Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Introducing Ross Bonander.

Thank you Mila for having me.

My name is Ross Bonander and Melange is publishing a novel I first wrote back in 2004, Edible Ida.  Ida is a rather shameless autobiographical story that began as a screenplay.  I'd written a couple unpublished—strike that, unpublishable novels that are truly terrible before this so I thought … screenplay, something new.  Edible Ida is the story of a man who desperately wants more for himself and his family than the flophouse they are trapped in, and who is seemingly willing to do whatever it takes to get them out.

At the time I wrote it, my wife and I lived in the San Francisco neighborhood known as the Tenderloin, which is the setting for Edible Ida.

Calling a neighborhood the Tenderloin is like naming your daughter Tasty and your son Fast Eddie. One is doomed to strip, the other to sell cocaine.  One shouldn't expect much more from a neighborhood known as the Tenderloin.

This neighborhood is just a few blocks from the renowned theater district; a few blocks from the Opera House, Davies Symphony Hall, and City Hall; a few as well from shopping Mecca Union Square and from upscale Nob Hill.  To paraphrase Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) in O Brother Where Art Thou, the Loin is a geographical oddity, a few blocks from everywhere.

The Tenderloin is the kind of place that alters your perception of the basics.  Like the sidewalk.  I grew up in a bucolic suburban city where a fresh rainfall released a bouquet of aromas.  Sidewalks in the Loin aren't holding to a bouquet.  It's more like a mitochondrial barfbag, the toxic, discarded cells of a century's worth of degenerates and drug addicts, Johns and prostitutes seeping upward in a muggy, jaundiced exhale.  Their contemporary detritus is always somewhere on show—the mouths of sinewy urine streams that bisect the sidewalk hidden under cardboard configurations.  A spent condom slung half in the gutter, looking less like it was tossed there and more like a sick caterpillar that made its way there to die.

Although the story is very much contemporary, I wrote it in despair.  I saw no way out of the Tenderloin for us, and so my solution was to imagine a way out.

When I finished the screenplay, I queried 160 agents and studios.  130 responded, all rejections.  The winter of 2004 proved a dark one; every trip to the mail boxes was a walk across the gym to a girl at a middle school dance, a trepidatious "Will you dance with me?" met each time with one, three, seven, even on one occasion a full dozen rejections.

Despite this referendum, I believed that the story itself was good.  But I abandoned it anyway, only to be reminded of it earlier this year.  Every writer who's been writing long enough has one of these stories on their hard drive, one that maybe took a beating a decade ago but is now waiting for its time to come, and there is an enormous reward in having others confirm your belief from long ago that it was a good story and that it has an audience. For me, Edible Ida is it.

And I want to thank everyone at Melange for seeing what I saw many years ago (with special props to Caroline Andrus at Mélange's art department; I adore the cover in every way, shape and form, even though I'd worried I'd been too demanding when asked what I wanted to see in a cover).

The lesson of Edible Ida is that timing is indeed everything, and that if the story is strong enough, its time will one day come.

Thanks for reading, and continued good luck to all!

1 comment:

Nora Weston said...

Wow...Edible Ida sounds super intense! What a great name too. So glad I stopped by to read about it!