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As far as themes go, you could say I have always been drawn to disaster, the unfortunate, the aesthetically bankrupt and the tragic. Where others see human decisions whose outcomes have been inept, I see the opportunity for redemption through re-presentation. I represent the unpresentable. I am a literary vulture who finds nourishment in what others reject as unsalvageable. I feed on misfortune.
This obsession with the sad side of life began with my first collection: postcards whose entire raison d’être is a mystery. Oil tank fires. Roads to nowhere. Grim architecture. Swamps. Bombed towns. Who would send such a postcard? And would they say “wish you were here”?
By far my biggest collection is of horrible, yet well-meaning cookbooks. It covers all eras, though the period from 1950 – 1986 is perhaps the worst when it comes to overall design and photography. If a picture of a recipe makes you go “ew!” then it’s a Yuckylicious book. If it has a poorly executed cake decorated as a driver’s license, then it’s a book I’m drawn to. Happily, these are the sorts of books that other people who have taste avoid at all costs, so they can be had for next to nothing at places where people dump their deceased relative’s belongings.
When it comes to historical figures, few can match Scott of the Antarctic’s record of successful failure. An entire continent has been attached to his name because he never managed to survive it. On his first visit he got trapped in the ice and needed to be rescued. The second time he died on his return from not being the first man to reach the South Pole. Few men who have achieved so few of their goals have become national heroes as he has done. So lauded a figure was he, in fact, that his death was offered as a model for those engaged in trench warfare. He enjoyed a longer career as a motivational speaker from beyond the grave than his actual career as a Navy Captain while alive.
My first book, Trigger Finger, explores the violence that undercuts otherwise ordinary activities and threatens to erupt at a moment’s notice. Camera shutters are pressed at just the wrong moment; guns are held by desperate people hellbent on revenge; children at summer camp live in fear of forest fires, and counselors tempt fate by lying down in the middle of the road.
It would surprise no-one that another of my pet topics is cancer. Having survived a particularly vicious bout of breast cancer by having most of the flesh of my chest cut off and undergoing a year of the most toxic chemicals known to man, I emerged with new fake boobs and a determination to find it all amusing. My second book, It’s Probably Nothing… examines the “sadenfraude” inherent in the cancer journey. I know it’s spelled “schadenfraude.” That’s just an example of my droll sense of humor.
My fascination with all things improbable has not been entirely successful, however. I must here point out that my degree in poetry — surely as misguided an academic discipline as any yet devised (and for which I am still repaying student loans) — has not been without its rewards. A long list of publications and two whole books attest to the unlikely outcome of a career choice assumed only to end in abject poverty and despair.