most as a writer are the everyday, mundane ways that as humans we come together and fall apart,” Malone says in the trailer. Nowhere is this dry-crumble-but-still-together life better described than the opening, titular story of the collection (which I started reading last night while sitting in a bland chain restaurant in Billings, Montana, banks of competing sports-channel TVs chattering overhead and a boring slice of pizza on the plate before me). In “People Like You,” average American married couple Cheryl and Bert attend a surprise birthday party for a “friend” they don’t particularly like. They get lost en route, drink too much once there, and leave with some stolen balloons. On the surface, it’s an ordinary evening; but what sets this story apart, what gives it an electric buzz that tastes like you just licked a lamp socket, is what doesn’t happen. With remarkable restraint, Malone takes us on a tour of the tip of the iceberg without feeling the need to state the obvious: there's a massive, continent-sized chunk of ice right below our feet. A current of tension between Cheryl and Bert hums throughout the story. Their marriage is in free fall when we begin our 13-page eavesdrop and they’re both (or at least Cheryl is) frantically scrabbling their hands across their bodies, trying to find the ripcord that will open the marriage-saving parachute. It may or may not happen. That’s not the point. The point is the ride: the wry, jolting, cynical, sweet, hilarious ride Malone takes us on with her sentences. Sentences like: “We drive in silence for minutes, the inside-car hush of our motion, all the best-times feelings dissolving, the thick familiar air starts up between us. Me, driving. Him, sitting there.” I can’t wait to continue my journey through these pages. Wait, wait! I haven’t even really talked about the trailer and how well it’s assembled by filmmaker Brian Padian (who also happens to be Malone’s husband) and the way those noirish, off-focus black-and-white images form the perfect marriage (unlike that of Cheryl and Bart) with the music and Malone’s narration. It is simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. Much like the stories themselves.

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