Research Notes · 10/19/2012

Last Call In The City Of Bridges

Our Research Notes series invites authors to describe their research for a recent book, with “research” defined as broadly as they like. This week, Salvatore Pane shares the process behind his novel Last Call In The City Of Bridges (Braddock Avenue Books.

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1. Have a lot of feelings about being in your twenties during the early days of the 21st century. Don’t talk about these feelings. Don’t think about these feelings. Don’t feel these feelings. Bury them deep down. Apply to an MFA program.

2. Decide you miss playing your Nintendo Entertainment System, your most cherished possession from when you were five. Buy one off your friend, because you don’t know where yours is. Buy a few gems you remember from childhood. Find Ducktales in a flea market and buy it from a woman who resembles your mother. Go to pawn stores and haggle with people behind glass. Convince them to give you a dollar off Maniac Mansion. Decide you will track down and purchase all 768 games produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Print out a checklist and mark them off one by one. Smile at strangers in the bank. Drink your coffee black and wink at baristas. Drink a lot of beer.

3. Drink A LOT of beer. Move to Pittsburgh. Enter an MFA program. Spend most nights in bars talking about fiction or Back to the Future or Super Mario Bros. 3. Wear a Nike windbreaker from 1992 and lay down in the middle of the street drunk, and when your friend yells at you to move, tell him you’re doing research for your novel.

4. Write stories! Set them in the Large Hadron Collider. Write about Kanye West jumping out of an airplane. Write from the POV of the guy who created Tetris and a made up superhero named American Dude. Write a very terrible novel about Scranton. Show it to Cathy Day. Show it to Cathy Day again. Show it to Cathy Day one more time. When she tells you the voice isn’t as good as the one you use for subtitling photo albums on Facebook, listen to her. This is the best advice you will receive in three years of grad school.

5. Write another novel. Call it The Digital Graveyard. It will be about your generation! It will be about Nintendo and feelings, or at the very least, avoiding feelings. Read Goodbye, Columbus and The Rachel Papers and think, “Fuck yeah! That but with Ducktales and Obama and 9/11!” Show it to Chuck Kinder. Listen to him when he says your title sucks and the book needs more kung fu.

6. Graduate from the MFA program with a rough draft of the novel. It’s been one year since you began. Have your heart broken. Break a bunch of hearts. Be a total asshole. Read Scott Pilgrim and get drunk, and when you’re being awful to people say, “This is fucking research, son. Hashtag yolo!” Decide that from now on you will only listen to rap music. Decide that from now on you will only listen to Kanye West. Bop your head on the bus and think, “Dope beats!”

7. It has been two years since you started your novel. Change the title to The Collected Works of the Digital Narcissist. Start teaching college classes at the tender age of twenty-five. Wear hoodies and do awkward jigs. Show the kids George Saunders and say things like, “Life’s weird, guys.”

8. Agent! Publishers! The novel is now called Last Call in the City of Bridges which comes to you on a phone call after so many harried nights spent sweating and thinking, “Shit, maybe we can call it You Better Fucking Read This or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Novel.” The novel gets a cover. The novel gets a book trailer. The novel gets a book tour. The novel is real.

9. Fall in love. Move to Indianapolis. Drive around aimlessly and order milkshakes and buy Home Improvement for Super Nintendo and think, “Hell yeah, I did it.” Go to readings and announce on Twitter that you now own 40% of all the Nintendo Entertainment System games ever made. Receive an advance review copy of your book in the mail. Wash dishes. Fall asleep listening to Bill Simmons podcasts. Be a good person. Try so hard to be a good person.

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Salvatore Pane was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Winner of the 2010 Turow-Kinder Award, his work has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Rumpus, BOMB Magazine, Hobart, and many other venues. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Indianapolis and can be reached at www.salvatore-pane.com.