I’m really excited to be able to share my latest novel, The What Do You Know Contest, which is now available as a Kindle book. The title, as those of you who grew up in New York in the ’60s and ’70s probably remember, is inspired by a contest held by the Board of Ed every year, and which for a few of us truly pathetic dweebers, was a chance at some kind of validation.
It was one of those contests where you compete first against your homeroom, then your grade, and finally all the way to some state-wide Armageddon of knowledge.
The reason I wanted to write this story, and the reason I named it that way, is because I wanted to explore ideas like the value of intrinsic knowledge, the judgment of others, the quest for some kind of religious truth, and to get at the prayer I think hovers on the lips of every person at some point in their lives: I hope to whatever is holy that I’m getting this right.
“This” meaning your entire apprehension of the world, your personal ontology; that the sacrifices and the choices you’ve made are what you’d do all over again if you ever get the chance to die, know whatever there is to be known, and then get to be reborn with the chance to make the same choices all over again.
That’s why the story is narrated by the adult Max, who reveals — in footnotes to the story of the year of the Contest — a midlife crisis that reflects his ongoing desire for validation and an affirmation that he isn’t, after all, a sap. His adult life is in many ways a parallel to his adolescent life, with many of the same types of choices and ramifications.
Even as kids, too many of the choices we make have long-term ramifications. And many of the yearnings we have as adults seem as unreasonable and impossible to achieve as the dreams we have as kids. There’s no easy part of life. Max’s dreams of winning back his girl, striking out the best high school baseball player in the city, or saving his sister from her drug-dealing boyfriend and getting involved with the dog-walking lady, a beautiful and mysterious young woman who lives in his neighborhood, are no more or less inconsequential than his desire to win the Nobel Peace Prize thanks to his Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism while bedding the woman of his dreams.
Oh yeah, the other thing is Max’s seemingly insatiable desire for sex — another trait that follows him from high school to his career as a journalist. So there’s some fairly graphic sex in this story — in case you were thinking of buying this for your 13-year old.
I hope you try it out — and I hope you like it.