Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s
It’s a different feeling finishing a book when someone you know wrote it. Warm, pedestrian, jealous. You think less about the specifics of what was written and more about the person; you’re on the front row of an opera watching people put on their outfits through a crack in the curtains.
‘Queen’ was written by my friend and colleague Suzanne Crain Miller. I met Suzanne at the now-defunct Third Wednesdays, an open-mic for authors. Suzanne was running the show. When I met her, she had these big wide eyes that seemed to fix on the outsides of you, figuring out your lines, drawing you up. I could tell she was someone who spends a lot of time trying to write the world down.
‘Queen’ is about the South. The small South, the almost-rural, the mostly-poor. It’s a place big enough for no-one to know each other except from watching out the windows, small enough that if you watch a long time you’ll catch sight of someone’s private side. I know a lot of places like this. Snow Camp, Alamance, Mebane. I used to drive through them. They threaten you with yourself, you push the gas.
The book follows three narrators, all of whom are picked apart by their private sides. It’s a book about keeping secrets. Building coal fires in your den, waiting for the house to burn down, naked. Violent cop, sheltered teenager, the identities you try to escape eventually find you. Even in the novel’s climax, when the heroes are victorious and the bad men are laid down, there’s an unsettling sense that no-one’s good actions are really good, that a privileged birth was always going to lead to happiness, and there’s only so much room for happiness on the small town streets that you can’t spread it around to everyone.
When I finished reading, I thought about quiet crowds and microphones. I had a beer.
I’m happy to have read this book, and flattered that my friend let me read it. It’s not nothing to write something, not nothing to read it, and pretty damn cool to know the writer. Support the author and buy her book here.
Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin
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No matter what you do, someone always knew you would.Ami McKay, The Birth House