On November 9th 2017, a small, obscure red paperback called Tinderbox was published. It was about a woman who tried to rewrite Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 from the perspective of the female characters and failed.
It was also about a woman who worked as a bookseller for doomed chain bookstore Borders (RIP) and how she and all the UK staff of the Borders chain (RIP) were made redundant on Christmas Eve. Tinderbox had something about her first marriage in it too, and many readers wanted to know more about what had happened to her first husband and why they split up, even though this was only a sub-plot and not even very important.
At Radio New Zealand, Kim Hill said Tinderbox was “interesting”, but also chided the author for the abysmal amount of spelling errors in the book and asked, in exasperation, if the small, obscure UK publisher of Tinderbox employed proof-readers or not. Kim Hill then asked the author live on air, “Why did you and your husband split up?”
I know all this because I am the author of Tinderbox (gasp!) and . . . drumroll . . . of a new book titled Things I Learned at Art School.
My new book is deeply personal. There is talk of it as a “memoir” but it is also an essay collection, and it contains some mermaids, but not as many as I wanted there to be. Damn it. I was trying to write a book about women all over the world who work as mermaids (many of whom were inspired by Ron Howard’s 1984 box office classic Splash). But when I showed my agent and my publisher my first draft, they both said it was terrible, but that they liked all the bits about me. That’s how I went from writing a book about mermaids to writing a memoir about me, Megan Dunn. True story.
THINGS I LEARNED AT ART SCHOOL:
- Contains MORE SEX than Tinderbox*
LESSFEWER SPELLING ERRORS than Tinderbox.
- Contains only other people’s husbands because I am single between the ages of three and twenty seven, which covers most of this book.
- Contains a stripper who jumps out of a cake, a performance artist wielding live chainsaws, and my mother and her lover as recurring characters, plus loads of references to Alice in Wonderland and arcane popular culture from the 1980s including but not limited to Smurfs, Sweet Valley High, Tony’s Steakhouse (the one that used to be on Lorne Street), as well as some but not enough “sirens.”
- My best friend Yvonne Todd took the photo on the cover. The model is dressed as Alice but is really a marketing student from Hamilton. (This was her first job.)
- I made sure some of the essays are really, really short, so you can read them quickly, without getting freaked out by how many pages you still have to get through before a ‘chapter end.’
- May appeal to readers who like: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Tinderbox, Karl Ove Knausgård (I mean maybe? He is honest.), The Adrian Mole Diaries, Donald Barthelme (you’ll see), other memoirs by women of a certain age and disposition (only a bit more silly), and other obscure essay collections by people writing self reflective yarns for others to read etc., etc.
- It’s about LIFE. Mine. Plus some, but not all, mermaids. In its particularities one hopes it will somehow convey the universal. (Batteries not included.)
*I can’t say the sex was good sex but I was only in my twenties and frequently drunk. I did my best and fumbled through the rest.