Benefits of Breathing by Christopher MeeksAvailable in: Print & ebook, 238 Pages
Publisher: White Whisker Books (May, 2020)
Category: Short Stories, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Relationships
ISBN: Coming Soon | Tour Date: May-June, 2020
In The Benefits of Breathing, his third collection of short stories, Christopher Meeks dives again into the human condition, particularly within relationships. As one reader wrote on Amazon, “Some authors need a lot of words to describe their worlds and their people. Christopher Meeks says a lot with a little.” The Los Angeles Times has called his stories “poignant and wise.”
In this volume, “A Dog Story” captures a crumbled marriage and the love of a dog named Scrappy. “Joni Paredes” shows the birth of a new relationship that starts at a daughter’s wedding.
“Nestor by the Numbers” follows one man’s often hilarious online dating experiences after he finally accepts his wife is gone. “Jerry with a Twist” shows an actor on an audition while his pregnant girlfriend helps him through a crisis. These and seven other stories will bring you into the special world of Meeks.As reviewer Grady Harp notes, if you’ve previously “discovered the idiosyncrasies of Meeks’ writing style and content, rest assured that this new collection not only will not disappoint, but also it will provide further proof that we have a superior writer of the genre in our presence.” Try this book. You’ll have a lot to think about.
Inside the Mind of an Author; How do you determine what your next project will be? (by Christopher Meeks)
Lu Ann suggested a few guest posts, and I chose the topic in the title simply because (a) the topic scares me, (b) I have no idea right up front, and c) I’ve never seen this topic before, unlike so many questions I get as a writer. How did I come up with ideas in the past?
Determining a project has never been a deeply conscious effort. I often start as I’m doing here, with a topic, a vague idea, and I just start typing. For example, a play I wrote that’s never been produced takes place on a New York City garbage barge that goes to the South to dump its load. When people protest in the Southern port town, another Southern city has agreed to take it. The barge and its small crew hit the high seas again, only to be turned away. They keep getting turned away throughout the Caribbean. The barge becomes lost in the Bermuda Triangle after picking up people from a sinking ship. It’s funny in a Samuel Beckettish way, and the production costs, I figured, are minimal. You just need a stage and garbage.
What many people don’t understand is that writing is thinking. I didn’t know if writing that play would interest me at first, so I simply wrote some. It became so interesting that I ended up taking a UCLA class in existentialism after a few drafts. Beckett wrote after World War II, when existentialism was big. My play would have to be considered post-existential. I took this class to really understand what I was writing. I was obsessed.
It occurs to me that obsession is a good thing for a writer to have. After all, any writing project will take months if not years. You better be curious and unstoppable.
So, how did I get the topic of a garbage barge in the first place, and how did I choose to even try writing about it? I’d heard a news story about a real garbage barge being turned away. I had an odd thought: how weird would it be to captain a barge of garbage that no one accepts? Who wants garbage in the first place?
Then, as if the universe was directing me, I heard a song on an alternative radio station. The song had a chorus, “I’m a garbage barge captain, and I have nowhere to go.” Ah! Let me pursue that. My protagonist would be a garbage barge captain lost on the seas as we are all lost in our world. Aren’t people feeling particularly lost now that they have to stay at home? Maybe I was ahead of my time.
I use that play to illustrate that a) what playwrights and fiction writers do is weird, b) almost any job is weird when you think of it; how would you like to be Anthony Fauci working for a president suggesting an intravenous shot of a disinfectant? And c) follow your bliss. Your curiosity may take you places. Add “as long as you don’t have bleach in your body.”
Another example is in my most recent short story collection, The Benefits of Breathing. I needed at least one more story. What should I write about? Nothing sprang to mind because my 91-year-old father had just put himself in hospice care at home, even though he had nothing killing him per se. However, old age had taken away his concentration to read, he didn’t have the stamina anymore for golf, and his hearing was declining. Like the Indian chief in the old film Little Big Man, my dad decided it was his day to die. However, it took him nine months.
Before he passed, though, his state of mind captured me. If he was awake, he was happy to talk, intrigued by his decline. “I stood up today, and my legs just gave out. I hit my head on the floor,” he told me on the phone. Rather than run from his state, he talked about it. Rather than not think about it, I wrote a story imagining his death.
My father was sleeping about twenty-two hours a day then, and he told me he was dreaming not of important people in his life, but of people he barely knew, people from way back, such as a client he had golfed with once or an old elementary school teacher he didn’t particularly like. That’s where my story started. I wasn’t sure it would become a full story. In the end, it’s the title story, The Benefits of Breathing.
What might my next project be? I don’t know. I’m waiting for something to strike a chord. I wrote about the coronavirus here, but soon such stories will appear by the battalion, of people battling boredom while feeling frightened. Maybe I could approach the topic in a metaphorical way. All I know is my next project will be a) fictional and b) it’ll be about something.
About Christopher Meeks
Award winning author, Christopher Meeks has five novels and two collections of short fiction published. The Benefits of Breathing’ is his third collection of short stories.
He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections “Months and Seasons” and “The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea.” Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, “Who Lives?” had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize.
Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design. He lives in Pasadena, CA.
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