Could a book filled with punchy short stories laced with dark humor be an antidote to 2020?
Author Richard Lovrich is willing to bet it is.
“Have a Very Bad Day,” his recently published and appropriately-named book is packed with hundreds of disturbing and wickedly funny bite-sized narratives.
“It’s a perfect antidote to empty niceness,” Lovrich said of the book. “You can take respite even from trying to feel great about the pandemic or the new election. You can take a break from all of that and just spend time in your darkest possible spaces, laughing at things that really nobody should laugh at.”
The Guilderland resident, who previously worked as the creative director of Proctors Collaborative and as the art director of the Times Union, knows perhaps more than most the importance of such an antidote.
“I know most people had a really great 2020, an awesome one, but mine wasn’t good,” Lovrich joked in a recent interview.
His year started with an electrical fire in his home, followed by the start of the pandemic, during which he contracted COVID-19. The situation was made worse by the fact that he has a compromised immune system due to a rare disorder called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.
In the ensuing months, he took on freelance work and became more involved with advocacy work for people with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency, lending his photography, videography and storytelling skills to the cause.
He’s also, of course, had time to work on “Have a Very Bad Day.”
The stories began years ago as a self-imposed artistic challenge: To write 1,000 stories and post them on Facebook. After writing them, Lovrich performed selections of them around the Capital Region. The performances not only pushed him creatively but personally.
“Being diagnosed with a debilitating disorder, it does wake you up. I realized I have an irrational fear, a pretty major one, and that was speaking in public,” Lovrich said. “I just put myself out there . . . Interestingly, even from the very first performance, I’m far less uncomfortable exposing my soul and telling my stories.”
Through performances at the Savoy, Universal Preservation Hall, and other locations, he further developed the stories and learned to lean into public speaking. Then, throughout the last year, he culled them down to a few hundred, dividing them into three chapters: “For the Most Part, Very Unfortunate Circumstances,” “Love, Sex and Other Highly Personal Matters” and “Lives Not Entirely Unlike Our Own.”
His work is informed by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Addams and he’s drawn to short stories because “I just love planting these seeds of images in people’s minds and seeing what happens.”
One such story, called “Under and Over,” spans just two sentences: “There had to be an explanation – and the only explanation that made sense was that he was now underwater, and what’s more, he could breathe underwater. Well, as was often the case with Zeb, he was only half right.”
Another, called “Big Bang,” reads: “Dr. Callius crossed the street in lazy zig-zags, to avoid being hit by any neutrinos. He was of course struck, not by a neutrino but by a Chevrolet, made up of decidedly less exotic particles.”
Given how twisted some of these tales are there may be a temptation to distance oneself from the characters and the narratives, but most readers are bound to see themselves somewhere in the pages.
“Very few people can’t find themselves within 295 stories. I mean, I know I find myself. There’s a lot of autobiography [there]. So you can’t just read the book and say ‘I’m laughing at other people.’ It’s too big and too broad. It doesn’t work that way,” Lovrich said.
Since the book is episodic, with few repeating characters or storylines, Lovrich said it’s perhaps best enjoyed several stories at a time.
“I think it works best as a palate cleanser,” Lovrich said.
On Saturday, Lovrich will hold a book signing for “Have a Very Bad Day” at The Open Door Bookstore in Schenectady. The event starts at 1 p.m. For more information about the signing visit opendoor-bookstore.com.
For more on the book visit haveaverybadday.com.
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