Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Author Guest Post: Theodore Weesner

Hello everyone! I know things have been quiet around here, but I think this post will make it all worthwhile! Below I have a wonderful guest post by Theodore Weesner, the author of The Car Thief. 

Hailed as a modern American classic, this coming of age tale is Theodore's fourth novel and just the tippy-top of his illustrious writing career. Before going any further in my introduction, I'm going to whet you literary appetites with a brief synopsis of The Car Thief;

It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, kept afloat by the flask in his glove compartment and the open bottles in his Flint, Michigan home. 
Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. He cruises and steals, running from, and to, the police, compelled by reasons he frustratingly can’t put into words. And then there’s Irene Shaeffer, the pretty girl in school whose admiration Alex needs like a drug in order to get by. Broke and fighting to survive, Alex and his father face the realities of estrangement, incarceration, and even violence as their lives hurtle toward the climactic episode that a New York Times reviewer called “one of the most profoundly powerful in American fiction.”

Do I have your full attention now? Good! I'll be posting an excerpt from The Car Thief for your enjoyment tomorrow, but right now I have a post that Theodore was kind enough to write about the making of The Car Thief. Below you'll be able to read about the inspiration that lead to The Car Thief and exactly how much of Theodore's own life is mirrored in this fascinating new novel.


Theodore Weesner, author of The Car Thief
What was my inspiration for writing The Car Thief and how much of me personally went into the story? 

I'm working to answer those questions in a personal memoir I have underway called ‘Hoodlum Artist.’

 As a short answer let me say that I lived a stupid and ignorant life of deprivation that commenced on being abandoned at age one, with my brother Jack, age three, to a 550 pound immobile woman named Alice Sleeseman, who took in children from broken homes in Flint’s ‘Little Missouri.’ We may have been dirty and scrawny but ours was a ‘Summerhill’ life of almost total freedom (I recall nothing but happiness, exploration, adventure) and I’m not complaining. If I was damaged on having been abandoned by my mother, I’m not smart enough to say. She was fifteen when she gave birth for the first time, on proceeding into a life devoted to drinking, dancing and honky-tonking. She never visited, while my father stopped by every other weekend or so to see how Jack and I were doing. Grandma Sleeseman, as we called her, made her way each morning to a centrally-located rocker from which she issued instructions, sending Jack and me with some dollars and a rusty wagon to a grocery store on Fenton Road to buy food supplies, and instructing other children of the house in the preparation of meals in the kitchen. Jack and I always had an eye out for the appearance of our father’s green Chevy and the thrill we felt when it came into view.

(After an extremely rough childhood, Theodore (known as Ted) picks up his story in a defining incident in High School…)

Central High School. Working as a part-time carry-out boy at Hamady’s, minding my own business and striving to get my life on track, I wandered into the stands of a high school football game one Friday evening after work, only to find myself inexplicably charged, on Monday at school, with fighting in the end zone. The witness making the charge was the Principal himself, on having used binoculars from Atwood Stadium’s 50-yard line to make his identification. At a subsequent hearing attended by my step-mother as well as the Superintendent of Public Schools--where the Principal wept in the face of the terrible punishment he felt compelled to administer despite my claims of innocence--I was permanently discharged from Flint Central, never to be allowed to set foot on school grounds again.

Disturbed and cheated, needing at all costs to prove myself, I began to become an over-achiever. Having turned seventeen, enlisting in the army as a GED, I soon became a model soldier who—by the time my three years were up, spending all but six months in Germany—I had qualified for OCS (based on high test scores, ranked in the 99th percentile) and, as a decent athlete, had also been considered for appointment to West Point…which consideration was quietly withdrawn when my juvenile criminal history and time served came to added light.

Admitted by some quirk to Michigan State University, I continued as an over-achiever, giving my all to catching up with the proper kids who had left me behind. Qualifying for a newly launched Honors College, I also received Hinman Creative Research scholarships with which to supplement my monthly checks under the GI Bill. I was invited as well, as a junior, to represent the giant-sized University in competition for a Rhodes Scholarship. Not wishing to undertake the competition and interviews, having fallen in love by then—having been ‘called’—to be nothing less than an artist committed to creative writing, I went on in search of success in the craft…and never looked back. All along, in my writing, I had been exploring conflicts I had known before landing on my feet in the army and as a student. So it was that I called my first novel, which was inspired by need, experience, and artistic hunger, ‘The Car Thief,’ during the writing of which I drew on the guts of my own history in search of valid themes and exquisitely realistic details.

-Theodore Weesner

Be sure to keep an eye out for the excerpt from The Car Thief I'll be sharing tomorrow. Or if you simply can't wait, click through for all the purchasing options, and a more detailed run down of the book.


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