Letters to Emma Bowlcut

Bill Callahan

First Sentence:  The world had gone quiet around me.

I get a little apprehensive when musicians try their hand at writing books. Sometimes the results are almost better than their music (see Willy Vlautin) but that’s the exception rather than the rule and more often than not I get the feeling that they should just stick to what they do best. After reading Bill Callahan’s book I’m glad to say that it’s not a bad effort, but I’m sure his music will prove to have a longer lasting legacy. This is an epistolary novel (though at only 77 pages I use the term loosely) written from an unnamed man to Emma Bowlcut, but you probably could have guessed that from the title. The writer of these letters is attracted to Emma when he sees her at a party and begins writing to her. The 62 letters presented here are undated and Emma’s replies are absent. Callahan’s writing verges on poetry at times, and several sentences found in this book could easily be future lyrics/song titles:

I’m not exaggerating when I say I mostly stare.

Struck by something trying to get out from within.

I’m empty from bawling.

I would say if you like Bill Callahan’s music, chances are you’ll like this. If not though, it’s probably not worth your time. Me, I can take it or leave both…

* * *

Last Sentence:   I carried you into a doorless and dim shack.

Last Sentence explained:  There’s no real plot so there’s no real last sentence to explain. It’s just a series of letters that ends. Letters sometimes moving and often poetic. Certainly enjoyable to read but nothing life altering. Here’s a sample or two:

I am possessed by the conviction that I need you like blood needs a vein to get from one place to another.

What I really want to know is why do some people talk so much louder than necessary.

I feel a little guilty sometimes just sending you thoughtless scraps.

And my personal favourite:

I used to dread giving my order to a waitress as a kid. It went around the table in slow motion, everyone else ordering, and when is she going to get to me. And then everyone’s looking at me. It’s funny how intently people watch other people ordering, as if it’s going to illustrate how to deal with desire.


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