Knopf, Random House, and the book blog Me, My Shelf, and I are teaming up to give away 10 free hardback copies of This Is The Part Where You laugh.
J. C. Carleson’s new book, Placebo Junkies, is coming out this week from Knopf, and I wanted to write a few words about it (avoiding spoilers):
First, this book is well-written. The phrasing is great. The voice is consistent and engaging. For an example, here’s half of a sentence from the first chapter:
” …hold in that razor-blade wetness long enough to find a cup, a bucket, anything to catch it, dammit, and you barely manage to stifle your scream of triumph as you find an empty Snapple bottle in the trash can and fill it with your beautiful, cloudy piss with its faint but unmistakable trace of blood.”
Second, this book is gritty (see example above). The characters, events, and relationships are real, honest, and brutal.
Third, this book will make you think about some big, important social and societal issues. How’s that for a vague promo with no spoilers?
Finally – and maybe most important for a young adult book – you will never be bored while reading this. There wasn’t a single moment when I thought, “Yeah, I’ll just read something else for a while and put this book down.” No, Placebo Junkies has enough of the unexpected to keep a reader going all the way until the end.
Here is my explanation of time – the way that I understand time – with images of art interspersed (great art affecting the way that I think).
First, while writing a novel, I don’t worry about time, not in draft stage. I write any scene that’s important, in any order that I think of it. There’s no order to it at all, only madness. And sometimes I trust that madness and never put those scenes back in what people think of as time order.
In my memoir, The End of Boys, time was thematic, meaning that scenes from my life linked to other scenes of any time period based on theme, an overlapping view of my own reality that isn’t based on chronological progression but instead on thematic development of the person. I tried to help the reader by showing time switches in italics, an italic switch being a trick I learned from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Kesey studied Faulkner as well, and also used the italic switch in his brilliant Sometimes A Great Notion.
Time is Circular. The image I see of time is one of overlapping circles, maybe circles pushing forward, or maybe circles dropping back, but then they might loop around and push forward once again.
I had a friend from El Salvador explain that linear time is a modern way of thinking about time. He said that in the Bible, time was thought of as circular or cyclical, that God is eternal and that the earth is a living series of cycles. THAT is how I like to think of time. This modern push to mechanize and count seconds digitally doesn’t interest me. The theory that all of the world could be on the same exact clock to the nanosecond because of satellites and cell phones is an idea that makes me think of Nazis, a “perfect” sterile image of a Northern European or US technological ideal. But ideals are not interesting to me. Imperfection is interesting to me.
In my work in progress, Too Shattered For Mending (Knopf, 2017), I’ve used present tense for the progression of the current story (in time order) and past tense for interlaced scenes that happened in the past. Again, I don’t worry about any of those old scenes being in order because I trust the intelligence of the reader and know that she’s capable of recognizing chronology or of not needing linear time at all.
During my short-term writing residency in Joshua Tree National Park this spring, pro skater and Ridgemont filmer Coop Wilt came up to visit me, climb, and adventure together. He shot this footage and Stacey Lowery edited it.
So many beautiful days here. The sky is a smear of pure blue, and even high cirrus clouds don’t mean rain coming.
– I followed a Mexican Rosy Boa into the creosote the other night.
– I rock-climbed with a few survey biologists.
– I rock-climbed with two excellent Japanese climbers all afternoon one day even though we didn’t speak each other’s languages.
– I explored another granite-piled mountain behind my house.
– I finished revising my novel (THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU LAUGH) and sent it to my editor at Knopf.
– I found a hipster mustache in a rotten potato.
– I camped out five nights under the stars.
– I found petroglyphs with my buddy Coop.
– I read and read and read, and especially liked Nicholson Baker’s THE ANTHOLOGIST and Anne Patchett’s THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE.
– And now I am incredibly excited to be going home soon to see my girls.