Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Fritti misti

I’ve been dipping into Lit Hub recently for news I can use in matters literary, but if you spend too much time there you start getting a kind of icky feeling, that being “literary” is a lifestyle choice or something. Like Goth. And it seems like every time I check a writer’s byline, it says so and so “lives in Brooklyn with his wife and dogs.” As a lot of you may know, I’m weary of Brooklyn. It’s the same with indie bands. Nine times out of ten you get “The Smell of Kitties is a Brooklyn band whose latest EP is entitled We Love Brooklyn.” Or similar.

But this item was apt for me, all about how to use period details in fiction to achieve what Proust achieved with his famous madeleine passage. As I mentioned earlier, my upcoming novel is set in 1973, and I’ve tried to sprinkle it with plenty of details that evoke the time, especially since Watergate was in full swing. So there’s Bing Crosby Minute Maid orange juice commercials on TV, and Timex watches. Geritol. And there’s a classic Cadillac ambulance on hand, with tail fins. And the music – God, the music. Pink Floyd was huge that spring and summer – Dark Side of the Moon. Steely Dan. Slade. McCartney put out “My Love,” which I thought sappy at the time but now appreciate because it sends me back to that year in a flash.

As the piece cautions, though, you can’t overdo it, and you have to be accurate. Someone will notice a mistake. Don’t over-salt the soup, says the writer. In fact, think of these details as pepper instead.

We were walking along the American River the other day when a helicopter came down so low I thought it was going to clip the treetops and come spiraling down on us. It hovered over something we couldn’t see for a couple of minutes, then rotated and slipped away. I hope there’s not a time coming in America when you have to be afraid of getting strafed by one of those. It’s a real menace in some places, where it’s usually us doing the strafing. Sometimes it’s comforting to know I won’t be here when the shit really hits the fan.

I’ll be going back to St. Louis near the end of July to help my mom during her cataract surgery. She had one eye done last winter, but the doc botched it and she can’t see well out of that eye at all now. The new surgeon said, “Man, that guy must have had some problems with it because he left four stitches in there. I never have to use stitches.” Wait, what? And those stitches had been left in there for months. I wish my mom had the stomach to pursue a malpractice suit, but she’s just too darned nice for that.

And with that in mind, thanks to the travesty that is TrumpCare, I think I’ll steer clear of doctors until I’m eligible for Medicare. Apologies to at least one doctor I know in blogland (Hi, Carrie!), but every time I’ve gone in with a problem, they haven’t been able to find a cause of it and it wound up getting better on its own. What’s up with that? And it’s become clearer every time I go to the doctor that they basically plug symptoms into a computer and it spits out a differential diagnosis. “Aha! You have hockey lung!”

Is there a cure for hockey lung?”

Sadly, no.”

For this you coughed up a $100 copay. At least you were able to cough something up.

19 comments on “Fritti misti

  1. kingmidget
    July 6, 2017

    Don’t get me started on doctors and the “science” of medicine. Bah! (Sorry, Carrie.)

    Sorry to hear about your mother’s eye issues. I’ve had a lot of eye issues over the last decade or so because of a detached retina that led to a cataract and a macular pucker. And once all of that got resolved I got smacked in the other eye by a soccer ball and have had blurry vision in that eye ever since. None of it is very fun.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 6, 2017

      Man, I had no idea you had these vision problems. It’s true, when you can’t see well the world gets a little more intimidating … or at least frustrating. I hope things improve for you.

      I recently asked my doctor if I could wean myself off my blood pressure med, since I exercise more and have a better diet than I used to have. She said “No” and left it at that. 💊

      • kingmidget
        July 6, 2017

        My experiences have not endeared me to the medical community. The treatment for the detached retina was pretty close torture and I had to go through it four times over the course of a week and a half.

        As for your blood pressure issues, I’m convinced the biggest factor there is genetics. If anybody should have HBP based on age, eating habits, and life stress, it is me. Yet my BP is remarkably normal. There is no history of HBP in my family.

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 6, 2017

        Yep, it seems like everybody inherits something or other. I’ll consider myself lucky if I skate by with just HBP and high cholesterol. Fortunately I’ve been able to avoid hospitals all these years, though the old hourglass is pouring sand like crazy …

  2. John W. Howell
    July 6, 2017

    Hope all is well with your mom.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 6, 2017

      Thanks, John. She’s a trooper, but we hope for good things with this next surgery.

      • John W. Howell
        July 6, 2017

        My test of doctors is if they can imitate the AFLAC duck I’m outa there.

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 6, 2017


  3. Phillip McCollum
    July 6, 2017

    Best of luck with your mom’s situation. It’s hell getting older. In regards to the details in writing, that’s something I’ve been focusing a lot more on lately. When done right, it really does draw one into the story.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 6, 2017

      Thanks, Phillip! She’s optimistic this time out, with a different surgeon. Fingers crossed (which is always bad to say where medicine is involved … 😐 )

  4. Luanne
    July 6, 2017

    I’m so sorry about your mom’s eye. Wow, that scares me from a selfish perspective, too. I see the eye doctor tomorrow for an annual checkup after the discovery of cataracts a year ago.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 6, 2017

      Sorry to hear about your situation, Luanne. I’m sure everything’ll be okay. I think my mom just got referred to a doc who was into quantity over quality. I guess it’s a sign of the times that it’s caveat emptor with medical procedures!

      • Luanne
        July 8, 2017

        Kevin, you are so right. They were going to give my mom open heart surgery, but it turns out she can have it done without the rib cracking which is great because I live too far from her to take care of her and she won’t have it done by me. My eyes are ok for now whew.

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 8, 2017

        Great news about your eyes! I know they postponed my mom’s surgery for a few years before finally giving the go-ahead, so you’re probably in good shape for a long spell. Happy Saturday!

  5. beautifuldreamer
    July 6, 2017

    Well now I’m mad, or something. I keep reading and being told that you shouldn’t set your novel in a different era because people today want to read a story that is current to the world in which they live. And now here you’re writing a novel set in the era I wanted so badly to use. Not that you own that era or anything, but if I would feel like a copycat if I went and changed my novel now.

    I must go pout a bit.

    (And you know I’m going to be buying your novel so I can see what you did with it.)

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 6, 2017

      I never listen to someone who tells me I shouldn’t do something. In fact, that just makes me want to go and DO it!

      If it helps, you have my permission to set your book circa 1973. Hit one out of the park, okay? 😉

  6. Ilona Elliott
    July 7, 2017

    That era of music was awesome–gives you a lot to choose from for your novel. It was also a really crazy time. I forgot that until I watched CNN’s “The Seventies”, despite the fact that I was a teenager then. There was Son of Sam, Bundy, Manson, the Zodiac Killer–a hey day for serial killers. We had Watergate, the energy crisis, and, worst of all–disco. NYC was in the toilet. I lived 60 minutes away and never went there growing up because it was so crime riddled and dangerous. A lot of fodder for you to choose from. Things could get might spicey!! Best of luck to your Mom. Mine suffered from eye issues also and it was a pretty big suck. Nice you still have her though. Enjoy her while you can.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 8, 2017

      It is odd, looking back at the ’70s, how many great things there were (as well as icky things), but at the time I wasn’t that enamored of it all. Felt like I’d been born too late, you know?

      You’re right about how good it is to have good ol’ Mom around still. I told her so a while back and she said, “Even I can’t believe I’m still here!”

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