A globetrotting novel about the seductions of and resistance to toxic masculinity.
“Frank knew as well as anyone how stories start and how they end. This fiery mess, or something like it, was bound to happen. He had been expecting it for years.”
Frank Baltimore is a bit of a loser, struggling by as a carpenter and handyman in rural New England when he gets his big break, building a mansion in the executive suburbs of Hartford. One of his workers is a charismatic eighteen-year-old kid from Liverpool, Dmitry, in the US in the summer before university. Dmitry is a charming sociopath, who develops a fascination with his autodidactic philosopher boss, perhaps thinking that, if he could figure out what made Frank tick, he could be less of a pig. Dmitry heads to Asia and makes a neo-imperialist fortune, with a trail of corpses in his wake. When Dmitry’s office building in Taipei explodes in an enormous fireball, Frank heads to Asia, falls in love with Dmitry’s wife, and things go from bad to worse.
1. Which character would you like to be in Born Slippy?
None of them, really! Frank is a version of me if I had lived a very different life, but he is not my finest self! It is a thriller, but a bit comic, which means that people are slightly exaggerated. I think I’d like to be a less exaggerated version of myself.
2. Do you always take a book/erader wherever you go?
Yes. I read on my iPad and occasionally on my phone. I travel a lot and I read a lot (and listen to audio books). I used to travel with twenty pounds of books, I now travel with ten ounces that contains 150 books….
3. Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
I have been a police detective in one friend’s novel and I am about to be a cult leader in another. The bad ones (like Satan in Paradise Lost) always get the best roles, so I suppose the bad one.
4. Do you prefer to read/write fiction or nonfiction?
For reading, I can’t really say. I do love the stuff that is more or less in the middle: Emmanuel Carriere, Rachel Cusk, Olga Tokarczuk, Maggie Nelson—novels that are clearly autobiographical, nonfiction that reads like a novel. I think for writing, fiction wins—it is much easier to get into a pure pleasure groove when I’m in the middle of a novel. But then again, the more the work is narrative, and so feels like fiction (like in my travel books
Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World as well as And the Monkey Learned Nothing), the more fun it is to write.
5. Where can I find you when you are reading?
In bed, on a plane, in restaurants (when I’m traveling alone and not writing in the restaurant), in the bathtub (my favorite, slowly adding more hot water with my foot), in the car (listening), just about anywhere….
6. Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading?
That assumes there are such times…. even exercising, I’m usually listening to books. I stop reading and writing to be with friends, to play the piano, for meals with my wife and friends, and while on the road, to sight-see and talk to people.
7. Can you walk past a bookstore without going inside?
8. What are you most proud of?
9. What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
It’s a thrill. But the main pleasure of being an author is not the finished product, but the process. I think before I published a few books, I assumed the pleasure would be in having the book, of being “an author,” but those are very fleeting pleasures. The real gratification comes in the making.
10. What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Enjoy it! Nobody likes a suffering artist. And to have the opportunity to do work that you feel is worth doing and that brings you to the edge of what it is possible for you to accomplish as a human being—this is a great privilege. Enjoy it!
Thank you, Tom Lutz and Coriolis
About the author
Tom Lutz is a writer of books, articles, and screenplays, the founder of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is now Distinguished Professor at UC Riverside. His books include
American Book Award winner Doing Nothing, New York Times notable books Crying and American Nervousness, 1903, the travel books And the Monkey Learned Nothing and Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World, and coming on January 14, 2020, Born Slippy: A Novel.
He has written for television and film, and appeared in scores of national and international newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and edited collections. He is working with a Los Angeles-based production company on a television show set in
the 1920s, is finishing a third collection of travel pieces, a book on the 1920s (The Modern Surface), and is in the early stages of a book on global conflict along the aridity line.