Kyle Beachy | The Slide (Dial Press)

book-prof_the-slide.jpgThe book holds a special place in PLAYBACK:stl’s heart, as Beachy was one of our contributing writers back during his stint at mom and dad’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newcomer Kyle Beachy’s The Slide is the tale of a college graduate who returns home to St. Louis to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. According to the author, the tale was loosely based on his own return home—to St. Louis, natch—and the self-discovery he made during one eventful summer.

The book holds a special place in PLAYBACK:stl’s heart, as Beachy was one of our contributing writers back during his stint at mom and dad’s. To extrapolate, I edited Beachy before Vintage did. That makes me proud.

I e-chatted with the author recently about the events in the book; I figured that would be far more interesting and informative than any recap I could throw your way. Therefore, dear readers, I present Mr. Kyle Beachy…

 

The Slide is the tale of a college graduate who returns home to St. Louis to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. How much did you draw upon your own experience for this novel?

During my own first summer after college I had a fair number of questions about what to do next, which I believe is fairly common. This was also the period when I first began writing fiction, including the first seeds of what would eventually become The Slide. So, in that sense, creating Potter Mays meant drawing on my own feelings about the future, which I found inextricably linked to feelings about the past. Periods of transition have long been the source of our human dramas, so it seems natural that my own personal transition fed into the drama of this novel.

I didn’t quite understand Porter’s continued relationship with Stuart, considering how poorly his "friend" treated him. Why do you feel Porter continued to hang around with Stuart and, by extension, his asshole friend Edsel?

This is what is so interesting to me about friendships, especially among people in the early stages of adulthood. Because one result of becoming an "adult" is a new level of evaluation of things that we might earlier have taken for granted. And so the early twenties are a time when a lot of people find friendships ending, or at least changing in significant ways. But this also gets back to the issue of the past, and the way friendships, like all relationships romantic or familial, grow over time, stacking new experiences and feelings upon the structural foundation of those that have been collected over years. Thus, like "love", each of our notions about what constitutes "friendship" will be unique. So, while you might say it’s surprising that Potter continues to rely on Stuart, I’d respond that he has no choice, or that of course he does, because for Potter, this is what friendship means.

Stuart’s pool house appears to be a magical/cursed place where anything can happen — and often does. Can you run through the litany of people Potter encounters here and what you feel they contribute to his story?

First is Stuart, for whom I envision the pool and pool house serving as the equivalent of the mountain on top of which the sage sits in lotus, dropping knowledge to those that successfully make the ascent. Then there are the social scenes when the pool is populated by various young adults who have followed the assorted paths Potter sees as options for himself. And of course Edsel Denk and his personal take on manhood and success, his own model of behavior. These are the "natural" visitors. Then there are the other visitors, like Marianne and Stuart’s step-mother, whose presence throw the natural balance of the place off somehow.

How does the dissolution of Potter’s parents’ marriage help him to understand his breakup with Audrey?

One thing I tried to do in The Slide was trace connections between each of the book’s relationships, so that Potter’s parents’ marriage is linked to not only his own romantic struggles, but also Ian’s parents, Stuart’s parents, Stuart and Marianne, and so on. Like a lot of self-aware young people in the 21st century, Potter realizes just how heavily his personal concept of love is based on the models he’s had in his life, whether at home with his parents, or in sitcoms, books, advertisements, and elsewhere. And this is the core of his challenge: to reconcile this popular, shared definition of love that, like any good subject, he has internalized over twenty two years with a realer, truer, and private definition he wants to establish on his own.

The book is full of charming little observations of St. Louis life, such as: "Couples in St. Louis usually have dogs and are usually engaged." (p. 106) St. Louis is very obviously an additional character in the novel. As a character, what do you feel is St. Louis‘s primary strength? Weakness?

One of the novel’s prevailing themes is the way history reaches out and plays its fingers across the present. St. Louis is a city steeped in a unique and fascinating history. We have the Arch and the Museum of Expansion below, the old cobblestones down on the Landing, the wide array of various immigrant groups finding a new home here, Budweiser, the list goes on. These are our institutions. At the same time, it’s constantly shifting as a city, from the Westward migration into St. Charles and the resulting decay of downtown, and now the resurgence of the city as a sustainable urban residential center. Much of this change requires battling against long-held perceptions of the city and how it should be. In this sense, St. Louis has no weaknesses as a character. The Slide is a story that couldn’t possibly take place anywhere but St. Louis.

 

Kyle Beachy will be reading from and answering questions about The Slide February 18 in Chicago (his current home) at the Barnes & Noble Depaul Center, downtown Chicago, at 5:30 p.m.

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