December 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
While weeks without nothing new is nothing new here at TOJitW, I have been letting more things than usual fall through the cracks since the election. For weeks now, I’ve been meaning to post about the latest offering that I helped edit from Red Bird Chapbooks: Field Trips with Exceptional People by Andrew Bode-Lang.
I say “helped edit”, but one of the things that first drew me to the manuscript was Bode-Lang’s impeccable prose; clean and clear enough to allow for bright moments of striking beauty and sharp humor, it wasn’t just easy to edit, but also incredibly pleasurable to read. As a result, I probably would have loved it no matter what it was about, but then it also hit my fan-fiction/pop-culture button with it’s content: real person fiction about celebrities, politicians, and other public figures.
Each of the shorts in this collection finds our intrepid narrator engaging in a different activity with a different famous person, and the juxtaposition allows us to see the world through fresh eyes while seeing these celebrities as fleshed out human characters. My favorite might be “Riding a Waterslide with Rob Reiner” but lately I’ve been thinking about the short that ends the collection: “Washing Skyscraper Windows with Janet Reno”.
When we lost Janet Reno, our first female Attorney General, it was the eve of the election and, as a result, I feel like she didn’t get the attention she deserved. Growing up in the 90’s, I remember thinking it was cool that she was a woman in a position of power and had a real sense that she must be a strong person to stay decent and positive despite often being the target of mockery and criticism, some of it undue. It takes real character and a confidence that you are doing the right thing to laugh along with jokes about you like she did with SNL’s portrayal of her, and Bode-Lang hits those character notes perfectly as she teaches his narrator how to clean the windows of an office full of ass-holes. I won’t spoil it for you, but will say it ends better than his attempts to rock climb with George H.W. Bush.
8.5″ x 5.5″ single signature with hand sewn binding
Published October 2016
Have you ever dreamed of meeting Frank Sinatra or Mr. Rogers? How about riding in a hot-air balloon with Robert Downey Jr? Squeegeeing skyscrapers with Janet Reno? You’ll be treated to all this and more in Field Trips with Exceptional People. Each of the dozen dreamy shorts in this book centers around conducting an interesting activity–record shopping, riding a waterslide, baking scones–with a person of note, such as Helen Mirren, Arnold Palmer, or George W. Bush, among others. As a whole, the collection questions our celebrity culture, examining what makes someone exceptional and how the rest of us relate. But to read this debut collection is ultimately a chance to go on a quick trip with an exceptional writer: every scene showcases Bode-Lang’s sharp eye for character and ability to craft prose that is pure pleasure to read.