Q&A w/ Mel Bosworth, author of Freight

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It all ends with pancakes.

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Josh Spilker | November 10, 2011

Man About Town/MelBosworth.com

Hate starting books at the beginning, right? Kind of makes you look like you're not really into it when your bookmark is only 2 pages in. Feel accomplished with Mel Bosworth's Freight. His novel about the the things people carry, the things people eat, the things people throw up, the things people love, the things people lose, can be started from multiple places. It's one of those hypertext-hyperlinked books. Go to the end and watch it connect to the beginning. Find your place and make your mark, it's Mel's world and we can live in it however we please. Buy Freight here in paper or digital.

Mel lives in Massachusetts. He gets snowed in on occasion, and he blogs over here. And by the way, I've published some of Mel's work before, but I'm sure you'll appreciate my bias. All of this ends with pancakes.

I'm watching Reservoir Dogs right now. I'm not sure if i've ever seen it. are there any books or movies that you feel like you should have read or seen, but haven't, that people kinda expect you to have read or seen?
Oh sure. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, lots of books by Faulkner (I think I’ve only read As I Lay Dying), Moby Dick, lots of classics, lots of contemporary books, etc. There are just so many books out there, Josh. Same goes for movies. Can’t see everything. Can’t read everything. Can try, but that’s just stupid. Gotta make some time for your own self and your own life.

Before we talk about the insides of Freight, let's talk about the outside of Freight. It feels good. It's a good size. The cover is kinda waxy. There's this cool bike on it – ideas of innocence and frivolity are evoked. I also enjoy the font type. It seems solidly hopeful.
Thanks, Josh. All praise and credit goes to our jacket designer Brian Manley of Fun With Robots. He came up with the concept, we loved it, we ran with it. Love that guy. And with our printer we can either go glossy or matte, and the matte has that soft waxy feel, which I dig. It’s kind of comforting, I think, and you don’t get fingerprints or glare.

Okay let's move inside. Some people will notice that words and phrases are connected beyond chapters, and that choices can be made in the book ie skipping ahead, skipping backwards, skipping around. Do you believe the book is a space to inhabit rather than to just move in a singular direction?
It can be, sure. When returning to a book, I think the natural inclination is to jump around a bit to the parts that struck you the hardest or that you liked the best. So it takes that idea of coming back to something or jumping ahead to something – only you’ve just started it. In this way it gives readers more of a sense of control and maybe a sense of playfulness. At least I would hope it gives them those things.

Why did you decide this book could work arranged like this?
I’m a fan of hyperlinks, and I think hyperlinks are a good example of one way that our brains work. It’s difficult to keep our thoughts linear, there’s always something popping up along the edges, bright, shiny things that pull our attention elsewhere. I thought that by arranging the book like this it would give the reader a newish, different way to relate to the text. In the middle of my chest, it felt like it worked, or at least it felt like it worked for me. And thus far the response has been positive, so I guess my instincts weren’t too bad. On this particular project, anyway.

That being said, I started skipping around, then I started reading straight through. I'm not sure if I read the whole thing or not. Turns out I liked reading it straight through, because your chapters are very focused into these “emotional baggage” chapters. Did you set out to organize the book into these topics: “I Carried,” “I Ate,” “I Threw Up,” “I Remembered,” “I Loved,” etc? Or, did that just emerge?
I encourage people to read it straight through on a first read. They certainly don’t have to but it’s something I’d recommend in order to get the full flavor of the thing. But what do I know? Maybe folks can get the full flavor by jumping around, too, on their first read. Any experience will always be subjective, no? Anyway. The structure of the chapters was something that was organized from the beginning. I was looking for a productive, manageable way to work on the book, and by creating the chapters like I did, I was able to work back and forth between several of chapters at once. Then, once everything was laid down, the slow, slow, slow revision process began. Blocks were ejected, blocks were created, and massive ironing commenced. I really believe now that the initial writing of anything is the fun and easy part. It’s the revision that gives you stress wrinkles and migraines.

By the way, where do you write at usually?
I am a very big fan of writing at my desk. I call it the command center. The downside is that I can’t go mobile. I’m considering getting a laptop at some point. All donations for a laptop greatly appreciated. I have a donate button on my blog. Thank you in advance, kind person with disposable income.

You have a knack for delivering crazy nuggets like this:

“Sometimes truth can crush us. It can never kill us but it can flatten us like a pancake. A big delicious pancake. Then our friends will scrape us off the floor with a shovel and put us on a huge grill, something a giant might use. They'll say, “Hey let's eat this pancake.” And we'll say, “Go right ahead. But remember to put butter on us.”

It's like a modern fortune cookie. I'm not very good at metaphors but you rock the house with them. where do these metaphors come from for you?

Thanks, Josh. I like fortune cookies. I like metaphors, too. They come from my impish, childlike mind. And the example above came from my deep love of pancakes. Giant, delicious pancakes.

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