Book reviews are supposed to be objective, but are they ever, really? I read a book and tell you how it works, either in the vacuum of its own terms, or in conversation with other, similar books, and my vocabulary or my confidence or your willingness to believe will determine whether my opinion on the matter is worthwhile. But then I’m a human being with biases and blind spots, or maybe I was given the book with the understanding that a good review would net me something, personally, or maybe the person who wrote the book is my mortal enemy, or maybe the person who wrote the book is a good friend of mine—which is the case with this book, Edward Teller Dreams of Barbecuing People, by Jim Nelson.


On “The Realist”

I started writing this story before my wife got pregnant; our daughter is three-and-a-half. All along its just been sitting there, moldering in a folder, a failed story.

At the time I started it, we were living in a little two bedroom duplex with brown, stained carpeting and a revolving cast of loud, young neighbors. It was a transition space for us, the first place we lived after moving to Chico from the Bay Area (well, the second, if you count a couple of months living in a trailer in my aunt’s yard). I’d moved to San Francisco to become a writer, and I did (or I’d always been and what I became was just more honestly myself), but when I returned I was something more complicated: a husband, yeah, and the glimmer of a family was in our eyes, sure, and I had debts, of course, but for the first time in a decade I had a lack of direction. It was a strange time. I was rediscovering myself. I was about to turn thirty. Things had not gone according to plan, of course. Somewhere in there–with an effort of will that seems astounding to me today–I started getting up at four, five in the morning and writing before going to work. I started writing “The Realist.”

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