Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts

cover of Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts
Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts

Catching up on some book notes, I’m thrilled to spend a moment recommending that you hurry up and read Chris Tebbetts‘ fabulous & fun novel, Me Myself & Him.

I read this novel in 2019, but because the author is a beloved friend from early days, I was “only” able to absorb and enjoy. (There is nothing wrong with reading for pleasure! Please, let’s read for as much pleasure as we can! We need all the pleasure we can get—these days, any days.) In 2019, I was happily distracted by familiar details and voices, and I let myself get swept away in the experience. But recently, I re-read the novel with a blog post in mind.

Even if Chris Tebbetts were not my friend, I would still call this a friendly book. There’s an amiable generosity in the self-deprecating humor of the narrator—the voice—and I can imagine being a friend to the fictional Chris. Fiction or non, I love reading books like this, where the narrator seems honest, earnest, and trustworthy, fully human. In the case of Me Myself & Him, some of this trustworthiness comes from the narrator’s willingness to show his imperfection, his mistakes. I found that aspect of this novel extremely life-affirming. We make choices, we make mistakes, we fuck up. We keep going, despite injury and heartache. We endure shame. Sometimes people grow, and sometimes, people forgive each other.

This novel is a beautiful artifact of connection and friendship. (Very necessary in these times of isolation.) It centers friendship as an openhearted pursuit, through many twists of fate, or plot—and speaking of plot, this novel is so appealing in its puzzle-parts, its twin lines of possibility, in being a rumination on what might happen if.

One of the most compelling textures is the narrator’s storytelling voice. Readers glimpse the interior of the character as he grapples with a complicated relationship with his father. Such as:

p. 13: In a conversation with his father about college:

“Birch had been my first choice, and against all odds, not to mention my own expectations, I’d gotten in, as a film and English double major. I had no idea what I wanted to do yet (as in, when I grew up), but I knew exactly where I wanted to be for the next four years—at Birch. And, just as important, anywhere but Green River, Ohio.

I couldn’t not go to Birch, and Dad knew that, didn’t he?

‘I know you feel forced right now,’ he said. ‘I’d feel the same way. But this is all about choices you’ve made. You do understand that, don’t you?’

This is what I’m talking about with him. It’s like falling down a hole and there’s nothing to grab onto because it’s all lined with that stainless steel logic of his.

Then on p. 28:

Then he did this one thing that he and my mother share. They’ll smile in this patronizing way when I’m acting stupider than I actually am. It’s a harder habit to break than you might think—for me, I mean.

He took a sip of coffee, to let my stupidity sink in. Then he said, ‘Actually, I want two things. I want you to speak with a counselor, and I want you to come work at the lab this summer.’ Felicia moved her head, like maybe an eight of an inch. ‘Assuming you’re still planning on Birch in the fall,’ Dad added.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the bottom of the hole. Please remain seated until we’ve come to a full stop at the terminal and the captain has turned off the HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS COMING? sign.”

And later, on p. 217 in the alternate narrative strand, re: his father’s second wedding:

“I kept forgetting—or losing track of the idea—that everyone else who was coming to the wedding thought of it as this champagne-soaked, all-good thing, and entirely worth celebrating. Mark and Felicia, together forever, whatever.

At the same time, there was a little bit of What the hell is wrong with me? mixed in there. Seriously, why couldn’t I just be neutral about it, or even, god forbid, happy for them? Why did everything always have to be so considered and examined and dissected? By the time you finish dissecting anything, it’s a disgusting mess. So what did I expect? That I was going to chew on all this wedding stuff, spit it out, and like what I saw?

Please.

Honestly, what I really wanted—what I’d always wanted with regard to Dad—was to not think about it. But that never seemed like an option. He had this sway over me; this way of invading my thoughts that only got worse when I was around him. Whether that was about my own weak-mindedness, or his strength, or something else, I don’t know, but I resented it as much as anything.

It was going to be a long three days.”

Although I recoil a bit at implying that authors have a responsibility to make characters “relatable” (no pressure, writers! and I just don’t like that word), I do find the gently neurotic flavor of the narration…familiar. :) Appealing. Reassuring? (Proving that maybe neurosis/over-anxiety is not only in my head.) Maybe because the neurotic bits are so artfully balanced by a round, complicated character. Interior rumination is used judiciously here, by a writer who knows well how to handle texture and pacing—so the rumination is, to me, one of the most delicious parts of this novel.

You can learn more about Chris and his work at the website above, and on Instagram here.

Oh, and p.s., thank you, Chris, for giving young people (and old people) such a beautifully engaging novel as Me Myself & Him that feature LQBTQ+ protagonists! What the world needs!

February 2…Online Author Visit…

Photo courtesy of Lauren Shows/Yellow Springs News

On February 2, Robert Freeman Wexler and I will emerge from hibernation to read from our recent “genre-defying books.” Maybe we will see our shadows, maybe not.

We had hoped to read in person, but considering the state of things, the Yellow Springs branch of the Greene County Public Library has graciously moved the event online. This means you can attend from anywhere! Please join us.

Details & registration information below.

Yellow Springs Library Local Author Visit (ONLINE): Kuder and Wexler

Local authors Rebecca Kuder and Robert Wexler will visit (online) to read excerpts from their recently published, genre-defying fiction, including a brief Q&A.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

6-8pm Eastern

Click here to register.

p.s. To (literally) check out our books from the Greene County library, go to:The Eight Mile Suspended Carnival and UNDISCOVERED TERRITORIES.

Tornado relief: How to help

Although I could never have predicted it, this December turns out to be a sobering moment to launch a novel that opens with the aftermath of a tornado.

Here are some ways to help.

How to help survivors of the Dec. 2021 tornados (Source: NY Times)

Here are some local groups that are pitching in.

  • Blood Assurance, which collects blood donations across its locations in the South, is asking people to make appointments because of a “critical need” for supply in Tennessee and Kentucky.
  • For people in the area of Bowling Green, Ky., the Bowling Green Fire Department is seeking volunteers to help with recovery efforts. Send the department a Facebook message with your name, contact information and the type of assistance you can provide.
  • Brother’s Brother Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based organization that provides disaster relief, is accepting donations so it can donate to food banks in Arkansas and Kentucky. It is also sending items to victims and emergency crews in affected areas.
  • Kentucky Baptist Convention, an organization of Baptist groups, is raising funds to help its teams on the ground in affected areas of the state.
  • Kentucky Branded, a clothing store in Lexington, is donating all of the proceeds from the sales of its “Pray for Kentucky” T-shirt to communities affected by the tornadoes. The shirt costs $20.
  • The Kentucky State Police in Mayfield are asking interested volunteers to call 270-331-1979.
  • Taylor County Bank in Campbellsville, Ky., is accepting donations by mail to its fund for tornado victims. Its mailing address is P.O. Box 200 Campbellsville, Ky., 42719.
  • The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, created by Gov. Andy Beshear, is collecting donations for victims in the western portion of the state.

Some national organizations are helping out.

  • AmeriCares, a health-focused relief and development organization, has sent an emergency response team to Kentucky and has offered assistance to health care facilities in several states. The organization is accepting donations to help fund these efforts.
  • CARE, an organization that works with impoverished communities, is collecting money to provide food, cash and clean water to the tornado victims.
  • Convoy of Hope, an organization that feeds the hungry, is asking for donations to help the survivors across the affected states.
  • Feeding America location in Kentucky is raising funds to help provide people with “ready-to-eat bags of food.”
  • Global Empowerment Mission, a disaster-relief organization, has partnered with local groups and is raising money to help its team on the ground in Kentucky.
  • GoFundMe has created a centralized hub with verified fund-raisers to help those affected by the tornadoes. It will be updated with new fund-raisers as they are verified.
  • International Medical Corps, an organization that provides emergency medical services, is raising funds to give people shelter and essential items.
  • The Red Cross has opened shelters and is asking people to make appointments to give blood. Both its national arm and its local chapter in Western Kentucky are collecting donations.
  • The Salvation Army is soliciting donations to help tornado victims in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.
  • Team Rubicon, a disaster-relief organization, is raising money to help its team of military veterans and volunteers clear roads in Western Kentucky.
  • The United Way of Kentucky is asking for donations to provide support services for families in the state who were affected by the tornadoes.

Kuder & Wexler in-person reading (Dec. 18, 7pm, Yellow Springs)

Robert Freeman Wexler and I will read (in person!) from our recently published books on Sat., Dec. 18, at 7pm Eastern at the Yellow Springs Senior Center—227 Xenia Avenue, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. This reading is hosted by the Epic Book Shop. I will read from The Eight Mile Suspended Carnival, and Robert will read from The Painting And The City.

If you are in the area, please join us! (Masks will required.)

Where to watch the What Books Press launch replay…

It was an extreme pleasure to read from The Eight Mile Suspended Carnival alongside poets Maureen Alsop and Marty Williams at the What Books Press launch last week! You can watch the replay here. (Marty begins around minute 10:58; Maureen at 33:00; and me at 48:30.) Grateful to What Books Press for making fabulous books, to Skylight Books for hosting, and to all the sentient being, humanity, and machinery that helped hoist this carnival into being. Onward!

Black Lives Matter. Stories matter.

“You can’t process these things overnight.” —Alexander Landau

I just heard a Storycorp piece on the radio, about two people who connected over different (but also similar) trauma experiences which happened in Denver, years apart: Police beat and broke the bones of both Alexander Landau and Nina Askew. Both of these citizens endured and survived the violence enacted on their bodies and spirits.

Please listen—in about three minutes, the conversation between Alexander Landau and Nina Askew beautifully illuminates how trauma can begin to be healed: in community, with necessary slowness, with open hearts, and healing forward to the next generation.

“I don’t break.” —Nina Askew

a hygge-list

Disclaimer: Being neither Danish nor Norwegian, I am no expert on the history & meaning of hygge. Last winter, I read this book about hygge and found the pages comforting, soothing, fascinating. We joke in my house about how to pronounce hygge, and even our amusing stumble (“higgie?”) has become part of the hygge in my life.

hygge in the dollhouse

Actually, to call this post a hygge-list is misleading, because—hygge slows things down, allows us to toss aside any requirements for the linear. Hygge has no truck with the word “should.” …so, let’s say we are sitting somewhere comfortable, with warming beverages in hand, and scattered before us on the table or rug are some ideas that I think might bring hygge to your life (as they have to mine). In no particular order, except whatever hygge-order they come to my mind…

Listen to Poor Will’s Almanack. This episode, in particular, but any of his brief radio/print essays about the natural world bring me to a place of hygge (with love & gratitude to Bill Felker)…

Walk in nature. Yes, maybe it’s cold outside. Maybe it’s raining or snowing or the wind buffets the trees and structures. Bundling up and returning to warmth can be hygge. If you are near Yellow Springs, go to the Glen or the Gorge. If you live elsewhere, find a park or a bit of nature wherever you can. Even a walk around the block, de-phoned…look at the buildings, the people, what do you observe? Breathe outdoor air. (Maybe bring a scrap of paper, maybe write a few things down while you are out, or when you get back. Or just observe, and let the images go.)

Practice radical self-love. One way I do this supports my skin and spirit, via this consciously-sourced artisan Radical Self Love body butter from magician-musician Anne Harris. (This body butter is so delicious-smelling that I have to restrain myself from spreading it on toast. And check out & support Anne’s gorgeous music, too!)

Add more light. A few years ago (before pandemic, with no idea how much I was going to need the mood boost) I put up a string of lights like this one around the living room window. This same string of lights has been almost constantly lit/plugged in ever since (& I am talking years!). I got another strand last year, and another for the porch. Candles are great, too. In the dark season, I even light a candle at the breakfast table. Extreme and simple hygge.

cat=hygge-genius

Shop close to home. Find & support small, independently-owned local beautiful businesses whenever you can. In my town I’m talking about Emporium, Tom’s Market, and Current Cuisine. Support independent bookstores like Epic and Dark Star and online at Sam & Eddie’s. These types of businesses epitomize hygge. Where do you find that sort of hygge by you?

(As other things occur to me, I’ll post more. Meanwhile I’d love to know what brings you hygge.)