Sunday, July 22, 2012

Monica Wood

Monica Wood is a novelist whose first memoir is just out: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine. In it, she tells the story of 1963, a year in which her beloved father, who worked in the woodyard of the local paper mill, suddenly died; the president was assassinated; and her small mill town braced itself for a prolonged labor strike.

Not so long ago I asked her what she was reading.  Her reply:
My local bookstore, Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, is manned (and womaned) by bibliophiles who delight in foisting their literary passions upon me whenever I come in. Bill Lundgren recommended Pulphead, a book of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan. “Recommended” is such a weak word for what I mean. Imagine a “recommendation” accompanied by a jar of killer bees with Bill’s fingers s-l-o-w-l-y twisting the cap. I speak metaphorically, of course; killer bees have not yet arrived in Maine, except in the form of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s buzzing prose. I felt stung—in a good way—by his fresh use of language, his goofy sensibilities, and his disarming lack of cynicism as he tackles a myriad of topics: Christian rock bands, his brother’s near-electrocution, an elderly literary icon with whom he moved in as a caretaker when he was 20. The essays, which originally appeared in places like GQ and the New York Times, are an unmitigated pleasure, filled with little surprises on every page. Recounting what he wore to a wedding, he tells us, “I have a black-and-white cat with a trick bladder, and she urinated on my bow tie, so I wore an actual black necktie with my tuxedo.” Or this, about a has-been reality-show star: “He had on a crisp, cool shirt and was sporting, in place of his old floppy bangs, a new sort-of mousse-Mohawk, just a little ridgelet of product-hardened hair emerging from his buzz cut.” This guy is a pleasure to read, and only in a place like Longfellow Books would I have come across him. I shudder to envision a world without bookstores.
Visit Monica Wood's website.

The Page 99 Test: When We Were the Kennedys.

--Marshal Zeringue