Why “wonderful?” Because consecrated reading time on an airplane deserves the best you can find. Also because life’s too short to graze on negligible reading.
By a miracle, I found one lonely copy of The Secret Lives of People in Love. A story collection, by a young man I’d not heard of. A single copy, in the Denver airport. I bought it. And once I started it, before the plane moved an inch, I forgot I was on a plane, or (later) that I was flying thousands of feet in the air across a vast northern continent. Everything happened for me with that book that should happen with a book—including feeling bereft when the book had to end.
I found, and devoured, all the fiction I could find by Van Booy after that. Each title rewarded me as richly as Secret Lives did. When I gave readings from my own work last year, I ended them early to tell my listeners to read Van Booy. I read excerpts from his work to them and asked audiences shamelessly: “Doesn’t this knock you out?” I saw their faces open. I made sure they knew how to spell his name.
Simon’s prose is prismatic, as close to poetry as any I know. But his prose also delivers story as capably as any heavy-hitter out there. We care. We want to know what happens. We feel we’ve come to know his unforgettable characters when we finish their stories, and we long to meet them again.
For some reason, Simon has not yet been named a Living National Treasure. He should be. He carries himself in the world like his prose does: with quiet wit, style, grace, and stupendous compassion.
He also seems very interested in cooking. This can’t be bad.
I’m as honored to be in the room with any work by Simon Van Booy as I’d be with the author himself.
Simon has brought out a new novel: The Illusion of Separateness.
Let’s find it. Let’s talk about it.
Joan Frank is the author of five books of fiction, and a recent essay collection called Because You Have To: A Writing Life, just nominated for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Nonfiction. Joan holds an MFA in creative fiction from Warren Wilson College, is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction, Richard Sullivan Prize, Dana Award, and is the recipient of grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Sonoma Arts Council. A two-time nominee for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction and San Francisco Library Literary Laureate, Joan has taught creative writing at San Francisco State University, and continues to teach and edit in private consultation. Joan also regularly reviews literary fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. She lives in Northern California.