September 11th didn’t just force changes to government policy – it forced all of us, for awhile, to see the world with new eyes.
Life could come to a cruel and sudden end over issues you might have paid no attention to; indeed, that you might not understand once they were explained.
All sorts of mundane items we took for granted – airliners, box cutters – took on new and unsettling overtones. Mohammed Atta lived down the block from the store I worked in Park Slope, Brooklyn – if I’d worked there two years earlier, I surely would have passed him on the street. He would have been just another face. Which meant, no face could be just another face for a while.
I wrote a number of short stories out of those new eyes, occasionally about the day itself but more often about the new world, the new emotional geography that followed. I put them together in a book called ‘After.’
The stories include a man masquerading in firefighter’s gear to get laid, a network news anchor fretting that his network is the only one not to receive an anthrax threat, a woman who rented an apartment to one of the 9/11 hijackers and a passenger’s widow confronted the next day by a confused, upset man at her doorstep, covered in chalky dust and carrying her husband’s wallet.
The book is an interesting proof that readers know what they want. The publishing establishment will tell you flat-out that short story collections don’t sell and that marketing is crucial to get your name out there, especially for a self-published unknown like me.
‘Mindbenders’ has gotten most of my promotional effort and it’s sold three times as many books as the others. ‘After’ has no paperback version (yet), no video trailer, no reviews, nothing. Nonetheless, it’s my second-best selling book and has been pretty much from the beginning. In England, it’s blown away everything but ‘Mindbenders.’
So, as we come up on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, I’m giving it a mention. Maybe this little book has earned a little more consideration than I’ve given it.