What do you get when you combine not one, not two, but three Milwaukee institutions for a night of highbrow (and probably some lowbrow) conversation? You get Milwaukee writer Todd Lazarski speaking about his latest novel, Spend It All, with Milwaukee writer Justin Kern for Milwaukee bookstore Boswell Book Company. Fun! (Both Lazarski and Kern have written for Milwaukee Record.)
What’s Spend It All about? Described as an “after-hours vomitorium of fandom and frustration” and a “last-call fever dream of ideas and appetites,” it’s, well, we’ll let the official synopsis do the work…
“Had I mentioned the real intention behind my return home—eating myself to death—I’m pretty sure my grandmother’s reaction may have been more subdued…”
So begins Teddy Rawski’s journey to his hometown of Buffalo, and to the end of the night. An obsessive eater, itinerant dreamer, half-hopeful novelist, reluctant food journalist, and a pathological football lunatic, Teddy ponders nascent adulthood’s quandaries on the road, over too many drinks and a beleaguered stomach. Set against the big-shouldered indifference of his present Chicago, between scattered half-stabs at professionalism, an unamused editor, unpolished manuscript, and a sputtering late-20’s romance, Teddy wonders on a last ditch trip. For an assignment, maybe. To end it all, possibly. But also for a check on the tattered family he left behind, and the broken Buffalo Bills responsible for all life failures.
Real talk: After sleeping on the book for a few weeks, I’m now about halfway through it. It’s excellent. This recent passage really struck a nerve, and it serves as a fine example of Lazarski’s wonderfully winding prose:
Food rancor moves me, pummels sensitivity. Here is my place in the world, and what am I doing with a pen and paper? How can one criticize objectively, subjectively, whichever is which […] who they really are? Why can’t we just appreciate ourselves and the flaws, the fatness? This is an article that maybe shouldn’t be written, nobody deserving of knowing. To think of dickheads from Iowa—and why is it that know-nothing Iowans are always ruining matters?—or even my neighbors in Chicago, who think they know something about encased meats, them reading my lofty flights and wanting a try, to get a piece, to have another notch on the belt, why do they get to know, to see me fat-gutted, naked, my history laid bare?
Like I said, that shit strikes a nerve. Tune in tonight! Go Bills!