September 14, 2009

Passing the torch: Ben Tanzer on Sally Weigel

Repetition Patterns, by Ben Tanzer

It's Sally Weigel Day at the CCLaP website! And although I'm very happy to have Sally's new novella, Too Young to Fall Asleep, finally out to the public, this sadly means that CCLaP's last original book, Ben Tanzer's story collection Repetition Patterns, is finally leaving the front page of the website, to reside from now on in the dreaded "backtitle" purgatory of the CCLaP Publishing catalog. As an excuse to mention the book again, and to remind you that it is still definitely for sale, I asked Ben if he might share a few thoughts about Weigel's novella, which he got a chance to read pre-publication. His small essay can be found below.

For those who are thinking of doing their own "pay what you want" eBook experiment, by the way, and are curious as to how this one worked out -- in the year now that Repetition Patterns has been available to the public, around 110 people have now downloaded it, with 14 of those people voluntarily paying an average of $7.35 as well, making for a download/payment conversion rate of just under 15 percent. (And for what it's worth, around a thousand people now have at least checked out the book's online headquarters, making for a curiousity/download conversion rate of just about ten percent.) Given that not a single penny was spent on either this book's creation or promotion, and that not a single major literary journal or publication ended up reviewing the book, I have to say that I'm quite happy indeed with its results so far, and definitely count the "pay what you want" experiment as a big success. And of course we'll see whether these numbers stay consistent with Too Young to Fall Asleep or not.

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Contrary to popular belief, and popular belief being that which exists exclusively in my head, Jason Pettus doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know why Carrot Top remains so infectiously popular. Nor why he can’t make the infection on his lower back go away. Jason has no idea why small children run from him screaming, nor why his name has not come up during the Michael Jackson investigation despite his quite intimate role developing the Scream video. Further he doesn’t know why Gisele Bundchen refuses to respond to his calls, texts, Tweets and Facebook friend requests, though for the record he is quite clear why Tom Brady has threatened to kick his ass.

There are things however that Jason does know. He knows blogging and podcasts. He knows you only put mustard on hot dogs and that you never fake doing a shot when doing so with other dudes like Juan did on the recent season of The Bachelorette. He also knows writing, and writers, and what he likes. And what he likes are stories that are sparse and clean and peel the back the layers of pain and confusion; stories where the writers, especially men, are looking back at their regrets and decisions both made and not made. Where there is a sense of nostalgia, though not the maudlin kind, but that which evokes an era, especially the eighties and nineties, which seem to be near and dear to his heart. Jason likes stories about love, and stories that understand how people, especially the young suffer when required to grow and form relationships. You see all of this in his love for books like the glorious Radiant Days or the trippy Vacation, novels which feel fresh and vibrant, even if they are telling story that has been told before.

Which brings us to the wondrous Too Young to Fall Asleep by author Sally Weigel, a book that is all of this, and yet none of it. Yes, it’s about relationships and love. It evokes an era, one which is rife with pain and confusion. And it celebrates youth. But this is a story that is current, an Iraq War story about kids today, right now, written by a young woman who has been and continues to live it, and live in the characters; who knows that there has been no time for nostalgia to set in, because the story is still being written, and re-written, even as we read it. Meanwhile, there’s Jason right in the middle of it and following Sally along a path few of us know, or if we think know it, we don’t know it quite like this, because we’re not young enough and we haven’t experienced the war quite like she has.

Like Jason, I hope you will follow her path as well, opening yourself to the experience and remembering why we love good literature. Like Carrot Top, it is infectious, and in your face. Like Michael Jackson you want to tear yourself away from it, but you can’t quite do so. And like Gisele, or Tom Brady for that matter, it is easy to fall in love with.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:01 PM, September 14, 2009. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | Literature | Reviews |