THE KEY LIME PIE-EFFECT
by Matteo Curtoni
“I haven’t had a key lime pie in ten years.”
“When ya had it, did ya like it?”
“I was a completely different person ten years ago. Let’s give key lime a day in court. And a large glass of milk.”
– from Natural Born Killers
I know – being worried about readers’ reception is essentially silly. And I feel it’s even sillier when you’re not exactly worried and you’re still hard at work on a novel that’s coming out in January 2009. But these days I’m wondering about some of that stuff. Just wondering. About the difference between my earlier stories and the stories I’m writing now.
It’s been a quite long time since the last time I wrote a novel I really cared about and I really wanted to see published. It was called Una notte a mangiare smania e febbre, it came out in 2000 and (for Italian standards, mind you) sold reasonably well. It was a story about real-life vampires – about a group of pretty fucked-up twenty-something guys and girls doin’ an unidentified drug called “the fever” and behaving just like vampires. Some of them in a relatively conscious way, some of them not knowing anymore that they’re still regular flesh and blood, that they’re human and not vampires. Killing a lot of innocent people, having sex like there was no tomorrow, killing each other. A lovely no-future tale about sex and death, more or less. But as dark and nihilist as it was, I know it didn’t lack a sort of cupio dissolvi-kind of poetry. And readers loved that poetry, probably more that they loved the blood-and-sex-and-violence side of the novel – more than I anticipated.
Let’s put it this way: if it was a song if would have sounded like a Dead Can Dance song.
Or a Cure song.
None of it was planned, I just felt that way when I wrote it. People still love that book and keep asking me where they can find a copy even though it’s long been put out of print by my former pub-lisher. Of course my ego & I just love the fact that they still love it, that new readers keep feeling drawn to it and keep looking for it.
But that story was born eight years ago, and I was a completely different person then.
I’ve written a lot during the following eight years, but a lot of stuff that I didn’t feel like sharing with a single living soul. I had my reasons, most of them way too much tortuous and/or painful to be discussed here. I’ve translated a some great novels (and a bunch of mediocre or plain shitty ones as well but let’s not get into that now), I’ve published a couple of side-projects under pen names and with one of them I had a damn lot of fun (I blogged for a year and a half impersonating one of my pen names and it all was just plain crazy) but apart from my nonfiction true crime pieces and some short fiction, I didn’t publish anything using my real name. During my “publishing hermitage”, needless to say that, things changed for me and my stories. Lots of things. Influences changed, I changed. And, inevitably, stories evolved. But the readers that are still pretty much in love with Smania e febbre have no idea about it all, about how much and in what terms my writing evolved.
That’s what I’m wondering about these days. Because South of Hell – my new novel about a mod-ern-day Sawney Bean Clan – is very, very, very different from Smania e febbre. It’s harsh and ter-ribly angry, and any dark kind of poetry is nowhere in sight, as far as I can tell. South of Hell is cyn-ical and dirty and pissed off at society in a way that eight years ago I couldn’t possibly anticipate I would ever feel someday.
And (let’s stick to music) this novel doesn’t sound at all like Dead Can Dance or the Cure.
It sounds like the Cramps.
Or like Johnny Cash on acid.
So here here comes the key lime pie-effect.
I’m not really worried because this is the book I’m in love with now, the one I feel like writing and I feel the urge to write. But I wonder about the readers who might expect to find more of the same stuff that they found in Smania e febbre. Because they won’t find any of it – except a brief cameo of a couple of characters that survived the events of the other novel and they’ll both be very different from what they were then.
Key lime pie tasted very different eight years ago for me.
Well, I guess we’ll just find out how much different it will taste for readers as well.
And writing’s the only way to find out.
In the meanwhile, let’s have a glass of milk.
A large one.