It started over lunch with a friend.
Melissa is smart as a whip, well spoken, and deliberate with every thought and action. But for some reason, she is still willing to occasionally meet with my grammatically challenged ass to discuss writing and gab about life in general.
Me: “A novel?”
Melissa: “No, it’s called Publish This Book. I am constantly thinking about you while reading it.”
Me: “Um, I think you’re really special, too?”
Melissa: “He’s like the boy version of you.”
Me: “Does he confuse ‘their’ and ‘there’?”
Melissa: “He uses the word ‘fuck’ about four times a page and is constantly making dick jokes.”
Me: “I don’t make dick jokes.”
Melissa: “Uh huh. He’s doing a reading here in Hoboken next week. We should go.”
…and so we did. Sadly, my copy of the book didn’t arrive in time for me to read a single frickin’ page before meeting the author, Stephen Markley. To make things even more awkward, what I had thought would be a lecture-type event on campus with fifty-odd audience members turned out to be a tiny book club meeting of ten or so women in a private home. Oops.
I shifted from foot to foot as these long time friends discussed last weekend’s crazy ATV race that took place at the upstate summer estate of one of the club members. I tried to work my way into the conversation, throwing my nervous laughter into the robust cackles from the crowd. Always a smooth operator, my faux chortle caused me to choke on my gum and spend the next five minutes red-faced and teary-eyed while attempting to subtlety work my way closer to the open bottle of wine I’d spotted across the room.
The author and his peeps arrived. I used the distraction as a chance to pour myself a heaping glass of wine. I took a big gulp and listened as the hostess teased Markley about his poor ATV driving skills. He too had attended the wild weekend getaway. Awesome. I took another swig and topped off my wine glass. Fortunately, Melissa arrived mere moments later. She, too, seemed somewhat surprised by the setting.
I practically sprinted to her side, but before we could say two words, Markley was introducing himself. It turns out the boy version of me is of average height, is in great shape, and drinks Heineken. We can’t be THAT much alike, I thought to myself. So far, I’m underwhelmed.
Then he shook my hand. August 17th, 2010 is the day I found out a handshake could be sexy. If I had made it any further through my Big Gulp of wine, I probably would have tried to see just how much of HIS fist I could fit in my mouth. Sadly though, it didn’t seem like THAT kind of party.
After a night of truly bizarre Q&A with the group (and also because my copy finally arrived the next day), I sat down to digest the nearly 500 pages of what the boy version of me had written. Markley (at least in book form) was kind enough to keep me giggling while I sat and waited over two hours to see Aloysius last week. If you can make me laugh in an oncologist’s waiting room, you’re doing something right.
Here, I’ll let him explain what the book is about:
I can’t even describe this book, and I wrote the damn thing. Basically, it’s like this: fed up with the Byzantine quest of trying to publish a novel, I decide instead to cut to the chase and write a memoir about trying to publish a book – this book, to be precise. …it’s about much more than publishing a book. It’s about life and love and friendship; politics, pop culture, and basketball; sex, drugs, and mild, inoffensive, slow-tempo Christian Rock.
Reading the book I was struck by two things. Well, maybe more than two things. I mean, how long can a girl have “Sister Christian” stuck in her head? Focus, Elly. The time has come. You know that you’re the only one…right ONE!
One – he is so fucking disciplined! Back as a wee grade school kid, he was writing an hour every single day. I write three or four hours a day and I only have four damn chapters done for my book. (Oh bee tee dubs, I totally never told you that story before because it doesn’t have a vagina-related punchline, but I have a little side project I’ll tell you more about some day.) Damnit, Markley. That’s frustrating.
Two – he is so goddamned smart. I gave up trying to take notes on the parts that resonated with me, because I’d end up transcribing the whole damn book. Not only does he have real, insightful things to say (and some exceptionally funny dick jokes) he says it well. Fucker.
But I was relieved to find he occasionally acknowledges that it’s hard, that he WORKS at it, that he has insecurities about his writing, too. I relaxed a little when I saw a sliver of light through the crack of his pompous, overconfident, frat-boy-but-not-a-frat-boy front.
Want to know when he completely hooked me? On page 276, way down at the bottom of the page while he’s visiting his drug dealer and taking in the scene at the dude’s apartment:
The big dude smacks a fist on the arm of the recliner, scuffing the duck tape that holds in the foam. “Rod Stewart!” he barks. “Rod fucking Stewart.”
Here’s the downside. I’m not entirely sure Markley’s book inspired me to write more or write better. Instead, he’s left me questioning if I have it in me (that’s what she said) to write a book. But what does Markley have that I don’t have? (Other than a penis, an impressively low BMI, and a solid command of the English language.)
I wasn’t laughing the entire book. This passage, in particular, stuck with me:
It’s a funny thing, I think as I trudge through the cold that glitters on the pavement, the way you build a web of people around you, the way each of them occupies his or her own hub, and just when you think you can’t possibly care for any more people, they just come along, and pretty soon this new person has a view of the world that informs your own, that you want to cherish and protect.
Coincidentally, that’s how I think about you, Interwebz. Thanks for all the nice thoughts last week. I can’t even begin to tell you how much they meant to me. You’re my favorite.
Oh and Markley is doing a reading tomorrow night (Tuesday, August 31st) at the Houndstooth Pub in Manhattan. I’ll be there knocking back beers far cheaper than those fancy Heinekens, if you’d care to tag along. If you’re nice, maybe he’ll even shake your hand.