With Freight, Mel Bosworth gives us a narrator who is simultaneously distant and accessible as he reflects on things he’s lost, gained and cherished over the decades. There are few novels that successfully offer a series of vignettes that thread together to create a seamless and compelling narrative, but Freight does just that. Unlike a “traditional” plot-driven work of fiction, Freight is a conversation — a confession, of sorts — which can be read from front to back or in segments. Here’s what Mel had to say about it.
Writers are constantly faced with the inevitable question: ‘What’s your book about?’ Freight is one of those books that’s difficult to reduce to a short explanation. Someone asked me what it was about and I was all: “It’s about this guy … and, um … well … It’s seriously good. You should read it.” How do you describe it, when asked?
I tell people it’s all about memory and experience, how we store things and carry them around. I also tell people it’s about a guy trying to understand what’s important to him. And I say it’s funny. And sad.
The choose-your-own-adventure format of the book is compelling and allows for different readings. How did this narrative approach develop?
It was inspired by the Internet. Hyperlinks. The ability to jump from point to point to point. I thought it would be interesting (and/or entertaining) to be able to jump around in a text to corresponding thoughts, actions. People can still read it straight through, of course, but if they’re feeling adventurous they can bookmark a page with their thumb and buzz around. I should also mention that the eBook is built with actual hyperlinks, so readers can ‘click’ around. The world is changing, Erin. CHANGING! And as writers we must reflect that change some way, somehow. I chose to do it by making a narrative construct conducive to mental time travel. I hear the kids are into that these days.
If you could only share one scene from Freight with the world, which would it be?
The scene that happens between the front cover and the back cover. It’s a really good scene. Lots of movement.
Freight puts it all on the table. We get an inside view of the unnamed narrator’s approach to life — and readers will inevitably associate the passages with you, the writer, for better or worse. What was it like to release such an introspective novel to a wide audience?
The entire process, from the initial idea for the book to its writing and editing to its release and finally to now, has been great. When people ask me how much of the book comes from my own life I always say, well, all of it, in a way. And maybe this is a cagey way to answer, but I think everything we make is a kind of distillation of everything we’ve ever known or experienced. So in a sense even the most fantastical writing is ripe with personal truths that have come through the filter of our physical body to the monitor or the page.
One of the great things about Freight is that it feels like a friend. I read it while traveling and felt like I had some secret philosophical buddy in my backpack. Which books do you consider “friends”?
I consider any book that has a soothing narrative voice to be my “friend,” and I’m a real fan of writers who disarm with charm. Ben Tanzer and Scott McClanahan are two such writers, as well as David Sedaris and Christopher McDougall whose non-fiction book Born to Run was definitely on my “book as friend” list recently. It’s always so refreshing to read something that really sits in your ear and in your heart, you know?