Aaron Burch loves buffalo. Aaron Burch is the founder/editor of Hobart. Aaron Burch has two WP stories in the archives. EVERYTHING WAS ANTLERS AND NOTHING HURT and ATTICUS TOLD ME TO DELETE THE ANTLERS & I'D HAVE THE FACTS. Aaron Burch has written several books, one of them is a short story collection called BACKSWING. Aaron Burch also wrote a book about a story that was made into a movie—STEPHEN KING'S THE BODY: BOOKMARKED and YOU CAN BUY IT HERE from IG PUBLISHING! WP editor Leesa Cross-Smith stayed up late and read the book in one swoop, then she asked Burch some questions via email the week after they took a selfie. She dared him to raise the stakes in the interview. Whether he did or not? Debatable. But either way, a shared love for 90s nostalgia and being honest about marriage &&& follows.
LEESA CROSS-SMITH: First date. First kiss. First job, first paycheck. First time you had sex. First real breakup. First road trip. Aaron, you write this on page 109. Give us some approximate dates on these if you feel like it/can remember! I'll give you mine. 1992. 1992. 1995, 1995. (The Gap!) 1999 (Wedding night, holla!) 1995 (dumped the day before Valentine's Day!) 2000 (first REAL road trip with a boy/honeymoon.)
AARON BURCH: 1990. '94 or '95? 1994. 2001. 1998 or '99?
I think most, if not all, of these Qs/As could turn into mini-essays, but my struggling to answer this, which is pretty straightforward, actually kinda gets at a lot of the things I wrestled with in the book. One of which is that my memory sucks. When was my first kiss? I remember it, a totally botched job, but not the year. I was driving, and I woulda been 16 in 1994, but to be honest I might've been driving for a full year by then, so '95? The more I think about it, almost certainly '94. The second is a kind of wrestling over definition. I like claiming 1990 as first date because it's a funny story--Ernest Goes to Jail, with the girl who ended up dating in high school, and is now married to, my best friend since I was like 8. That's kinda stretching the meaning of "date" though, and even if I want to claim it, I also went to a baseball game with her and her family, and maybe one or two other things, and maybe one of those was actually before Ernest? (Again with the memory.) Or like with first job... do I claim glassblowing assistant once a week on Saturdays for a few hours? I think so. And I got paid, but with a check, but it was handwritten, so the first clock-in/clock-out paycheck-paycheck would have been not until 1996, a grocery warehouse after graduating high school. Finally, tied in to definition, although I guess tied in to memory, too, is that one of the book's arguments is for these distinctions between moments of before and after, moments of growing up, of coming of age, but of course everything is more fluid than that. Speaking of my best friend... Brad and my first road trip together was '98, I think, but the road trips that actually stick out in my mind is when we started going to Vegas, and that would have been 2000, probably. There was the "first road trip" and then the "first road trip to Vegas," which feels more impactful, but then also, when I think of us in the car together, I think all those memories kind of bleed together, so the idea in my mind of our "first road trip" is probably at least three different trips, kind of sewn together, another washing away of this idea of a before and after.
LCS: This book is not your first, but it's the first book like THIS that you've written. And by like THIS I mean...a book that's nonfiction and a book that digs a bit deeper into your personal life, both past and present. How does that feel?
AB: Scary? But also exciting? I'm proud of it, I think it's good, and it's VERY "me," wrestling with so many of the things that all my writing does, but is also very different, and so I think there's a newness about it, w/r/t me/my writing that's exciting.
LCS: And since we're on the subject of feelings, do you see yourself as an emotional person? And maybe not even in a general sense, but in a super-sense. Do you cry easily? Do you allow yourself? Do you prefer to ignore that stuff unless you can't any longer? Do you prefer surrounding yourself with emotional people?
AB: Ignore the stuff until I can't any longer seems one of the theses of the book, and/or at least something that I obviously already knew about myself but writing the book made me... know it more? Better? In a different way than I'd realized or thought about?
LCS: You and I are are the same age, graduated from high school the same year and both have the same deep love for nostalgia. And we kinda met by accident (?) bc we love so many of the same things. When I get happily obsessed with something, it's prettymuch always because it provides me some comfort/coziness/escape from the world. What are some things you're into lately? Do you get into stuff for the same/different reasons? Do you look at nostalgia as a comfy blanket to help you deal w/the world/anxiety/whatever?
AB: A theory I tried to kind of put forward in the book, is that I think sometimes people scoff at nostalgia because it can be a focusing on the past over the now, it can also sometimes be a cheat, or an avoidance, or lazy or any other number of pejoratives, there's also the optimistic view that I think we both lean into more. Which is that, if/when life/the world/etc. is hard or anxiety-inducing or overwhelming, it can provide "comfort/coziness/escape from the world." But also, when I'm thinking about the good things in my life, nostalgia can be a nice way to think about how I got here?
LCS: As I was reading your book I remember thinking if I didn't know you already...the book would kinda make me wanna reach out just to say HI or I KNOW RIGHT simply bc it's so sweet-hearted and although I sometimes pretend to hate you online bc that's fun for me and one of my fave hobbies, I actually DO see you as this sweet-hearted, kind, dude. Trust me, I was just as surprised as you were and everyone else was when I realized I liked you so much and liked being around you. (Vomits.) THE QUESTION: writing a book like this...would it make you stoked or kinda jealous if someone got WAAAY into Stand By Me after reading it? Like if they got a Stand By Me tattoo or claimed they'd loved it all along just as much as you? Do you feel protective of it, like it belongs to you and only you or do you LIKE it when people connect w/you over it? Both?
AB: Oh, totally stoked. I don't think I usually feel protective of things, I think it is much more often (always?) liking when people like similar things. I think that's another of my joys of nostalgia, and back to us being the same age and hitting it off, so much because of our love of so many of the same things.
LCS: Marriage is hard is another thing you write in the book and I do love how you blend the work/themes of Stephen King's The Body/Stand By Me with your life/memories/feelings/relationships. This question is different bc I know and adore your wife and she is my friend! But mostly I wanna know..do you find freedom in confessing marriage is hard? (I have been married for 16+ years and agree w/this, btw.) I mean, without getting SO DEEP and TOO PERSONAL...saying marriage is hard is a sort of general, true statement that so many people can agree with...and it COULD take on a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ feeling or it could take on a deeper meaning, too. When you say it, do you mean it as both? And since you so rarely talk about your personal life...does writing about your marriage make you feel EXPOSED? And if so...does that feel good or bad or something else entirely? (We're being told something new; we're being allowed in.)
AB: I think both. Maybe other people say or hear it more than me. It seems like such a simple sentence and sentiment that it also doesn't mean anything, and also like so true and easy and everyone would agree such that no one has to say it. Such that, at least for me, it can feel like a lonely struggle. Like MY marriage is so hard. This circles back up to "Do you prefer to ignore that stuff unless you can't any longer?" So that, when I finally started saying it to friends, and wrote it, it felt pretty deeply meaningful. But then, too, I spent a lot of time holding onto that difficulty and it felt a little all-encompassing and maybe insurmountable. Saying and writing it felt meaningful but also like it allowed me to start shrugging it off a little more, like maybe it wasn't in fact the all-powerful, insurmountable hard I was making it out to be?
Ugh, totally exposed. See, Q2, "scary," etc. But, right after "Scary?" I said, "But also exciting?"
LCS: I can't see anything related to Stand By Me without thinking about you. A lot of people probably feel this way about it/you. Tell me how else that makes you feel besides good/stoked/awesome/etc.
AB: I think good/stoked/awesome is pretty much the summation.
LCS: Who were your top 3 90s celeb crushes? (I think I only know 2 of them.) Mine were Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and probably a tie between Drew Barrymore/Winona Ryder, tbh.
AB: Drew #1, no question. I think I actually have more of a nostalgic crush on Winona than I did in real time. My tie might be between Felicity and Katie Holmes on Dawson's. And to match your gender-blindness crushing, and nod back to the book: Jason Lee.
LCS: You and I were both raised 90s youth group kids. Tell me a song by a Christian band you like. (I like a lot but the ones that remind me THE MOST of the 90s are "Flood" and also anything by Jars of Clay and anything by Audio Adrenaline.)
AB: "Flood" is really the obvious but correct answer here, right?
The other thing that jumps to mind is this Tooth and Nail vol. 2 sampler that was really killer.
LCS: Tell me about one of your favorite articles of clothing and tell me why you love it so much. Also tell me about an article of clothing your wife wears that you love.
AB: I have a bunch of shirts from the 90s still, all of which are pretty much too old and pit-stained and ill-fitting to still wear, and pretty much all of which Elizabeth thinks I should just throw away, but they're also the best, see: nostalgia; see again: nostalgia again. I have a Snapcase basketball jersey that I got at a show in 1997 (I know this for a fact because it says MCMXCVII on it) that I actually still wear pretty frequently (to run in, to play basketball in sometimes; I'm actually wearing it right now because it's hot in my apartment), but the shirt that jumped to mind is this Botch one. I think it's great because the shirt itself is nostalgic, but also because Botch is (probably my fave band ever?), and also because when I got a tattoo in Columbus, Ohio of the Tacoma Stars logo, we started talking about Tacoma, and this Ohio tattoo guy was like, Tacoma and Seattle had a great hardcore scene, and I was like, yup!, and he was like, man, I saw this Botch shirt once, I wish I'd bought it. It was like baby blue and said something like "best boy band ever," and I was like, "I have that shirt!! It IS the best!!"
I think mostly my wife loves all my J Crew clothes she's bought me over the years.
LCS: Also ask yourself a question I didn't ask, then answer it.
AB: Not a self-asked Q, but a story inspired by you telling me to ask one (Did we tell this over our dinner? Is this where this question is coming from and I forgot we shared said story?): Elizabeth and I met online. The story of this is basically in the book: I complimented a story she'd published online (after also seeing a picture of her and how pretty she was, natch), and we were both in this writer/editor online message board, and then we started emailing, flirting, all that, and pretty early on I was getting ready to run out the door, to hang out with friends or maybe on my way to work, but I wanted to send reply to her last email, in part so I'd hopefully have a reply waiting for me when I got back online (this was way before smart phones; I had high speed cable internet but Elizabeth was still on dial-up), so I said something like, "Ask yourself some questions and answer them for me!" She always tells this story, as illustration of how lame I am, basically, but we ended up married, so joke's on her!