Between the Lines: Meet Max and His Maker

| May 31, 2012 | 1 Comment

Max is almost thirteen. He’s in the eighth grade, smart, a good kid, but he thinks he’s pretty boring and wants to re-invent himself as someone more exciting, more adventurous, more dangerous. And that’s what he sets out to do at summer camp.

Max’s exploits, his friends and family, make up the world that Arthur Salm has created in his recently-released first novel, “Anyway.” You’ll probably recognize the name: Arthur Salm was a columnist and arts writer, then the books editor, at the San Diego Union-Tribune for twenty years. Now, after years of reading and reviewing other people’s books, he’s embarked on a whole new life as a fiction writer himself, a published author on his first try.

Arthur Salm

As Salm tells it, when he started writing, his intention was to write dark, disturbing adult comedy. You know, edgy stuff. He never saw himself as a children’s author. But just to limber up, he decided to write a story for his daughter, who was thirteen at the time, about an experience of his own when he sat on a plate of spaghetti. He created Max as his protagonist, and that was the beginning. The book’s subtitle is: “A Story About Me with 138 Footnotes, 27 Exaggerations, and 1 Plate of Spaghetti,” and for me the charm of Max’s narrative is his digressions in the form of footnotes, a tribute, Salm says, to David Foster Wallace.

Since the book’s release on May 1st, Salm has started making the rounds, doing readings and signings. He’s spoken at San Diego Writers Ink, Warwick’s, and Barnes & Noble locally and will soon be taking his show on the road. Someone in his audiences inevitably asks how much of Max is himself, and he replies that there are similarities—some of the incidents are drawn from his own life, like the spaghetti episode—but Max is “cooler and smarter than I was.”

And of course readers want to know, what’s next? Will we be seeing more of Max, or does Salm plan to tackle that dark, disturbing adult work? Well, the sequel is already completed and being shopped by his agent. “However” features the same kids, including Max, but it’s written from a different point of view. The protagonist is Max’s friend Allie, and, unlike Max’s first-person narrative, this story is told in the third person. A third book in the series, “Actually” (there’s a common thread here), is in the works. Each novel—there are others planned—will feature a different character and will overlap a little but then carry the action forward in time.

Salm still doesn’t think of himself as children’s author but plans to “Continue with the world that I made…” But don’t be put off by its placement in the children’s sections of book stores and libraries. While the vocabulary and sentence structure have been scaled back a bit for young readers, the book is written at a level that can be enjoyed by adults as well; it’s not even necessary to have a pre-teen in the house as an excuse to indulge in some entertaining and well-written summer reading.

Category: Local News

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