Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Tucker Lieberman joins us to talk about his weird and wonderful literary novel, Most Famous Short Film of All Time. Tucker, what can you tell us about your book?
Tucker: Most Famous Short Film of All Time is a philosophical novel. It’s set in Boston in the 2010s. Lev Ockenshaw is a thirtysomething transgender man who works for a tech company. He sees supernatural beings, which isn’t a big deal to him, and he likes telling campfire stories with his friends. One day, he receives an anonymous, threatening email, and things start to get weird.
The literary style is absurdist with nonfiction-style digressions. There’s a bibliography: books, film, pop music.
Sabitha: It sounds absolutely delightful. What inspired you to write this book?
Tucker: Several overlapping cultural problems in the US are of concern to me. First, not knowing what an anonymous threat might mean, given the frequency of mass shootings. Second, the inability to make yourself heard, or a more active silencing perpetrated by people who you hoped would help you. Third, problems of visibility and invisibility, and self-interpretation and being interpreted by others, specifically as a transgender man might experience that. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, and this character is fictional, but his perspective is a transgender one. He’s not giving dictionary definitions of how trans people feel, but many trans people might relate to a lot of what he says. Ultimately, his philosophy is his own. It’s one attempt to unpack some of the cultural experiences of people who are transgender.
Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write?
Tucker: The first scene I wrote was the Tele-Quiz gameshow where the main character makes 20 attempts to solve a question. I wrote it as a short story, and it was published in an anthology in 2019. That was fun. What came later felt harder. It took three years to write the next 100,000 words. I suffered with it.
Sabitha: The book’s got a catchy title—how did you choose it?
Tucker: In thinking about the stress of watching footage related to mass shootings on television news, I thought about the home video footage of the assassination of JFK in 1963. How much has changed in a half-century—the guns, the cameras. Most Famous Short Film of All Time is a reference to the presidential assassination that was captured accidentally by a bystander with a camera. The book is illustrated with the 486 frames of the film, with permission from the museum that owns it. I was thinking also about how each of us play certain memories on a loop, especially traumatic ones, and those memories become our own privately famous “films” that we examine, looking for clues, hoping to find answers.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?