IF MY BOOK: The All-Night Sun, Diane Zinna

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 Diane Zinna writes about The All-Night Sun, her debut novel out now from Random House.

If The All-Night Sun were a wake, it is my father’s, and I’m fifteen, there with teenage friends. We break away and go down into the funeral home’s basement and sneak into the showroom where they sell the caskets lined with satin that my family couldn’t afford. My friends put their feet up on the flower-print sofas, open the drawers to end tables, find straight pins, and make jokes—“This is what they use to pin the eyes closed!”

If The All-Night Sun were a voice, it is the Long Island accent that my friends shed first because they could afford out-of-state schools.

If The All-Night Sun were a spray of coffin flowers, it’s chrysanthemums because they are the least expensive. They turn brown around their edges the fastest, usually before the service is over.

If The All-Night Sun were a meal shared with family, it’s a cold cuts platter handed to you during break time at the funeral home that you carry home on your lap in the passenger’s seat, the Saran wrap sticking to your tights. You put it on your dining room table and your aunt and cousins gather around to criticize it and the fact that the coffin was closed. They say, “Why couldn’t you even put his picture on top of the casket?” They take all the seats around the table and you and your mother eat ham rolls off of paper plates in the living room with the TV set turned off.

It’s a question—what if you dove into the water and came out blue? What if you made love in the grass and turned green? Sat out in the all-night sun and turned orange, just stayed that way? I have stayed that way.

If The All-Night Sun were a taste, it’s salt licorice in long ropes; chocolate bars mixing with the taste of lake water after a swim; sticky marshmallow candy, making you sticky all over.

If The All-Night Sun were a crematory, it’s the kind that sends home ashes in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box, a box to be discarded in a hotel lobby trash can at a popular family resort. (I’ve stopped telling people which one. They are always shocked.) 

If The All-Night Sun were the beach, it’s that time you stopped for water pills at the supermarket before meeting friends.

If The All-Night Sun were a country, it’s not this one. If it were a school, it’s the kind that closes for plagues. If it were a bird, it’s one that sits so long on the branch outside your kitchen window it makes you Google, “Bird Omens.”

If The All-Night Sun were an urn, it’s brass and it’s sealed, like a metal football, dropped in a lake. You can’t remember if it was inscribed with your last name or had those peely sticker letters that would have washed away by now, with all the tides and whatnot.

If The All-Night Sun was a cacophony, it would be the crowd of people shouting that something has rolled up on the sand that looks like a metal football.

If The All-Night Sun were a closet, it’s a mouth.

If The All-Night Sun were a monster—it’s that luminous horse that appears beside lakes. Children cannot resist jumping on its back, and it stretches its back longer and longer to accommodate more and more children, and then it jumps into the water and dives to the bottom.  

If it were a crown of flowers, it’s one long drifting on the sea, discovered on another shore, maybe by you.

If The All-Night Sun were a meal eaten alone, it’s at Subway in black clothes, when the sandwich artist rolls their eyes at me, and I say that I just came from a funeral to make them feel sorry. I don’t tell them the funeral was ten years ago.

If The All-Night Sun were a psychic’s reading, it’s one that shrugs, “They’re there, but they are doing their own thing in separate rooms and not really wanting to talk right now.”

If The All-Night Sun were a dress, it’s black with white fabric roses around the neckline that you can twist when you are nervous. The flowers self-replicate and grow larger when your voice trembles. Soon you are only a décolletage of white fabric roses that grows up around your head and conceals your face.

If The All-Night Sun were a chair, it’s broken. If it were a moon, it’s a sliver, and you’re looking for its other parts on the grass. If it’s a pond, there is a whale inside it, singing its mournful song and never hearing any echo-y answer back.

If The All-Night Sun were a friendship, it’s the kind that sits in a photo under a magnetic frame on your fridge and surprises them years later when they come to visit.

If The All-Night Sun were a gift, it would be received with, “You don’t just give someone a rabbit! You need to check first to ask if they want a rabbit!” Then it would be possibly rehomed/possibly adored, best pet forever.

If The All-Night Sun were a thread, it’s a lifeline. If it’s an article of clothing, it’s a life vest. It’s no day cruise out of Tampa, I can tell you that.

If The All-Night Sun were a piece of pottery, it’s broken, repaired with gold. There are Japanese artists that mend broken pottery with gold as a way of showing that a thing—or a person—is made more precious by the ways it has been hurt. Here is a vial of very fine, gold glitter. I like to throw this shit on everything. 

Diane Zinna is originally from Long Island, New York. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and went on to teach creative writing for ten years. She formerly worked at AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created their Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, helping to match more than six hundred writers over twelve seasons. Diane lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. The All-Night Sun is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter at @DianeZinna.

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