Launchpad: The Handsome Man, by Brad Casey

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The Handsome Man, by Brad Casey, a collection of linked stories declared by Guillaume Morissette to be "a gem that celebrates little blips of happiness and small, elusive moments of genuine human connection."

*****

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

I was reading The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez recently and there’s a part where the main character says something about how the novel, or the writing of a story, is an act of killing something and I didn’t entirely agree but it made me think about my book, The Handsome Man, within that context and within that context: I wrote this book in order to move away from something inside me, to process about four years of my life that were fun and adventurous years but also I was reeling constantly from trauma, so it’s about grief avoidance and processing trauma underneath but on the surface it’s pretty fun.

Describe your ideal reader.

My best friend Matt, who I love and who “is” a character in the book, is my ideal reader. I don’t know if he’ll ever read it. He’s too wild. I think the only book he’s ever read is Bear by Marian Engel, which is the best book.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Whenever I felt lost in the writing of this book I’d pick up Jesus’ Son, by Dennis Johnson and read a few lines and everything would become more clear. I wanted to capture the same kind of ecstasy and naive hopefulness in The Handsome Man, to have these characters who are very lost, who only seem to be alive when they’ve fully accepted the unknown of each coming moment, interact and to see what they had to teach each other.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

I learned that writing a book isn’t such a daunting task. What keeps anyone from doing it isn’t the magnitude of writing 200+ pages of text or any predilection toward “being a writer” or whether or not you’re in the world of academia (though being in academia will most likely get you published) as much as it is how much of our time is taken up by the demands of capitalism. I read Stephen King’s On Writing as research before writing this novel and in it he talks about his writing process, how he’ll write 5000 words a day, that working five days a week at 25,000 words a week he’s able to, in theory, write a new book every two months. I aimed to write 2000 words a day and often I’d hit that mark. I was lucky at the time of writing this book: I was single, living in a relatively calm home with a young family who were close friends and who provided me with a safe place to be. I was working three nights a week in a bar. My shifts at work were long and loud and grueling and I had no social life but I was able to focus on writing for four days of the week. If I’d been working a day job I never would have had the energy to do this.

So what I learned was that the only thing standing between anyone writing a book and not writing a book is the privilege of time and finance. I work more now and have less energy to devote to writing so I’m currently very out of practice. My politics keep leaning more and more left because of this. I’m neglecting my writing practice which is an important part of myself. I think people deserve a universal basic income so that we can have the energy to focus on our inner worlds and create and flourish.

What is something your ideal interviewer would ask you about your book? Anything goes...

I just asked my roommate what he would want to ask me about my life if he were interviewing me because he’d be my ideal interviewer. He said he’d like to know about all the places I’ve lived. I’ve done a lot of travelling in my life. I’ve prioritized travel. I’ve driven through America twice, lived on both coasts and in Europe, I’ve been to about ten countries. I love the desert. When you’re travelling you become somewhat anonymous, no one you meet knows anything about you, so you’re able to acquire skills of adaptation and shedding of ego.

A lot of the superficial aspects of my life in travel are in The Handsome Man. Though it is fiction it leans more autofiction. I used my travel journals as a resource in the writing of it so the main character does a lot of the same things I’ve done but the line between real and fabricated is incredibly blurry through the book. 

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.

Unfortunately I don’t get to experience a lot of the fun of the book launch due to the ongoing pandemic. The WHO declared the pandemic about a month before its release date and every event has been cancelled indefinitely. I was really looking forward to the fun of book launches, I had been organizing a tour and readings in my favourite cities in North America as well as a Toronto show that was going to be wild with dancers and performance artists and readings. Who knows if those things will be postponed or if they’ll pass by without ever having a chance of happening. That said, the person whose support has been integral has been my friend Stephen Thomas, a writer who encouraged my to write this book in the first place and he saw the book through every stage, he even introduced me to Book*hug who eventually published the book. He really pushed me. The book is indebted to his support.

What are you reading right now or next?

I love love love Sludge Utopia, by Catherine Fatima. It’s one of about half a dozen books released in the last few years that the Canadian literature establishment should be paying attention to and celebrating and raising up on the international stage as an example of how we should be moving forward in the stories we’re telling.

 

 

About The Handsome Man:

When life is upended, what do you do? Do you remain as you were, trapped in a form of stasis? Or do you accept your losses and move forward? These questions and more are the heart of The Handsome Man.

These linked stories follow several years of the life of a young man as he is drawn around the world: from Toronto to Montreal, New York, Ohio, New Mexico, British Columbia, Berlin, Rome, and Northern Ontario, along the way meeting hippies, healers, drinkers, movie stars, old friends, and welcoming strangers. He isn't travelling, however; he's running away. But as far and fast as he runs, the world won't let him disappear, and each new encounter and every lost soul he meets along this journey brings him closer and closer to certain truths he'd locked away: how to trust, how to live in this world, and most of all, how to love again.

April 28, 2020
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