MEET THE AUTHOR
Most of my fiction tends to be abstract, absurd, and fabular. Until recently, I’d neverbeen interested in setting stories in a worldthat looked like the one where I grew up.The idea even seemed a little ridiculous.What could I learn from the poverty andpart of the country that I worked so hardto escape? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come tounderstand that what I mistook as a lack ofinterest in those specific experiences wasjust what writers mean when they say they’re too close to something tobe able to use it in their work. After living in New York for nine years,my time in the Midwest has finally started to come into focus for me.
I never found myself in the exact situation Jacob lands himself inwith Ronny Trezzo. However, like Jacob, I was a shy and evasive kidwhose poverty embarrassed him. When you start lying to your peers ata young age about why you wear the same jeans every day or why you’renot eating lunch, you get comfortable lying about pretty much everything. In that sense, one of the ways poverty debases you is by makingyou doubt the authenticity of your own voice.
People sometimes say the goal in stories is to be cruel to your characters, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at the challenges anddilemmas you make a character face. I wanted to give Jacob a chanceto own who he is. I wanted him to confront that trivial external shame,so he could potentially free himself from the more profound internalshame that was at the heart of all the worst decisions of my youth.
Seth Fried is a fiction and humor writer. He is the author of the novel TheMunicipalists (Penguin Books, 2019) and the short-story collection TheGreat Frustration (Soft Skull Press, 2011). His short stories have appearedin Tin House, One Story, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the KenyonReview, Vice, and others.