Thirty-two-year-old writer, Damian Cross returns from a disastrous debut book tour only to find out that his fiancée, who he’s been with for seven years, has dumped him. Now, Damian holes up in his cousin’s house, licking his wounds, trying to write a second novel, blogging, and dating for the first time in forever. Everyone tries to convince him to write “a booty novel” to make money. He steadfastly refuses, all the while blogging about his sexual misadventures.
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About the Author
Bill Campbell is the author of three novels, including Koontown Killing Kaper and My Booty Novel, as well as the essay collection, Pop Culture: Politics, Puns, and “Poohbutt” from a Liberal Stay-at-Home Dad. He lives in Washington, DC.
Read an Excerpt
My Booty Novel
By Bill Campbell
Rosarium PublishingCopyright © 2007 Bill Campbell
All rights reserved.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 20 —
Back to blog,
Back to reality ...
I know it's been a long time. To all three of my fans who read this damned thing, I apologize. I know how disappointing it must've been for the past four months to not be able to wallow in the shit of my life. But don't worry. The stench is back.
In all honesty, I hate the whole web log thing. As though it's not self- important enough to write a book and expect everybody to read it, we've gone and created the greatest masturbatory scheme for any narcissist who wants to share his most insipid utterance with the entire world ... EVERY DAY!!! I am not that fool, but my publisher and agent both think this thing is a good marketing tool. Of course, those are the same jackasses who'd thought Winter Soldiers had commercial potential. Who knows? Without this stupid blog I may have only sold 490 copies of the book.
Now, to answer some questions:
No. I ended up not getting married. So, I take back all the nice things I ever said about her during the tour.
Yes. I really did enjoy the tour. Sure, I was a leper in Louisville, syphilitic in Cincinnati, and hemorrhagic in Houston. I found out what it must feel like to have a horrific disfigurement. To have people not look at you with a quiet desperation in their eyes. Focusing on everything but you. Afraid to look at the freak show standing in the middle of their bookstore. "Really, dear, you'd think they'd do something about that. Cover it up, something." One guy in Memphis actually climbed over me, my table, my books, and the sign announcing my book signing to get to some postcards without ever making eye contact. I was pretty impressed, actually. I mean, what determination. Another guy walked through my reading in Charlotte (to my cousin and her roommate) to buy a Grisham novel. And I guided so many people to The Da Vinci Code, I wanted a damned paycheck.
But yes. I still had a great time. If it were easy — like cheating on one's partner — everybody would be doing it. It was all forty extra pounds of good eatin' and tons of fun. (If you haven't already, hit the nearest Brazilian barbecue — your arteries will hate it but your taste buds will thank me.) There were a bunch of friends and family I hadn't seen in a long time who were great hosts. I got to party in Malibu and watch Fox News in Boston, two things I'd never done before. The Ethiopian party in Atlanta was a blast. I suffered the worst hangover in Portland and got to eat at Dick's in Spokane. I had great talks in Albany and Birmingham, San Diego and Vegas. And Paul's sneaking me onto Paisley Park to catch a glimpse of His Royal Badness was definitely a highlight. Oh yeah, and that wine-tasting in Sonoma — très chic. Some of the bookstore owners and employees looked at me like a lost cancer patient when nobody showed up, but everybody was really nice. And I guess those doe-eyed looks of sympathy prepared me for the ones I'd get once I got back home.
No. I did not get married after all.
Wait. I said that already.
No. I didn't go to Wales and jack that kid who wrote that horrible review of Winter Soldiers. I've decided to try and let it go. Why the hell you'd give a high schooler a satirical postmodern novel is beyond me. And to believe, when I originally came up with the idea, that little blankety-blank was only five! Oh well, you put something out and everybody gets to take their shot. That's what you get for being self- important enough to think that people should read your book.
Anyway, my life has changed a bit in these past few months. I've finally left Satan's lair. It's still hard getting the sulfur stench out of my clothes and hair, but it's good to finally be done with her (who am I kidding?). I now have a tiny room in a rented house with my cousin, Deirdre, and her housemates, Neville and Hep (they're together).
DiDi has saved my ass yet again. She's a year older and has always been a bit of a big sister to me. Those lines were permanently blurred in high school after my parents died and her parents took me in. She stood up for me when some neighborhood kids wanted to see if the black came off my skin by kicking it hard — and often. She tried fixing me up with some of her friends in high school — and then decided tilting at windmills would be more productive (by college, I could fend for myself). She'd used her connections at the battered women's shelter she worked at to get me a job at the Union, a homeless advocacy/service organization, when I first got to town. In short, she's my girl.
The only thing that has ever stood between us was Samara. And DiDi was right about that one. Any woman who's willing to break Luke Sams's nose for you ought to be listened to. But a man has two brains that hardly ever seem to work in conjunction, and, when they do, it's usually trouble for everyone involved. It wasn't until the fifth year of Samara's and my relationship that my cousin and I came to an understanding about the woman I loved. On the seventh, I moved in with cuz.
It's your usual, dilapidated one-story, three-bedroom rental house. Too many wars have passed since its glory days, and it's drafty as hell. There are stains all over the place from when Lizzie Borden whacked her parents, and I sometimes think I smell the Lindbergh baby rotting beneath the kitchen floorboards.
It's cool enough, though. There are a lot of things to get accustomed to. I'm used to living with only one other person — not three. And I'm still trying to get used to listening to guys having sex with each other. Neville's a real screamer, and I sometimes think he and Hep have cockfights over who can be louder. Hep's real cool, though. He does a lot of peace and justice stuff and conflict resolution, which is funny since all he and Neville do are fight and fuck. He's got good taste in music — though he's way too serious about it — about everything — and usually loses out to his lover's milquetoast tastes. Actually, I think he loses out to Neville on just about everything.
And that bastard Neville does not like me. I think he thinks I'm some sort of pot-smoking, loser asshole. Though he does smoke just about as much pot as I do. I'd like to chalk it up to my omnivorous ways. The man's a vegan. Apparently, he'd reigned in this house for a couple years before I arrived. No meat in the abode whatsoever. No eggs. No dairy. A tyranny of tofu. They lived in absolute terror. I think what finally did it for DiDi was when her curves began to plateau. A sister just can't be havin' that.
It was a bloodless coup, relatively speaking. A Velveeta Revolution. DiDi had brought home some ground chuck one night, made spaghetti sauce, loaded her plate with parmesan cheese, and ate dinner in front of the black and white TV. Neville came home, smelled the murder, gawked at the crime scene, and skulked off into his bedroom. Nothing was said. Days later, the carcass parade hit the refrigerator.
That was about two months before I moved in. I didn't know meat had been an issue when I'd first gone grocery shopping, but Hep told me later. I've kind of gotten into cooking recently. To keep my mind off of other things. And I love my meat. I've compromised by buying free range chicken. And while I can't get "Born Free" out of my head while picturing the birds prance to the slaughterhouse, I don't know how it's any better. It still tastes like chicken.
I just think that Neville's taking his frustration with losing his battle to DiDi out on her cousin. He doesn't really say anything. He just looks down his broad, beautiful, black nose at me. When it's not beneath him to talk to a brother, he huffs a lot and gives me that "I'm trying to be nice to you" look — as though that, storming Normandy, and curing cancer are the three hardest endeavors ever undertaken in human history.
I pretty much just stick to myself, though, read in my room, not write my second novel, and look up recipes on the internet. I do need to get out more (maybe lose this weight), but I don't really know where to start. It's been seven years.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 20 —
"Bitch is crazy."
"Bitch is crazy."
"What the hell are you talking about, Kev?"
"Well, I realized the other night that I failed you as a friend."
"So, what else is new?"
"Anyway, I'm supposed to be supportive, reassuring, shit like that, make you feel vindicated, right?"
"Sure. I guess."
"All right then. Bitch is crazy."
"Yeah ... Yeah. You're right. Thanks, bruh."
"Let's go get that beer."
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 20 —
I think the reason I never got into baking is because you have to follow directions, and I've always had a problem with that. It's been a problem with every job I've had (and yet, not a problem when I'm driving; how weird is that?). I've always had to do things my way, be contrary. Like I was perpetually stuck in a bad Tom Cruise movie. Forever the maverick. Even when I was a kid. Back in Catholic school, I used to wear a Star of David around my neck, and, once in eighth grade, I told Sister Anne de Paul that it would be tragic if Roe v. Wade were overturned because we'd lose our right to privacy. That's no way to bake a cake.
I don't actually remember if I knew what I was saying back then. I was a kid. But I don't know what my excuse could possibly be now. I'm thirty- two. I should be able to read a damned recipe and measure out the proper portions of sugar, milk, flour, eggs, whatever the hell goes into baked goods. But I can't. Everything always turns up like the spaghetti sauce I'm making at the moment. I've never read a recipe for it. Hell, I couldn't even tell you if it's a marinara, carbonara, Bolognese, Arrabbiata. I don't even know what those words mean. I've never even bothered to look them up. I just grab my tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce, my truckload of garlic ('cause garlic makes the world a better place), onions, oregano, and basil (if I'm feeling particularly randy). I chop up my hot and sweet Italian sausage, throw in some veal, and lightly fry up some ground Angus that can't escape my heavy-handed seasoning before throwing it all into the cauldron and then simmer until I'm sick of the slow burn. If I did that to a cake, it would turn up a pasty, yellow muck covered in chocolate icing with a funny, garlic taste.
I guess that's what happened to my novel. I knew what to do. I knew the rules I had to follow. Character development. Plot points. Arcs. Happy resolve. Believe it or not, I even know proper sentence structure. But I couldn't be bothered. I thought I could create my own recipe. Throw in green peppers, red peppers, olives, mushrooms. That damned good sausage. Hell, make it a paella. Squid, octopus. Always good to have in a novel. I was trying to reinvent marinara when I should've been trying to perfect my profiteroles. But I guess I just can't follow rules.
No. That's not true. With Samara, I didn't break a damned one. Well, OK, I did lust in my heart. But that never became flesh. I was honest with her and true. I wasn't perfect, but I always tried to be the best person I could be. What can I say? She brought it out in me.
Maybe I just didn't give her enough of my time. I was always wanting to write. Maybe I worked too much. Saved the money I should've been spending on her. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten involved with Egon and his stupid theater company. But she was an actress. I thought it would be a good way for us to spend more time together. Be a part of the same community. Then there was the novel. But she'd always known I wanted to be a novelist. That was one of the things she'd said drew her to me.
I didn't gain the weight until after the tour. I was never abusive. I never stepped out on her. Sure, I did have my Steelers obsession, but you can't make a man give up his black and gold — why even try? I went out with Kevin every blue moon. The music magazine. Maybe I shouldn't have saved all that money. Gone on vacation more. Gone to clubs more. Less? Started this cooking obsession sooner. Argued less? More? Been a better person, lover, Catholic. Maybe I should've made my marriage proposal a biennial event instead of annual. Bought a ring. But I could've sworn she said she was against "blood diamonds" — would an emerald have worked? — garnet? — what the hell is garnet, anyway? Obsidian's pretty cool, even though I don't know what kind of engagement that would've symbolized.
I don't know why she has me questioning myself so damned much. It's not right. Not fair. Screw her and that damned cake metaphor.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 20 —
"When we first moved to Exton, I don't know. I think I was seven, maybe. I don't think I knew what to make of the new home, the new country. I doubt if those people knew what to make of us either. I don't even know if they knew what we were. It didn't really matter. We mainly kept to ourselves. I went to school. Did well. Just like I was supposed to. Little Priti could not fail. I don't really think I felt any pressure, though. I never ever came close to failing. It was never an issue.
"But I think around junior high — or maybe fifth or sixth grade, I think — so I guess that's middle school then. Anyway, I don't know. Like, I love my family — for all that's worth — but, well. No man's an island, right? Like, your family can't be your entire life. You can't keep coming home to watch your mother cook and clean and wait for your father to come home from work. That's no life for a kid. I mean, all the other kids were out playing, having fun. And I didn't know how to do any of that. I was different. I knew it. Everybody knew it. Nobody really said anything. Well, one kid, Tommy Connelly, I think. Yeah. He called me a nigger once, but then one of the girls in class, I can't remember who, she told him I was Indian. So, then he started calling me Pocahontas. Then somebody else — or maybe the same girl, God that was so long ago — told him, 'No, Tommy. Like India Indian.' He still called me Pocahontas, anyway.
"But yeah. I wanted friends. It was hard 'cause, like I said, I was different. I was quiet. Scared quiet, but I think everybody thought I was stuck up. I just didn't know how to talk to those American kids. Those white kids. And it didn't help that I was smart. Straight As, and all that. I don't think many of them liked me. Shit, I think I still 'talked funny' back then. Who knows? That's how I remember it, though.
"So, yeah. It was in fifth grade. There was this new transfer student. Elise Bryan. I think she was from Dover. Her parents had just gotten a divorce — like all those 'decadent Americans,' as my father used to say — and her mother moved her and her two brothers back to Philly. Anyway, this was my big chance, right? Like all the other kids, they all hated the little, stuck-up India Indian. But Elise, she didn't know me.
"I chickened out, though. I didn't know what to talk about. How to talk. After all, I talked funny. But she came to me. You know transfers. Treat them like lepers until they've been properly quarantined and decontaminated. Cleared to walk among the general population. And lepers colonize together, I guess.
"So, anyway, we hung out at recess, talked in the hallway, waited for busses together. In all honesty, she was probably my first crush. She had this fiery red hair. These incredible blue eyes. And dimples. I've always been a sucker for dimples. Probably because of her. Who knows? I wonder whatever happened to Elise Bryan. Maybe I should Google her.
"It was all well and good. Having a sort-of friend. But I wanted a real friend, a best friend. All the other girls seemed to have them. With all their damned cliques. I knew I was never going to get into one of those. But, so what if I were an immigrant? I deserved a best friend.
"I had to act fast. Everybody seemed to start liking Elise. Her nubbins were the first to start turning into breasts, and the boys were noticing. Maybe it was the sixth grade. And some of the other girls were talking to her more and more.
"So I did it. I invited Elise to my house. For a sleepover. I didn't have any Air Supply records. I didn't even have a record player. My father did. But all he listened to was Indian classical and all that damned moaning. I still can't listen to the stuff.
"I was scared. I didn't think my folks liked Americans all that much. I still don't, actually. And I thought Elise would find the whole experience too weird. The food's too hot. It smells weird. We talked funny. But I so desperately wanted the girl to be my friend. Funny how that crap means so much when you're a kid, like, it's so life-and-death.
Excerpted from My Booty Novel by Bill Campbell. Copyright © 2007 Bill Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Rosarium Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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