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Continued: Andover teacher writes dark comedy on life in the suburbs

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 16, 2013 - 10:56 PM

I once saw a guy power washing his mailbox. He was power washing the mailbox and he had on goggles and a yellow raincoat.

Q: There’s also a lot of scrapbooking references in your book? Any significance to all this scrapbooking the wives are doing?

A: It was pretty trendy a few years back, so it was in my brain. My wife and I did a little bit of that but the furthest we got was [documenting] a trip to Disney World. We got maybe three pages in and it was so much work we stopped. Now the pictures are back in boxes. It seems like a funny and an interesting activity for a lot of suburban people who really get into this as a way to somehow capture their ideal family life. In your books, it’s all pretty stuff. When people show you their scrapbooks, its always presented really well and they have little captions and they have the artwork and everyone is happy and it’s just a perfect world.

That’s what I wanted to capture in my book. What people display is always very happy and perfect, but what if the scrapbook really mirrored what family life was like? You’d see people fighting and you’d see a kid with a bloody nose or screaming. It’s a very ideal presentation of the world. It’s a big lie but it’s a fun kind of lie. It’s a metaphor for the suburbs in a way — presenting that perfect world.

Q: The book is written exclusively from the men’s perspective. Why focus just on the men?

A: I’ve never really read any fiction about domestic guys. Everything you read about men is they’re adventurers or athletes or business guys who are heroic, physically aggressive — all those stereotypes. What about domestic guys — everyday dudes — who also parent and who go through everyday life?

Q: It’s a dark comedy and you do not skirt around sensitive issues. Some of your characters are openly racist and anti-gay. Why include those uncomfortable subjects?

A: Those kinds of topics are typically avoided and if they are discussed then everyone says the appropriate things. I wanted to get inside some of those characters and show what they’re really like and to reveal their inner lives as opposed to their public persona. That’s the main goal. Show what people are like in realty.

Look at reality. Look at the bullying issues going on in the [Anoka-Hennepin] School District. That’s a result of what? That’s a result of homophobia. It’s prevalent in suburbs. I don’t think Anoka County is unique in that, but for some reason it’s become a national story here. Typically, people who don’t conform to the standard suburban expectations are not often treated well. I wanted to show that a little bit without going over the top with it. I didn’t ­create any big spectacles or anything like that.

Q: You moved to the suburbs for your kids — good schools and safety — but do you ever worry that it’s doing more harm than good?

A: No, because I think it’s good for kids to be exposed to everything and talk about it and understand the differences and to know where they live.

The negative side to me is any kind of material comfort, and that’s what the suburbs are about, leads to a little bit of laziness that makes me a little bit afraid. A lot of the characters in this book are materially comfortable and because of that they are intellectually dead. I do fear that for my kids, for all suburban kids. How much entertainment and corporate influence are kids under because of the suburban world? That’s scares me.

Q: Are you a subversive element in the suburbs?

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