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Monday, November 26, 2007

Buy This Book

Pardon me while I interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging with this commercial announcement.

I have written a novel.

It has been long in coming--six years since I started it, though I actually finished the first draft by 2003. The next year or so was editing, and then the rest of the time I have been trying to get it published. My final bid was the major independent publisher Milkweed Editions, who decided to pass after subjecting it to a thorough editorial review (not just the slush pile reader, who as in many other cases, rejected it outright). Cue the sad strings.

But wait! I have, undaunted, decided that it's worth putting out there, damn the embarrassment and shame that comes with self-publishing. Art is, after all, a communication, not a product. There's something deeply depressing about the prospect of this thing moldering in the basement. I don't know if readers of beer blogs are readers of novels, but consider this an active pitch: buy the book, you'll like it! An additional hook: it's set in early microbrew-era Portland; see the birth of Beervana!

I'll include a couple of the beer-related excerpts below to give you a sense of the writing. But first, here's the description from the back cover:

The Puddle Variations
Walking Man Press, 2007, 260 pages.
ISBN: 978-0-6151-7184-5

What portion of a 16mm movie can be made for $1,000? Or, put another way, how does one turn a thousand dollars into a 30-minute short? This is the question confronting Charlie di Paulo, who has just received a seed grant from the Portland Film Institute to shoot his 16mm film. For a 26-year-old cab driver, a thousand dollars is a lot of cash, yet it won’t even cover the cost of his film stock.

Money isn’t Charlie’s only problem. His new girlfriend and his stepfather, Vic, are both convinced he should be pursuing his dream through more conventional means, and Vic has offered to pay for film school. For Charlie, whose 8mm short was good enough to win him the grant, education isn’t necessary—money is. As the book unfolds, he sets about trying to raise the money and mount the production, and along the way he receives support in various forms from the local doyenne of independent film, a cobbler, a philosophy student, and a bookie.

In the first one, the main character, Charlie, attempts to woo Janie with alcohol. Of course, he is a man with certain tastes. In the second one, Charlie describes the city to his step-father, visiting from Phoenix.


“Can I get you something to drink?” he asked.

“Whatcha got?”

“Alcoholic or non?”


“Beer. Two varieties: stout or India pale ale.”

“You don’t have any wine?”

“You’re in Portland now; you’ve got to kick that wine habit. This is a beer town.”

“Beer’s icky.”

He went to the table where he had left a paper sack next to the fruit bowl. He selected two bottles of beer, went to the kitchen and poured them into glasses. Thick and black as oil. “You just haven’t been drinking the right beer.”

“Ewww. This is going to be so icky. Look at it.” But she took the glass. “So when do we eat, mister?”

“Food will take a half hour to cook, roundabout. When do you want to eat?”


“Hmm, well. I’ll see what I can do.” From the kitchen, “Put some music on.”

He set the oven to preheat, pulled out the food, and put the rest of the beer in the fridge. While he puttered, he heard her testing music in the living room. A few notes of the Clash, silence. He put in the veggies, pulled out the salad, and tossed it. He came out of the kitchen to the sound of jazz, but then saw her stop the music. Eject. She picked up a handful of CDs and thumbed through them, stopping from time to time to read the back cover of one. Charlie, watching, noticing that she took sizeable swallows of her beer.

She finally settled on a 70s funk compilation. Decisively dropping the CD in the player, she pressed play and spun away from the stereo.

“Hey. How long have you been standing there?”

“Just came out.”

She turned back for her beer, sitting next to the stereo. “I don’t believe you. You were spying on me.” He didn’t say anything; didn’t move. She walked up to him, too close, looked down her nose at him. “You little spier.” Her assessment punctuated with another swallow of beer.

“See, stout. Tasty.”

She looked at the remaining inch of liquid in her glass, then back at him. Leaned back. “Do you like my music selection?” They listened to a fat bass line roll out of the speakers and let smiles bloom.

“I do.”


On the way through downtown, Charlie pointed out the sights. “The freeway used to be on this side of the river.” He indicated the green ribbon between the river and buildings of the city. “But they ripped it out in the 70s and put in Waterfront Park.”


A few blocks later: “If you look up a couple streets on your left, you can see Pioneer Courthouse Square. It’s an open block we call our ‘living room.’”

“It’s a nice downtown. Clean.” He looked out his window and up. “And compact. The blocks are really small, aren’t they?”

Jake’s was still buzzing when they got there at nine. Vic stopped before they went in and sampled the air. “I remember this smell. What is it?”

Charlie pointed to an industrial orange-brick building two blocks north. The Blitz-Weinhard brewery. “Boiling beer.”

“Oh right. They brew beer often?”

“All the time. It’s the smell of the city.”

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