Friday, February 23, 2007

"Corrections to My Memoirs"

Michael Kun's new book is Corrections to My Memoirs: Collected Stories.

Michael applied the "page 69 test" to Corrections to My Memoirs and reported the following:
Oh, boy.

Page 69, huh?

Imagine me closing my eyes and shaking my head right now, because that's what I'm doing. (Actually, I just opened my eyes to type this.)

Page 69 is part of a short piece called "Heaven Help Me" that appears in my new short story collection, Corrections to My Memoirs.

Only "Heaven Help Me" isn't a short story. It's actually an article I wrote for a men's magazine.

So now I have to explain why on earth I chose to include a non-fiction article in what is supposed to be a short story collection, and do it in a way that makes sense.

And it does make sense in the scheme of the book.

Trust me.

Oh, heck, why should you trust me? You don't even know me.

Okay, let me give this a shot.

I am a fan of short story collections. With a pretty hectic job and a baby girl at home, I enjoy the idea of being to be able to read an entire story before I go to sleep. Nothing profound there.

While I was pleased with the idea of finally publishing all of my short stories in one place, the idea left me a little unsatisfied. I didn't just want to throw together all of my short stories that have been published in various magazines over the past 20 years or so. That seemed too easy, and I'm afraid that some psychological irregularity frequently makes me avoid the easy route. Beyond that, unlike other short story writers, including many I revere, I know my stories do not necessarily fit together cohesively. The styles and tones of the stories vary wildly, often depending on when I wrote them. (The stories from my twenties tended to be a little silly. The ones from my thirties tended to be more pensive and sentimental. The stories from my forties have been something of a mixed bag and, for some reason, often involve cake. Don't ask.)

So, as I've tried to do with my other books, particularly You Poor Monster where the main text of the novel is dissected through a parallel story told in the endnotes, I wanted to try to do something unusual. I decided to use the book to comment on short story collections, on writers and on writing, and also on how we all measure our lives. I came up with the idea of tying the stories together with a series of "publisher's notes" that would be placed between the stories, commenting on the stories and on the "author" as the unrelated stories unfold, with those notes slowly revealing the frustration the publisher experiences with the author's poor sales and his petulance, and with the author revealing his insecurities and self-loathing by eventually admitting that he's writing the "publisher's notes" himself, even the ones that insult him.

That said, the non-fiction piece "Heaven Help Me" -- which I believe is an entertaining piece in which the "author" provides advice to younger readers so that they do not waste his life as he did -- is something of a turning point in the book. Inserting that piece was intended to have the "author" speak directly to the reader and break down the barrier that exists between them so that the reader will hopefully feel that he in fact is being let into the "author's" world through this book, which may make some of the revelations in the "publisher's notes" at the end more startling and affecting. Also, it allows the "publisher" to start revealing its frustration with its troubled, poor-selling "author," starting with how he stuck a non-fiction piece in the collection. In this way, the piece hopefully works on three levels.

You'll have to let me know if you agree.

Please be kind if you don't.

And feel free to send me some cake.
Read an excerpt from Corrections to My Memoirs.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.