Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Confessional: The 1,247th Most Famous Writer in Park Slope

Confessional: The 1,247th Most Famous Writer in Park Slope

Jay Firestone

I live in Park Slope, which probably makes me the 1,247th most famous writer within a sixteen-block radius. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are better known writers in my building and there are only six apartments!

But there’s no one that even comes close to the prestige, the critical acclaim, the cultural gravity of Jonathan Bobbins. I remember the first time I read The Lilac in undergrad. It was in Contemporary American Fiction with Dr. Greenstein. Greenstein said, “Bobbins is to Brooklyn what Roth is to the American Jew.” Bobbins’s characters jump off the page—you live with them, struggle with them, laugh with them—not within those pages; it goes far deeper than that. They become your friends. And he’s funny—fall on the floor hilarious—and his descriptions are vivid, gorgeous. I love the minimalism of Denis Johnson and George Saunders, Carver(!), but god, sometimes I just want a painting made of words. And Bobbins’s canvas runs far and wide. When the dust and rubble of this era settles, there will be one writer that emerges, and that will be Bobbins.

He lives around 3rd Street and PPW, I think, and I live on 4th and 7th, so you would expect us to run into each other. Bang carts at the Food Coop (he still goes I hear! He’s a person like us!)? Pick up our dry cleaning at the same time? Running in Prospect Park? Nothing. I’ve never seen him. And I’ve read everything he’s written. People say he’s a recluse—I mean, he’s never even done an interview—but I’ve heard from people in town he’s very gracious with his time and will talk to anybody (I’ve also heard he can be cranky—just don’t comment on his suspenders). So why haven’t I seen him?

Now that Construction is a part of my life, I can do this. And we even have a great angle. “Hey, JB! You want the inside scoop on Vassolinky? You want to stay on his estate? We got the hook up!” And I’m excited to do this with Masha. A joint interview! We’re both chatty in our own unique way, I just know Bobbins would be charmed by us. We would have no pretense. We would come to him wanting to learn. We’ll be sincere to him, just like his novels are to us.

I wrote an email to his agent, Wendy Weinberg, the other day. So far it’s been fifty-three hours with no response. If that doesn’t work, we’ll write his publicist, his publisher, even the admin secretary at Wesley University, where he was the writer-in-residence. But you know, I bet you the best way would be just to walk up to him on the street. Just approach him like a human being. The whole point behind literature and art is to connect with people. Maybe he would be uncomfortable, or nervous at first, maybe he would notice my copy of Everything is Over and run the other way? But, eventually, he would see that it would all be about art. It would be about humanity. And why wouldn’t he want to do it? We’d include links on our site where readers could buy his book. It’s like free publicity.