Leaning into Absurdity:
My Midwest Book Tour for I Animal
By Kevin Del Principe
Writing a book seemed absurd; in part, because I had never written one before. It also felt important. So I wrote a book called I Animal about an LA screenwriter from just outside Buffalo, New York who is forced to return home to take care of his ailing mom (He also fears he’s turning into an animal – therefore, the title). Going on a book tour with six stops in ten days throughout the Midwest also felt absurd. Part of the absurdity was that the book was published by a really great small press that could mostly offer encouragement (and books!) for tour support. Another aspect was that my fiancé and I had just finished shooting our first feature film together, Up on the Glass, and we were pretty burned-out by the point of… hey, let’s make a book tour happen and hit the road! We had recently shot the entire film in twelve days in Michigan.
Upon our return where we live in Los Angeles, I immediately delved deep into working with the publisher to finish the book. When the book finally came out, I knew I’d have a short window to go on a tour before my teaching responsibilities picked up again at Loyola Marymount University. Furthermore, to make it possible for her to come, my fiancé was going to have to work remotely at her day-job while we traversed the Midwest. Despite the absurdities, it also felt important to make the tour happen. I really wanted to share the book in the places I grew up – among the sturdy, honest sorts of characters that helped make me who I am (for better or worse, depending on who you talk to).
So, my fiancé and I hopped on a red-eye from Los Angeles to Chicago. While she worked in the hotel room, I slept. We secured some vegetarian food nearby for lunch. The hotel had a mini-bar with a reasonably-priced bottle of red wine. I dipped into that as she went back to work… admittedly, the accessibility made the wine hard to resist. Plus, it took some of the edge off. I read at Roscoe Books that evening. The next morning, we picked up a rental car and sped off to Louisville. I’ll spare you all the details, but in the next few days my fiancé worked by day, and we traveled as we could. I read at Nanny Goat Books in Louisville, and then at The Sparrows Coffee & Tea & Newsstand in Grand Rapids. Next up was a signing at Horizon Books in Traverse City; then a reading at Stair District Library in Morenci, Michigan (right next to the Ohio border).
We then stopped to see my brother on the farm where he lives in Ontario, Canada. (I hadn’t seen him in several years and I’d never made it to the farm before). He had a rabbit and ducks and cats and a malamute among other various creatures and vegetables. My brother and I caught up the best we could in the twenty-four hours we had. Finally, my fiancé and I made it to my hometown of West Seneca, just outside of Buffalo. I set I Animal in a fictionalized version of my childhood neighborhood. It was nerve-wracking reading to family, friends, and even an old neighbor at Revolution Art Gallery in Buffalo. It was also very satisfying.
Satisfying is the key word about our mini-tour through the Midwest. People at the readings were present, received the story, and asked great questions. At one reading, in response to a section in the book, a woman asked me if people in Los Angeles really only drank bottled water. Honesty, it led to great conversation about class and culture and being a person. Sometimes it’s easy to get jaded about being a human being. Too much news watching may be the cause. It’s harder to be cynical, though, when actually being truly present with people.
In one small town, I hunted down a coffee at McDonald’s – the only place around that served fresh hot coffee to-go, or so I was told by the nice young woman working at Subway. I hadn’t been to a McDonald’s in years. The parking lot was jammed full, yet a man – who I assume was holding a business meeting adjacent his car – guided me into an available spot. Inside, the place was so chaotic I started to feel panicky. A customer nearby complained too loudly that the place was a mess. Indeed, there were napkins and fries strewn about the floor. But a few moments later I watched an employee dutifully clean the place. Book tours and McDonald’s and America need to be experienced. Experience complicates assumptions. It also connects people. My Midwest book tour reminded me of that.
BIO: KEVIN DEL PRINCIPE is a writer and film director. I Animal, via Tumbleweed Books, is Del Principe’s debut novel. The son of a snowplow truck driver and a school nurse, Kevin grew up outside of Buffalo, New York. He now lives in Los Angeles and teaches screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University. Kevin directed and co-wrote the feature film, UP ON THE GLASS. He earned his MFA in Writing for Screen and Television at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Q: When trusting your baser instincts threatens to stirp your hold on sanity, who do you turn to?
A: A turkey in the woods.
A primal force awakens in Tommy after learning of his mother’s impending death. She’s all right, not in the hospital on life support or anything, but her days are numbered. Returning to Buffalo made all kinds of sense, but Tommy’s efforts to “take care of” his mom faceplant when she refuses to let him help around the house. He teeters on the cusp of crashing into old patterns – but this canine has learned a few tricks since leaving for LA.
Tommy engages his writer-brain in passing the time concocting elaborate plots, second-guessing his cousin’s livelihood – certain something more nefarious is brewing. And yet, who is he to point fingers when waking up covered in dirt with no memory becomes a regular “thing”.
Amidst a neurotic, potentially psychotic, break Tommy is forced to face a past ready to plow right into his future.
Reminiscent of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, I Animal immerses you in the head space of a Xennial neuroses.