Rookie Report: John McCaffrey
Their relationship started in a conversation club called The Silo, a narrow, circular structure with cinder block walls and a white conical dome. Baldwinwas newly on his own, just beginning to enjoy the possibilities of life without the smothering tether of family, when he noticed Nadine enter the club, her blond bob perched atop her thin head like a wary sentry. He lost sight of her in the crowd, and it was not until much later, as he was angling toward the door to leave, that she appeared at his side, almost as if she had risen up from the floor. She looked at him, took a hit from the vial of impure in her hand, and without a blink said he reminded her of a “tree with no leaves.” Baldwin might have been offended by the comparison, except she rose up on her toes after saying it and kissed him. They spent the next hour talking, and then he walked her home. This time he made a move to kiss her, but she pulled away and went inside without saying goodbye.
They began dating, spending most evenings sitting on cement slabs hidden by trees or brush, talking, kissing and groping each other to the point of frustration. One night, Nadine halted a particularly impassioned pelvic thrust of his to explain the difficulties of her childhood. “That’s why we can’t get closer than this,” she said, her brown eyes exhausted form the torrent of tears that accompanied her story. “I don’t think I can love anyone in a normal way.” It was a final blow to Baldwin’s short-lived freedom. Her words had roused in him a monumental compassion, an emotion far more powerful than lust, and removing his hand from insider her pants, he vowed he would never leave her.
-Excerpt from The Book of Ash
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer
John McCaffrey: If the end is near, the beginning is closer.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
JM: Fight Club and 1984.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
JM: Equal parts cynicism and hope. Mix in blender until it resembles a crushing reality. Bake until burned.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
JM: The Sun Also Rises.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
JM: Yes, winning the Pulitzer Prize has changed me. For one, I no longer write—just sign my name to my ghost author’s work. I also no longer put my pants on one leg at a time, preferring to fall into my trousers (held open by my ghost writer) from a swinging ceiling fan.
Read more about The Book of Ash here.
John McCaffrey received his MA from the City College of New York, where he was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship from The New York Times. His stories, essays and book reviews have appeared in more than 30 literary journals, magazines and newspapers. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his story Words, first published in Fiction Magazine, was also selected for Flash Fiction Forward, an anthology containing work from some of the most noted writers of our time, including Grace Paley, Dave Eggers, and Paul Theroux.
In addition to his own writing, John helps direct a nonprofit organization in New York City, is the Interviews Editor for KGBBAR.LIT, and teaches a weekly short story class at an LGBT senior center in Queens, New York. His debut novel, The Book of Ash (Boxfire Press) is now available. Twitter: John A McCaffrey @jamccaffrey.