Friday, March 2, 2018

Book Review: 'Banana Sandwich' by Steve Bargdill

Wyoming author Steve Bargdill received his bachelor's in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Iowa and his masters in English from the University of Wyoming. Originally from Ohio, he has lived in Dayton, Columbus, Troy, St. Marys, and New Knoxville as well as West Branch Iowa, Lincoln Nebraska, Muncie Indiana, and currently lives in Laramie Wyoming. Though he now teaches beginning freshman composition at the University of Wyoming, his past employment suggests the inspirations for his various stories: since 1998 he has worked in the pizza industry, as a day laborer, a truck driver, at grocery stores, gas stations, and convenient stores and a beat reporter for a couple of newspapers. Steve has published eleven books – THE WASTELAND BOOKS 1- 6, BREATH: AN AMERICAN STORY, COLOR OF HOPE, NEIGHBORHOOD MUMS, and now BANANA SANDWICH. Believing that stories explain who we are as a society he has this to say: ‘My five minute elevator pitch for Banana Sandwich has always been that it's a book about a bi-polar pizza delivery driver who lives in her van down by the river. The line gets laughs, but the other day I met someone who is truly hurting from this condition, and the two-day conversation reminded me why I wrote this novel in the first place. Any mental disorder is a hard reality to live with. If I can bring awareness to that issue through my literature, then that is one of my goals for this book.’ So we have a man of much worldly exposure, a man with a finely tuned wit, and a man with a huge heart making it all work.

Stepping into the pages of this book Steve’s writing style grabs our attention immediately – a bit off center but relevant to what is to follow: ‘You can't order a pizza by banana phone. It can't be done. Pick up any banana and put it to your ear and you get dial tone. Simple as that. Just doesn't work. Now if you want to call Jupiter, a banana phone is your ticket. I knew a guy once who lined his hat with aluminum foil to stop the outer space transmissions from reaching his brain. Which is just crap. Everyone knows aluminum foil isn't going to do the trick. You got to use something like Adamantium, which you can't use anyway because it's a made-up comic book metal bonded to Wolverine's skeleton. Which brings me back to the banana phone, because Wolverine kind of looks like a banana if you think about it. I mean, his costume is yellow, right? And bananas are yellow, except for when they over-ripen. Then, they are black. And the only thing aluminum foil is going to block are the government transmissions— and those are boring anyway. They tell you to do stuff like mow the lawn, wash dishes, buy more stuff, rinse your mouth with fluoride fortified mouthwash. It's the outer space transmissions that are interesting. Once, I received instructions on how to build a warp drive for my van. And the line of work I'm in, that comes in real handy.’

The very brief synopsis share the thought of direction of the story – ‘Carol struggles with an inherited mental disorder. When she decides to be better, it is the city that goes insane. Then, her ex-boyfriend murders her roommate. To fight back, she must decide how she is to live her life.’ Sounds like a grisly tale but if so you haven’t met Steve’s Carol – a loopy gal who works in a pizza shop and adds ‘extras’ if a man who fits her criteria answers the door for the delivery. We know immediately she isn’t perking on all 4 cylinders, but her world makes sense to her, and very soon it makes sense to us. The running dialogue is naughty at times, very out there at times, but somehow Steve gathers his words on a page in a way that makes us love what he is relating. This man has talent (and knows a whole lot about pizzas). Grady Harp, June 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.