On social media, D. Gilson often posts screen-shots of his conversations with a woman named “Bev.” These exchanges, always by Apple Messenger, are perfect little nuggets: Bev interrogates D. about his love life. She makes fun of her neighbors. She describes daily existence with her husband. She pretty much always ends with a zinger.
For a long time, I had no idea who Bev was, but it didn’t matter. Their daily correspondence was better than any three-panel comic strip I’ve ever read. The banter is decently funny, particularly if you know D. But it’s also revealing, off-color, and fun. It’s easy to imagine a coffee table collection of Bev’s random rants.
“Revealing, off-color, and fun” is exactly how I would describe D.’s essay collection, I Will Say This Exactly One Time. I met D. when we were both students at Chatham University. In an MFA program that caters to bookish young women, D. was an instant hit: lovable and petit, wearing thick-framed glasses and a goofy smile. He speaks with a mild folksy twang. D. can use the term “queer” in regular conversation, making the word sound rakish and worldly. He never seemed to go anywhere without a cadre of girlfriends. Anywhere D. went, the scene might break into a heated discussion about gender politics or a glitzy dance party. Meanwhile, there was the persistent rumor that D. had once competed in a rodeo.
These essays reflect D.’s unpredictable élan. They cover the gamut of topics, from the pleasures of walking around to the semiotics of Ke$ha. This is not comic writing; many of these vignettes are deadly serious, as D.’s family has been cursed with a string of tragedies. D. studied poetry at Chatham, and his style is pensive and lyrical. My favorite essay, and probably the most shocking, chronicles his family visit to a NASCAR race. But to me, D.’s writing is like a cross between Dale Peck and Chuck Klosterman—cerebral, pop culture-savvy, and willing to lay bare his most personal pensées. The essays are meandering in the way of late-night conversation. He may say all these things exactly one time, but here’s hoping he says a lot of other stuff, too.
You can find I Will Say This Exactly One Time on Amazon, or you can order it from your local bookstore.