Guest Article: Shane Crash on Writing Forest Life


I decid­ed that I could write this nov­el [For­est Life] a few years back in San Diego. I was sit­ting in a pud­dle of my vom­it beside my friend, Jor­dan. He didn’t com­plain as he mopped up my mess, just rubbed my back and com­fort­ed me as I lament­ed my seem­ing­ly irrepara­ble sor­row. Ear­li­er in the evening I’d near­ly drowned myself in shots of bour­bon. The dis­trac­tion of bounc­ing around the coun­try had worn off. Jor­dan did his best to com­fort me that night. Every­one should have a friend like Jor­dan.

For the past cou­ple years, I’ve been putting pieces of my life togeth­er. I sat down and mapped out each sec­tion as an event. Con­scious­ly, I wrote each peri­od of my life into the book. I tried my best to keep the sto­ry fic­tion­al, but it’s filled with East­er eggs, hid­den ‘I love yous’ and apolo­gies are sprin­kled all over. For months I’d sit with a small glass of bour­bon or a glass of beer and pour out my mem­o­ries, fic­tion­al­iz­ing them the best I could man­age. Through the writ­ing process, lots of for­got­ten mem­o­ries sur­faced. It was a rough time, full of drunk­en strolls through Kansas City, Brook­lyn, and Paris.

In Kansas City, before I met my wife, I lived with a few friends in an apart­ment down­town. We formed a lit­tle fam­i­ly unit and car­ried one anoth­er through our var­i­ous strug­gles. I was intox­i­cat­ed almost all day every day and espe­cial­ly at night. I’d walk down the street to a gas sta­tion where I’d pur­chase five dol­lar peach vod­ka to fuel my writ­ing binges. My beau­ti­ful house­mates, Britt and Mol­ly, would nurse me back to health when­ev­er I lost con­trol and vom­it­ed or col­lapsed into hys­ter­ics. One night I walked down to a foun­tain at the Kansas Art Insti­tute. I stuck my head in the water and tried to drown myself. It didn’t work so I walked home, cold and wet, and I start­ed drink­ing some more. It was the last of sev­er­al attempts to end my life.

I made a lot of mis­takes when I was younger, strug­gled with a lot of grief, and unhealthy cop­ing habits. Those habits cost me a few of my loved ones. It took me a while to fig­ure out that I was destroy­ing my life by drink­ing myself to death. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, by the time I’d sobered up, I’d already robbed myself of my youth. I guess this shows in For­est Life. The gen­er­al con­sen­sus seems to be that I write like a young man forced to suf­fer the grief of some­one much old­er. Much of the sto­ry is a tes­ta­ment to the pow­er of grief — it’s abil­i­ty to ren­der life an aim­less blur of suf­fer­ing.

When I was writ­ing the book I tried to counter my obser­va­tion of grief with an anti­dote — that anti­dote being love. Peo­ple often ask me about faith, about my dis­be­lief in a deity, about where I stand on the­o­log­i­cal views. The truth is that I don’t have much faith, and maybe this is because of the grief I endured all  those years. I don’t have faith in the tra­di­tion­al sense, in the sense that I believe some nar­ra­tive to be true and chuck full of answers. How­ev­er, I do have faith in an uncon­ven­tion­al sense, at least I attempt to have faith. I attempt to have faith in good­ness, in love, and com­pas­sion. I try to have faith that believ­ing in a par­tic­u­lar expla­na­tion for this mess down here on plan­et earth is less impor­tant than choos­ing to believe in the infal­li­bil­i­ty of love.

In For­est Life I’m very hon­est about the pow­er of suf­fer­ing, and its abil­i­ty to strip a per­son of the will to live. It may not do my own grief jus­tice, I don’t know, but I attempt to hon­est­ly con­vey the nature of my own suf­fer­ing. In the midst of this chaos I believe there’s good­ness to be found.

- Shane Crash

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Shane Crash is an Amer­i­can author and activist. He’s pub­lished sev­er­al zines cen­tered on alle­vi­at­ing pover­ty and home­less­ness. In 2009 he co-authored a col­lec­tion of satire and poet­ry in the short zine, Lost Thoughts. And in 2010 he released Trav­el Logs, a short chron­i­cle of his trav­els across the globe. You can find out more about Shane at his web­site. For­est Life is pub­lished by Civ­i­tas Press, and avail­able in print and for Kin­dle at

¶ Despatched on Monday, September 3rd, 2012 at 1:20 pm and sorted in Guest Article. ¶ { ReTweet }

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