Bread & Jam for the Apocalypse

I just took a few minutes to reorganize the pages of this site, to separate out my published works as kids stuff vs. adult stuff, as opposed to plays vs. books, which just seems like a more useful distinction. (Especially since my newest book, Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night, is poetry.)51Qxcz2+qOL._SY346_

But anyway, sometimes I get uneasy about the fact that my career has progressed along two such different tracks—like, how weird it is that I’ve written (on the one hand) a horror novel about bedbugs, and (on the other hand), a jaunty musical about Paul Revere, including a song about the Boston Tea Party called “Something’s Brewing.” Then I remind myself of the careers of people like Roald Dahl, and Shel Silverstein, who found success (and did good work) in both milieus.

And most of all, I remember that when I was reading a ton of apocalyptic fiction to prepare for writing The Last9780253212344Policeman, my very favorite was a masterly and disturbing depiction of England, thousands of years after a devastating nuclear war leveled all civilization, a brutal adventure book written entirely in a sort of pidgin English, because the characters had reconstructed the language from the fragments of their ancestors.

It’s called Riddley Walker, and I got to be obsessed with that book—and the fact that the author, Russell Hoban, is (much) better known for writing Bread and Jam For Frances and its sequels.

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I learned that fact and said fantastic and tucked it away to hold in my palm like a diamond. It’s like a ticket that says, basically, “oh, just write it.”

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old books never die, but they do get marked down significantly on Amazon.com

Here’s one thing interesting and weird thing about being a writer: when you’re done with a project, it continues to have a life out there in the universe, while you sort of forget all about it.

So, for example, these days all I can think about is The Last Policeman and its sequel, Disasterland, which I just finished the first draft of.
last policeman.

(That’s all I can think about professionally: in my personal life I continue to spend a lot of time trying to master my new electric toothbrush, and wondering how and why a raccoon died on our lawn.) But meanwhile, out there in the big world, a musical I wrote seven years ago was just produced in New Zealand; I was interviewed this evening by a writer doing a nonfiction book about the science and cultural life of bedbugs, because of my horror novel about the little bastards a couple years ago; and I just got a long questionnaire from a doctoral candidate in Finland writing his dissertation on mash-up novels, because of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters from 2009.

sea monsters

And I don’t know if other writers feel this way, but I personally have this strange and almost uncanny emotional distance from all of these old projects. I am aware on an abstract level that the experience of writing them was intense—like the experience of writing anything you care about and want to do properly. But when I think back on them now, I feel only a vague warmth toward them, like they are friends from elementary school who I remember being pretty cool, but that’s about it. Probably to get oneself properly invested in each new project, it is necessary to let go of the fervency with which you were committed to the last ones.

wildcat
My elementary school.

 

Which is why it’s so pleasing to imagine the things still wandering around in the world,  occasionally being encountered, so other people can get excited about them—even if only temporarily, for the two hours it takes to watch or the two weeks it takes to read.

I don’t have to be obsessed with them, once they’re done. I can be obsessed with the next thing, until it’s done.

 

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Early Reviews for Bedbugs from Publishers Weekly, Vanity Fair, and Booklist

bedbugs pw

Early reviews are coming in for Bedbugsand they are very good, indeed.

Vanity Fair includes the book in their September “hot type” column, calling it “a diabolical tale of paranoia and domestic unrest.”

Publishers Weekly says  the book is ” by turns gruesome and compelling, fueled by a slow-burn tension, and full of in-jokes about contemporary Brooklyn culture, Winters’s breezy summer read will leave readers compulsively scratching.”

The Booklist review (not available online, alas), says “The author of the monster mash-up hit Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters offers up a chilling tale of life in the perfect New York abode gone horribly wrong…Winters expertly builds suspense in this chilling thriller.”

And Penthouse Magazine (of all places) says “This creepy story is expertly told, and will having you scratching imaginary itches long after you finish reading.”

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