Echoing Jonathan Swift, Preston L. Allen breaks new ground with a novel that is part allegory, part fantasy. A riveting, poignant satire of societal ills, with an added dose of fantasy, Every Boy Should Have a Man (Akashic Books, 2013) takes place in a post-human world where creatures called oafs keep humanlike “mans” as beloved pets.
Preston will be signing his novel at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, in Coral Gables, on Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, from 8 PM to 10 PM.
My interview with the author follows.
MJ: Where did the idea for Every Boy Should Have a Man come from?
PRESTON: I was in the Everglades up to my knees in swamp water for a class I was taking. I was wary of the alligators that were lurking unseen and unfriendly nearby, of the buzzing insects and creepy crawly things slithering past, of the swarms of birds singing above my head when the thought hit me—man is an animal too. Now this was not an original idea, nor was it the first time it had come to me, but never so forcefully and with such meaning. The alligator is at the top of the food chain in this bioregion, and though I fear him, my species occupies the link above his. We can hunt him, cage him, make of him an amusement in our zoos, or even a somewhat exotic meal. I remembered my childhood in Boston when I brought tadpoles home in my pockets, pulled them out, and handed them dead to my mother. I was not cruel. I did not mean to kill them. I was simply a child—but a child who occupied the link above the tadpoles. I did not mean to hurt them, but again I was a child of that higher order species. But who is above us? Who would make us pets? Who would make of us a meal? What would be the species of the child who brought us home dead in his pockets to give to his mother? What would be the species of the child who brought us home trailing after him on a makeshift leash to his mother and heard her exclaim, “Take that stinky thing out of this house right now!” What child with tears already welling in his eyes would plead to his mother, “But, Mom, every boy should have a man?”
MJ: Your books are usually full of humor. Can we expect humor from Every Boy Should Have a Man?
PRESTON: Yes. Oh, my, yes. The book is very funny, but deep.
MJ: Speaking of humor, tell us about where your appreciation for humor comes from. I’m curious about your models.
PRESTON: I have learned that there are many roads to the land of funny. But most of them start with this piece of sage advice: Don’t try too hard to be funny. People are funny enough already. Simply depict people doing people things in the way people do them and you will have humor. Look carefully at what stand up comics do. I learned this lesson way back in my Freshman Composition class from a textbook by Ken Macrorie, Telling Writing. Study his section on fabulous realities. But I already had a pretty good instinct for funny growing up in a home with five boys. We were funny. Funny as hell.
“Allen’s concise book’s power lies within its understated irony, never more heavy-handed than a preacher’s admonition that ‘a world without mans is a world without us all.’ The plain narrative and relationship between boy and female man, rounded out with humor and occasional (sometimes literal) bite, promises to be a sleeper favorite among speculative audiences.”
Preston L. Allen is a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship and a winner of the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his collection of stories CHURCHBOYS AND OTHER SINNERS. His work has been anthologized in Las Vegas Noir, Miami Noir, Brown Sugar, and numerous literary journals, including the Seattle Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Black Renaissance Noire. His novels ALL OR NOTHING and JESUS BOY have received rave reviews from the New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, Kirkus, Library Journal, Feminist Review, AALBC, and Florida Book Review.
He teaches writing in South Florida. You can find him on Facebook or on his blog,PrestonLaLLen.blogspot.com