SWT Creative Writing director Tom Grimes' new novel: an excerpt
Tom Grimes is flagrantly intelligent and a swift, smooth, ultra-savvy novelist. He's also as funny -- in person and in print -- as they come. Among his many achievements, helping to build a formidable M.F.A. writing program at Southwest Texas State and authoring City of God, A Stone of the Heart, and Season's End, as well as the plays Spec and New World, stand out. His latest effort, WILL@epicqwest.com (a medicated memoir), will be released in May by Ludlow Press ($12.95, paper) and is sharpened to that crucial, much-needed point of writing-as-a-weapon. You don't see books like this much these days. You don't find such astute satire in such a 100-year flood of information. That excess information is at the nexus of WILL, in which the land is being overrun with Information Sickness ("People have died from it," Will narrates early. "We all are") and only one college freshman (and his computer) -- suffering from "depression, delusion, mania," and more -- can save us. That, Earthlings, is only the beginning. In just under 200 pages, Grimes' imagination and wisdom do all of the work, making this read anything but for us, when, with its palpable desperation to convey What's Wrong Here, it probably should be.
I went deeper into solitude. I wandered in the desert. I consulted stone and rock until I read the Caution: Nuclear Waste sign. I listened for the sound of the wind over the buzzing of power lines. I ate peyote among the shamans, encountered snakes and demons and Jim Morrison, had a vision of golden rainbows that turned out to be a McDonald's and woke parched. I was like, could I get a Sprite? At an octoplex I took cover from a plague of locusts predicted by the weather channel. In a cave lit only by Duraflame Firelight, a bearded wise man explained to me the mysteries of existence as a tour group camcorded the conversation before the wise man sued for copyright infringement.
Then Spunk's batteries ran low. Being an itinerant mystic, I was short on cash. I robbed a convenience store. D-cell Duracells for Spunk, a power bar for me, which the clerk offered to microwave when I complained that it was stale, plus a copy of "Them" magazine because Naomi had made its "Best Undressed" list.
I suppose I shouldn't have stopped to squeegee Spunk's laptop screen by the gas pumps. Because, in jail, despite arguments in the TV room over which rerun to watch, I discovered that all men share a common humanity and fairly standard sexual urges. Then, one night, sharing an additive-free Native American cigarette with another con, we discovered that we'd once lived in the same subdivision, on the same cul de sac, in the same house.
"What are you doing in jail? Skipping alimony payments again?"
"Never mind about me, young man. You have a lot of explaining to do."
"I'm experiencing a period of exile and doubt in the midst of my epic quest. Sort of like Hamlet or Henry IV."
"Tell it to the judge."
"You haven't heard about Information Sickness?"
"Are you having that Attention Deficit Disorder thing again?"
"That was reclassified as Oppositional Defiance Disorder after you abandoned us."
"I didn't abandon you. I relocated."
"You should have told us first."
"I figured what you didn't know wouldn't hurt you. You're going to tell me I was missed?"
"Actually, it took a while to realize you'd left."
Reprinted with permission from Ludlow Press © 2003