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 Valerie Nieman writes about To the Bones, her new novel published by West Virginia University Press. You can read an excerpt of the novel published on the Monkeybicycle site here.
If To the Bones were a living creature it would be a platypus, that unlikely amalgamation of parts that is nonetheless a sleek swimmer and efficient predator.
If To the Bones were a snack food, then pepperoni rolls. The little ones that come in bags from the convenience stores, rather than the big ones meant for the dinner bucket or the “loaded” ones with sauce and peppers from Colasessano’s in Bellview. (Still only $5.49!) But maybe it should be Nabs. Lord knows I consumed enough of them working as a reporter.
If To the Bones were a vehicle, it would be a pickup truck. Not one of the glossy suburbanized jobs, but my old farm truck when I lived on Dunkard Mill Run, a Chevy S10, brown with lock-in hubs and roll-down windows, not one thing fancy about it but competent.
If To the Bones were a bird, then it would be a redbird, because your ghosts come back in the shape of cardinals.
If To the Bones were a souvenir from a tourist trap it would be one of those “Roadkill Cafe” signs.
If To the Bones were a theater, it would be a drive-in offering a one price per carload all-night featureama, beginning with a family movie and then working its way through adventure and horror to R-rated by which time everyone’s asleep including the parents in the front seat.
If To the Bones were a movie, it would be a Coen Brothers creation, because they could mesh together all the strange parts.
If To the Bones had a smell, it would be smoke from a fire laid of pine and hickory, and fresh snow.
If To the Bones were a craft item, it would be an afghan knitted by a woman on her porch, advertised for sale with a sign stuck into the ditch bank. It would be granny-square pattern with all those little black-edged squares. Someone taking the scenic route would buy it and take it back to the city to display ironically.
If To the Bones had a voice, it would be an alto.
If To the Bones were a brain-teaser, it would be one of those pictures where you have to unfocus for the 3-D image to pop forth.
If To the Bones were to be included in a rock-and-mineral sample kit, it would be a chunk of conglomerate, all those pretty river-rounded quartz pebbles embedded in a matrix of sandstone. Definitely not gneiss. Not gneiss at all.
A former journalist and farmer in West Virginia, Valerie Nieman is the author of three novels, as well as collections of poetry and short fiction. She has held NEA and state creative writing fellowships. A graduate of West Virginia University, she received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She is now a professor of English at North Carolina AT State University. Find her on Twitter at @valnieman.