Jonathan Evison’s 2008 novel, All About Lulu (Soft Skull Press), is a funny and sweet first crush of a book about a boy’s mostly unrequited love for his stepsister and a cast of quirky characters with their own obsessions (from body building to poultry).
With help from some adoring indie booksellers, many of them on Bainbridge Island, where Evison lives, the novel won the Washington State Book Award in 2009.
Evison was then awarded a fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, which gave him a little time and money to work on his second novel, West of Here, which will be released in February 2011 from Algonquin. He describes West of Here as “an epic western adventure wrapped in the history of one small town, from the rugged mudflats of the northwestern frontier, to a rusting strip mall cornucopia . . .” It’s set in fictional Olympic Peninsula town that’s based on Port Angeles, WA and is garnering rave reviews already.
His third novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, will be released in 2012.
Evison wrote the following bookseller’s reverie in 2008 and read it, Beat poet-style, during an event for indie booksellers. He has also recorded the piece and set it to music here.
For thirteen years I’ve been stocking the shelves at The Book Cathedral, and it is my love story.
You will probably not remember me by my name, but call me Ishmael. Or Tom Jones, or Tom Sawyer, or Elmer Gantry, or McTeague, or The Idiot, if you like. You may not remember me for my wispy hair, or brick-shaped loafers, nor for the wealth of cat hair clinging to the seat of my faded dockers. I distinguish myself by my love of books, and by never using the search function–I’ve no need of it.
Ask me who’s between Allende and Sherwood Anderson, and I shall tell you without pause, Martin Amis, between Sarte and Schulberg, Saunders, and at the end of the line, you’ll find Zusak, unless of course we’re out, in which case you’ll find Zafon. Blindfold me and spin me around in circles, then set me straight and run my fingers down the spines, and I’ll tell you when we get to Proust, or the shorter novels of Melville. Ask me where to find Silas Wegg and I shall point you to Dickens. Ask me where is Oskar and I’ll tell you he’s banging his tin drum between Golding and Graves. And if it’s Sancho Panza you’re after, you’ll find him chasing windmills with Quixote just to the left of Chaucer.
Ask me All About Lulu. Ask me For Whom the Bell Tolls. Ask me where A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or What Makes Sammy Run, and I shall tell you without hesitation, that the answer to the universe is 23. Or that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Or that A Good Man is Hard to Find. Or that The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Or that You Can’t Go Home Again. I will show you the beating heart of Ragtime, drag you kicking through Hard Times, In Our Time, to Places I’ve Done Time. Through The Age of Innocence, The Age of Reason, to The Winter of Our Discontent. You’ll meet The Sleeping Father, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Bigamist’s Daughter, and Wittgenstein’s Mistress. I’ll lead you to the Shining City, beneath The Sheltering Sky, past Lions and Shadows, to The Dark Side of Guy de Maupassant-and if it pleases you, to the very Heart of Darkness, itself. I will tell you The History of Love, The Brief History of the Dead.
I will tell you The Secret Life of Bees. I’ll tell you A Tale of Two Cities that will make All the Pretty Horses whiny and All the King’s Men weep. I will explain The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, How the Dead Dream, and The Way of the Pilgrim, I will talk Of Mice and Men, Of Time and the River, of Leaves of Grass, until finally, at the end of night, when The Moon is Down, the sun will also rise, and everything will be illuminated.
Now, ask yourself: are you going to get this kind of service on Amazon?