I first heard of Jon Frankel in 2003. I was falling hard for a friend of his, and got an email from that friend saying “By the way, my token-male-confidante friend Jon thinks it’s ridiculous to exchange ten in-depth e-mails a day with someone you ought to at least be having tea or sex or playing ping pong with. (He is a poet.)”
I never played ping ping with this friend, though there were dabblings in the other activities.
Obviously, though, it would not be the last I would hear of Jon Frankel.
Jon was working on a book at the time, an unwieldy thing about romance, and psychopharmaceuticals, and the Garden of Eden, and environmental disaster. He was sending pages via email to this mutual friend and would-be ping pong partner, on whose sofa I could usually be found. These pages would be printed and shared with me. I was captivated by all of it, the book as well as this process.
Jon and I were eventually introduced, became friends in both pixel- and atom-based worlds, and I spent my days at a horrid office job pen-friending him. I was trying to write and pay NYC rents, and he was dashing out pages nightly with a dayjob and a passel of young children. He finished The Man Who Can’t Die, bound it at the library, and sent a copy in repurposed binding. I helped him draft a pitch letter and we sent it to roughly 27.1 million American publishers, none of whom wanted anything to do with it. And in retrospect, it’s easy to see why. The book is long, the plot is complicated, it features characters who are in some ways irredeemable, and it’s unforgiving (and unforgivingly prescient) in its bleak critique of American culture.
On the flip side the would-be romance imploded and things grew complicated and sad and triangularly messy. I began a podcast of MAN, but it is a long and lonesome process, and remains abandoned (for now). Then I had a baby and Jon wrote GAHA: Babes of the Abyss, and I realised that while my new dependent was (hopefully temporarily, but quite literally) sucking the ink-slinging life out of me, I could still participate, could still keep up with literature, and could, in some capacity, keep the literary world full of books that would be ignored in traditional markets. And so, babe to my chest and a carefully measured glass at my side, Whiskey Tit was born.
Now, four years and five books later, The Man Who Can’t Die is finally seeing daylight, with its debut this week at the Montana Book Festival. I hope you enjoy it.