Dreams Where I Get Food Poisoning
December 16th, 2009
Keith Gessen, co-editor of the journal N+1 and former book critic for New York Magazine, selected one of my short stories, “Dreams Where I Can Fly” (Raritan, Spring 2009), for publication in the Italian magazine Internazionale — http://www.internazionale.it/sommario/?issue_id=419 — as well as listing it as one of his favorite stories for 2009. This was my thank you note to him, which, for reasons eventually explained in the post, I couldn’t send to him directly. This is really nice of you to list my story as one of your favorites of the year and it makes me think that I haven’t thanked you properly for selecting my story for Internazionale. I’m actually not sure I thanked you at all, let alone enough, because when you emailed me that you wanted the story for Internazionale I was ill, violently, terribly, deliriously ill with food poisoning. My hands were shaking as I typed my response and the ensuing follow-up messages — of which there may have been two or ten, I’m not sure — were typed between bouts of vomiting and fitful, delirious stretches of sleep. I’ve had food poisoning four times now in my life and so it’s getting to be a kind of badge of honor, like the number of hallucinogenic wanderings you’ve taken before you’re 21. But like an acid trip, food poisoning – and, maybe especially, the drugs they give you to get over the nausea — leave you spent and deadened for many days afterward. A lost week, to be sure. It’s possible that if a very gracious and well-written Italian editor hadn’t contacted me more than a week after you and I corresponded, I might well have never remembered any of this. Or I might have written it all off as a low grade, historically unanchored flashback. Which, besides being unacceptably rude, would have been deeply unfortunate. So strange was that week of illness and its unexpected connection to the selection of this story that yet another week went by after I exchanged emails with the Italian editor before I remembered that, coincidentally, I’m going to be in Italy in March and could have coffee or wine or both (but not sushi, which will almost certainly still be off-palate then) with the editor, assuming that his spoken English is as good as his written. And even that, the coincidence of my going to Italy for a trip planned long before you contacted me or I took that fated journey to my neighborhood sushi bar, all of it only adds to the dreamy dislocation of this entire event. Finally, because I’m seven paragraphs into this, I can’t not note that my confusion over all this only continued by my seeing this post via a cryptic automated Google alert email, the kind of message that usually announces that an “Eric Barnes” in rural Wyoming has been released on parole, but that this time listed my name next to the title of a story of mine, which led me to believe that the alert was, this time, about me. The last complication, I hope, is that while I was able to read your post yesterday, when I tried to go back to the post in the morning, the link would not work, which, of course, sends me back into a state of total dislocation over whether any of this really did happen. The subtext of all this, of course, is that while I appear to be writing this as a simple comment on your blog, I am in fact writing it elsewhere on my computer and will, when possible, copy and paste it into your blog as if it were the effortless ramblings of a thankful writer. In the meantime, I think I’ll post this to my own blog, just to alter the order of events on this a little bit more. Again, I’m glad you enjoyed “Dreams Where I Can Fly.” Thanks for giving it this attention.