As the release of The Weight of Sound inches closer, I find myself thinking about Bob. Work on the novel began with his creation, though I didn’t know it at the time.
I was in an undergrad creative writing class, assigned to write a scene with only two characters, one of whom wanted something the other didn’t. The image came to me immediately: Bob and his girlfriend, Linda, were having a bad night, and all Bob really wanted to do was get some Krispy Kremes. Opening line: “Hot Donuts. Now.” I wrote three or four pages of dialogue, and then forgot all about it.
Years later, I wrote a short story from Bob’s point of view. It soon became clear that Linda, a high-achieving medical student at Emory, was getting ready to end the relationship. Just as the two of them were about to have another circular fight, Danny, one of Bob’s stoner friends appeared, carrying two joints and a tape of his new band—the first time Danny or Monkeyhole had ever appeared. Listening to the music, and hearing how good it was, Bob understood for the first time that his girlfriend and his best friend were both leaving him behind.
I never wrote about Bob again, but quickly started stories featuring Danny, Spider, and Paul. As the different pieces began to be shaped into a cohesive novel, Bob’s story found a home as Chapter Two. It was interesting to first hear the music of Monkeyhole described by an outsider, and to meet Danny at this big moment of change in his life. During one of the last revisions, though, I realized the book had moved too far beyond Bob to spend twenty pages with him. We still meet Danny in Chapter Two, but now we see him through Spider’s eyes.
Thinking about the way the book wouldn’t have existed without Bob, but also could not have existed in its final form with him, reminded me of an interview I heard with the drummer of Spoon. During the mixing of “Inside Out,” a song of theirs I love, the band took out the acoustic guitar that had been the first thing they actually recorded. The song no longer needed the guitar; it needed the space created by the absence of the guitar. Just as poor Bob had to be sacrificed, so the book that would not have existed without him could be finished.