IF MY BOOK: What We Build Upon the Ruins, Giano Cromley

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 Giano Cromley writes about What We Build Upon the Ruins, his new story collection published by Tortoise Books.

What We Build Upon the Ruins

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a glass of water, it would be straight from the tap. Unfiltered. No ice. But you were smart enough to let the faucet run for a while so it got good and cold before you gulped it down.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a razor, it would be a straight razor. Slightly ostentatious in its throwback nature, yet still useful and more long-lasting than those tri-blade disposable numbers.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a cliché from a motivational speech, it would be: “It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down; it only matters how many times you get back up.” I don’t care how often I hear that line, it always leaves me a little weepy. And it might as well be the unofficial motto of this book.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a sport, it would be badminton. Not because of the exertion or the rules or even the strategy—mostly just because of the way the shuttlecock’s flight path can be so smooth and predictable, yet confounding and elusive when you try to actually put a racket on it.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a weather phenomenon it would be heat lightning. There’s clearly something going on in the distance, something that’s probably not good, but you can’t hear anything and you’re not sure what that something really is. All you can do is hope that it passes, or at least that there won’t be hell to pay when it does finally come.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a pocketknife, it would be a single-bladed knife. It’s the knife you manage to do everything with, from gutting a fish to whittling a figurine, to screwing in screws. The edge is still sharp, of course, because it’s been run over a whetstone more times than you can count.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were a Greek myth it would be Sisyphus. The people in these stories realize that every morning, the challenge of life is to make sure you’re alive when you go to bed that night. The next morning, you start all over again. Survival is the only task, with the distant, shimmering possibility that you might eventually enjoy the task.

If What We Build Upon the Ruins were featured in an “If My Book” piece, I would have adopted a shorter name—like What We Build or WWBUTR—so that it would seem less tedious when its name gets repeated over and over and over.

Giano Cromley is the author of the novel The Last Good Halloween, which was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award. He is the chair of the Communications Department at Kennedy-King College, and lives on the South Side of Chicago with his wife and two dogs. Find out more at gianocromley.com or follow him on Twitter at @gianoc.