THE BOOK: My Brooklyn Writer Friend.
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
THE AUTHOR: Greg Gerke.
THE PUBLISHER: Queens Ferry Review.
SUMMARY: Gloriously meta, My Brooklyn Writer Friend ventures inside the many minds of the writer. Laying bare the struggle with beginnings, the trouble with endings, and every hard-earned narrative step in between, Greg Gerke appreciates that whether writing into truth or lie, what matters is character. Neurotic and funny, earnest and obscure, the voices that echo in these short short stories resound with a clarion honesty that remains—and provokes and teases and endears—long after the final page is turned.
THE BACK STORY: La Naissance of My Brooklyn Writer Friend
I’ve often looked askance at author statements in galleries or museums and people who chose to give an in-depth psychology of prose or verse before reading it aloud. In public dissemination, the art is free of the artist, gone baby gone, and the receiver can chortle, fume, or appropriate as is her wont. I can describe this book’s birth because now, like the parent leaving the child with the agency, my responsibility for it ceases, as Maurice Blanchot says, “Reading is not writing the book again but causing the book to write itself or be written—this time without the writer as intermediary, without anyone writing it.”
And so, I will only act as a literary biographer with no hope of heaping criticism onto this distant enterprise and will try to map the book’s coordinates. With a few exceptions, all of the stories after the first section were written within some weeks of each other, during a very grueling winter just after I moved back to Brooklyn six years ago. I remember sitting on a bench in Prospect Park, looking at its Long Meadow covered in snow and ice, and writing some stories in longhand while gloved. Surprisingly, amidst the chill, a man crunched through the park’s icy walkways and sat next to me (there is only one bench facing west on the meadow proper) without comment—out of deference for my act or in awe of the failing puce sun about to be eclipsed by a large tower on Prospect Park West.
On another occasion, I couchsurfed in Bed-Stuy. Did that engender the story “My Bed-Stuy Friend”? Possibly, though I awoke another morning there, after attending a literary event in Soho that may have filled me with envy, despair, and anomie, and I scribbled “My Brooklyn Writer Friend.” But I have always seesawed while living in New York, usually writing away from my residence, often in the fusty Mid-Manhattan library on 40th and 5th—a kitten of a building, though six floors high, compared to the lionized behemoth kitty-corner to the kitten, the Steven A. Schwartzman building, as only librarians and those fusspots into the proper name thing call it. Much of my output has gone on in this decaying structure that I chose over its Big Daddy for the simple fact of being able to walk the stacks and peruse any book I fancied. It retains a colorful cast of characters, perspicacious librarians, as well as the homeless, who ofttimes line up eighty deep before opening to be the first in, and various older men who go to their self-appointed floors, and sometimes chairs, and open the volumes accompanying them like so many children. This motley crew includes a dapper Japanese gentleman I have seen on and off for ten years and who just last Tuesday refused to acknowledge my stare at the incredible coiffure that is his hairstyle, with a side part and bangs jutting out like freestanding sculpture. In those years, I too assigned myself the third floor because of its proximity to the Belle-Lettres sections, which I often needed for reference and recharge, including Elizabeth Bishops’s Poems: North & South. A Cold Spring first edition, an object holding a poem that forced its way into a story, the way the weed in her eponymous poem, “lift[s] its head all dripping wet/…/ and answered then: ’I grow,’ it said,/’but to divide your heart again.’” Sitting on the wooden chairs, many stories came to light with the awful silent whine of fluorescence overhead, accompanied by the too loud cell-phone conversation or a person yelling at unseen others.
Many were written in between bouts of sending out job applications and worrying where I would live, sometimes not knowing where I would sleep at night. It was a frantic time. I spent five days of the Christmas week stuck in the Upper East Side bed of my friend’s parents (they were all in the Hamptons) with the second worst flu of my life, having to ask my Harlem friend to buy and bring panaceas galore. Then a month’s sublet in Bushwick, home to the most bedbugs per capita, though luckily only small cockroaches crawled about my bed at night in a windowless room. In the midst of this, I went to interview Paula Fox at her semi-palatial house in Brooklyn Heights. I dated a documentarian, but she didn’t make jokes and didn’t get mine. Plus, a few weeks were spent in a second floor apartment off of one of the Lower East Side’s noisiest intersections, Ave. A and 4th, listening for hours to the debaucheries of the new jet set through a thin pane of glass. But it was a glorious time because the muse had pointed her finger and bade me write. I would have never made it through but for the kindness of friends.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
“Greg Gerke is a short form wizard; dark, funny and seriously sly. His book will deliver you to new strange thought and feeling.” — -Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask
“In this remarkable series of ruefully funny and insightful bursts, Greg Gerke manages to reorder the mundanity of alienation into something urgent and vital.” — -Sergio De La Pava, author of A Naked Singularity
“If you put Lydia Davis, Etgar Keret and Philip Roth’s Portnoy in a blender you might get Greg Gerke’s quirkily neurotic, hilariously honest voice in “My Brooklyn Writer Friend.” All the writing about writing probably won’t play in Peoria, but luckily he lives in Brooklyn, believes in truth in advertising and his very short stories are weird and wildly engaging. “ – Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and What’s Never Said
“How is it that Greg Gerke’s short fiction collection makes dislocation, miscommunication, and the anxious knots of the mind seem absolutely worthwhile and even kind of fun? Friends, sort-of-friends, lovers and sort-of-lovers tangle with the loneliness of being apart/together. Get prepared for a writer who wonderfully navigates bumbling, ordinary life with smart, sharp writing and a big dose of compassion.” — – Victoria Redel, author of Make Me Do Things
“These swift, swervy, nervous fictions–as often as not about writers in antic crisis with the language, lovers in trouble with their loves–are heartachingly hilarious and stocked from margin to margin with agony-born brilliances fresh and revitalizing. Greg Gerke’s endearingly self-questioning narrators worry their doubts into a make-do grace that leaves a reader sweetened too.“ – Gary Lutz, author of Stories in the Worst Way
“A Duchampian travelogue about the nature of how we read and construct the stories, MY BROOKLYN WRITER FRIEND, is as compelling as entertaining. The six interlocking sections present comedic aspects of the American landscape we take for granted, and at the same time challenge our received ideas about the places we visit. As quickly as the writers in the book build the scaffolding of their ideas, others endeavor to shift the architecture. The result is a series of brilliant roller coaster rides that demand to be revisited many times over. “ — Susan Daitch, author of Paper Conspiracies
“Greg Gerke writes like an anthropologist of love, or like a Brooklyn-based Sigmund Freud, walking down a mobius boulevard, finding the truth as it flowers in the cracks of the sidewalk. Honest, deadpan, personal and smart, these stories conspire, like a dream, to create a world both uncanny and familiar, delirious and quotidian, funny and sad and completely mesmerizing.” — – John Haskell, author of I am Not Jackson Pollock and American Purgatorio
Electric Literature said, “[t]he thirty-eight stories contained in this collection pendulum deftly between the comic and the heartbreaking.”– Brooklyn Rail Review.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I studied film at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before moving to Eugene, Oregon and getting an English degree. I lived in Germany and France for a year and a half between 2001 and 2002, and have been living in Brooklyn since 2005, primarily doing homeless outreach work for a city organization. I curated a reading series in Brooklyn called the Soda Series, featuring many acclaimed and emerging authors, and I have interviewed a number of writers, including William H. Gass, Lydia Davis, Paula Fox, and John Jeremiah Sullivan. My fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Tin House, The Kenyon Review Online, LA Review of Books, Denver Quarterly, Quarterly West , Mississippi Review, LIT, Film Quarterly, and others. I have published two short fiction collections: My Brooklyn Writer Friend in 2015 from Queens Ferry Press and There’s Something Wrong with Sven in 2009 from BlazeVox.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Two stories at The Collagist.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.
PRICE: $8.48 as of now.