What's All This Then?

This site is edited by Coudal Partners, a design, advertising and interactive studio in Chicago, as an ongoing experiment in web publishing, design and commerce. [Next]

What's All This Then?

Thanks for visiting. If browsing around here while at work has had a negative effect on your productivity we're sorry but imagine what it's done to ours. [Hide]

Monday Edition

This is our studio site. Among lots of other things, we run Field Notes Brand,
go there right now and spend lots of money. Thanks.

Coudal Partners

The Voice of America
by Rick DeMarinis

Field-Tested by Steve Almond

at the library in El Paso, Texas

This is all happening when I’m around 23 years old. I’m working at a newspaper in El Paso, Texas, and I’ve been assigned to go interview Rick DeMarinis. Who is Rick DeMarinis? I have no clue. He’s a writer, whatever that is. The only reason I’m going to interview him is because Hollywood has optioned one of his books. He writes books. What a waste of time.

But I figure I should read something he’s written, just in case it comes up. This requires that I go to the El Paso Public Library, down into the basement, where they keep the fiction. There’s a lot of Stephen King down there and a lot of dust. I’ve left myself maybe half an hour to spare. I find his book, The Voice of America, open to a story called “Insulation,” and read the first line:

“I am haunted by lightning.”

There’s something in the line, an almost flamboyant candor when it comes to fear, that makes my heart thump. This is probably because I’m scared all the time and even more scared of admitting it. Whatever the reason, I simply sink into the story, which is about a man who believes he has inherited a genetic disposition for getting struck by lightning, and therefore, spends his life in a state of terror that is something like purgatory.

It’s funny and terrifying and told so simply, without a trace of that glib cleverness I’ve taken to signify good writing. I read the entire story straight through, and when I look up, 20 minutes have passed and I realize that DeMarinis — just some dude — has completely kidnapped my consciousness, and now I’m going to be late for my interview with him. Also (I’m fairly certain of this), that I’ve made some pretty shabby decisions as to how to use my time on earth.

That’s why we read, I think: to find better decisions.

Steve Almond is the author of two story collections, My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the nonfiction book Candyfreak. His new book, (Not That You Asked), is a collection of essays. He lives outside Boston with his wife and daughter Josephine, who can now make the noises of seven different farm animals. He can be found online at his website.

Buy The Voice of America

Read the next Field Test by Lori Andrews

Field-Tested Books

Visit The Bookstore

The 2008 Edition
The 2006 Edition
The 2003 Edition
Your Submissions

The 2008 Edition

The Complete Index

All the Field-Tested Books, sorted by
reviewer, book title, and author.