Book #4-Knocking Over the Fishbowl

Michael Chabon once said Wonder Boys was his favorite work because it saved him from a poorly received sophomore novel. That's how I feel about Knocking Over the Fishbowl, for many different reasons. It started as a 50 page unfinished short story,a really crazy, raw piece of writing, that I wrote after my mother's death to cheer myself up (and it helped, somehow). I returned to it after graduating from St. Olaf and flushed it out into a full-blown comedic novel. After much work and luck, it landed me an agent, Jonathan Lyons (now the proud father of a baby boy!) and while it never sold to a publisher, it paved the way for The Suicide Collectors and the rest of what I hope to be a long literary career.

Knocking Over the Fishbowl takes place in the surreal suburb of Hungry Hollow. It follows the adventures of Wilson Scraggs, a Vietnam vet recently escaped from a mental hospital, and the eccentric cast of characters he encounters as he tries to rediscover his place in the world.

You know it and you love it! From Fishbowl:

Vincent pushed his chair back from the table and stood up. He swayed as he held up his glass, the red liquid sloshing in it like a tiny Mediterranean Sea.

“I’d like to make a toast.”

The room cheered.

“Ann and Kali Grant, our two new friends, have moved here to Hungry Hollow. As a lifetime resident of the Hollow, I want to officially welcome them to our neighborhood. Not that I’m some great and superior being, with a magic welcoming power or anything. I’m just a car salesman, with the same problems as anyone else. Actually, I’m probably a bad person. I drink and drive. Or I did. And now my favorite friend is dead, because of me. Do you hear that, Kali? Don’t drink and drive. It never works out in the long run. But then again, what does work out in the long run? Not relationships. They never do. People change too much, too fast. It makes you tired even thinking about it. You can’t keep up. And jobs don’t work out, even if they do work out. Either way you have to retire someday and die. And what fun is that?”

Agatha lowered her glass along with the rest of the guests. This was some toast.

“But we shouldn’t be sad about how things work out,” Akimbo continued. Why dwell on the past? You can’t change it. I don’t even think you can change yourself. Once a car salesman, always a car salesman, I say. You can’t make a Honda a Cadillac. Or a Pinto a Honda, for that matter. There’s no reason to blame your bland parents, your comfortable environment, your lazy high school career counselor. There’s no reason to be ANGRY, for Christ sakes. ANGER doesn’t FIX anything. You can’t, say, go back in time BECAUSE YOU ARE ANGRY AT THE WAY YOU’VE TURNED OUT AS A HUMAN BEING. No, the idea’s as absurd as chicken leather cowboy boots walking through the Sahara Desert. Are you with me, everybody? Because if you’re not with me, YOU’RE AGAINST ME, and that’s not how you want Kali and Ann to be welcomed to our neighborhood, IS IT?”

Vincent glared at the room and downed his toast in a gulp. He waved his good arm in a wide circle, slowly pointing at everyone in the room as he were picking them out of a police lineup, and then collapsed onto the floor.

His welcome speech was apparently over.


Neha said...

The toast was tasty, was the rest of the dinner like that too? I think it would be fun joining these people, but obviously, I think I am a bit scared...

Anonymous said...

PS: I remember reading a part of it, a different part of it on Amazon.

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