IF MY BOOK: Robin Black

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors shed light on their recently released books by comparing them to weird things. This week Robin Black writes about her new essay collection, Crash Course: Essays from Where Writing and Life Collide, out now from Engine Books.


If Crash Course were an eleven-year-old girl, her name would be Letitia Harringdale Steinberg—but she would go by Joe.

If Crash Course were a pair of tights, they would not be control top. They would be gray cotton, and worn at the heel. They would have more than one rip on both legs—because they are so comfortable it’s impossible to throw them out; and they are actually sort of sexy because of those rips. But not to everyone. Some people just think, “Why on earth hasn’t she thrown those things away?”

If Crash Course were a male hockey player, he would be a little unnerved at being called “Crash”—never quite sure what his teammates mean by it, those men who seem to him to be a different species, so certain all the time, so unconflicted about which side to be on, so unconcerned with the mystical business of moving (like Gods, he sometimes thinks) on two slim steel edges, so seemingly deaf to the perpetual whisper that is intimating a fall soon to come.

If Crash Course were a midnight snack, it would consist of that tiny tin of saved caviar and that (possibly too old) cold pizza, and a glass of red wine. It would keep you up all night, both satisfied and unsettled.

If Crash Course were a fiber art, it would be crocheting, which unlike knitting requires that you be dexterous with only one hand, which unlike weaving can go with you everywhere, which has a reputation for being “homey” but is capable of surprising you, which is so easy to undo and redo—all those slip-knots—that the impediment to completion is a yearning for perfection, which leaves the yarn, when stitches has been pulled apart, no longer straight, pristine, but reshaped into a wobble, a line with small curves, the memory of those pulled stitches made visible.

If Crash Course were a party, it would involve board games.

If Crash Course were a stripper, she would fall off the pole without a bit of grace.

If Crash Course were a nun, she’d be both conflicted and committed. In that order.

If Crash Course were your brother’s best friend Josh, he would be the guy you always liked more than you let on, but not in that way. You just kind of thought he was cool. You were glad when he married a nice woman. And when your brother grows into an alcoholic who can’t keep a job, who keeps borrowing money from you and pretending he’ll pay it back, Josh is the one you end up asking out to lunch, not because you want him to take any practical steps, but because he’s a good guy, and he’s the only person you know, since your parents are gone, who remembers when your brother was that charismatic kid with the messy brown hair and the winning smile.


Robin Black’s story collection, If I loved you, I would tell you this, was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Story Prize, and named a Best Book of 2010 by numerous publications. Her novel, Life Drawing, was longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the Impac Dublin Literature Prize, and the Folio Prize. Her newest book is Crash Course: Essays From Where Writing And Life Collide. Find out more at robinblack.net”, or follow her on Twitter at @robin_black.

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