Friday, June 8, 2007

Send Me

We're off to the beach for the weekend, so not much time for blogging today. Thought I'd share this author interview from QPB's insider column. I really appreciated the humorous take on family dysfunction in Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother. Patrick Ryan's debut novel Send Me also looks into family dynamics, though from a rather different angle. Based on the rave reader reviews on QPB and Amazon, I may have to order this one. [below interview excerpted from]

Associate Editor Justin Ravitz recently sat down with author Patrick Ryan to discuss his new book, Send Me
JUSTIN RAVITZ: In a nutshell, what's your book about?
PATRICK RYAN: It's a big nutshell: it's about people trying to do the right thing, and screwing up, and my trying to understand why they screwed up. I think that nobody really knows how to be a good mother, father or sibling. It was about having compassion for all of these people. And giving a panoramic view of this family.
JR: I loved the atypical structure. You told the story of this family through six members of this family, by jumping back and forth randomly over 40-odd years. We enter each scene nearly mid-action, and this odd sense of dislocation sheds a remarkable kind of beauty and nuance to each scene. What inspired this approach?
PR: Thanks! I never wanted to write a traditional novel. I never saw it as having one arc. I think that when people experience life, we don't experience it chronologically. In our heads we make these leaps to memories from when we were five to now. I wanted to try to mirror that. Each of the six main characters has his or her own arc, and sometimes they overlap.
JR: What, if anything, unifies this fractured, dysfunctional Kerrigan/Ragazzino family? What brings them together?
PR: I think that each one of them arrives at a place where he or she is very much aware of his or her shortcomings and culpability. But I didn't want any of them to be heroes or villains or "good" or "bad" people, necessarily. I don't believe in those pure extremes; everyone's sort of in the middle. I wanted them to be messed up and aware of that. That's what life is, that's who we are.
JR: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
PR: It's either an inspiring or pathetic story (laughs). I was born in DC, I grew up in Florida, went to Florida State, got my MFA at Bowling Green State in Ohio, and then embarked on a long series of jobs, one after another, and wrote the whole time. I was a housepainter, bartender, teacher, waiter, retail, I worked at a law firm . . . Between 1988 and starting Send Me in 2003, I wrote, finished, revised and sent around seven novels that I was never able to publish. I also started and got about halfway through eight more. All those years, it was always about having some crummy job that I had no interest in so that I could write. I wrote five days a week. And every book I finished I thought "this is the one, this is the one." But I got really down and depressed before I started Send Me. This sounds so corny - I thought "I can't obsess every single day about having my book published. I have to let go of the prize." And something clicked in my head and I just relaxed a bit. And I started writing better.
JR: Are there parts of yourself, your own history and family amidst these characters?
PR: Almost all of the events themselves are made up. The one thing that's really true is that my mother does think that she's a reincarnated model from a Vermeer painting (laughs).
JR: I have my own theories, but what's the meaning of your title?
PR: To me it's three things: 1) Deliver me from all this. 2) Sort of an abbreviated "you send me," I always thought that meant "I get a big kick out of you," but I found out that in the fifties it actually meant "You make me horny." (laughs) 3) You're driving me away from you, send me out of here, get me out of here. [...]