February 28th, 2013 / 11:46 am

GIVEAWAY: I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying

Last weekend, I invited Matthew Salesses to show up and rock out at this reading series in DC. The room was poorly lit, and the readers had to stand on a rickety wooden stage. The venue made the whole thing feel like we were at some sort of half-assed comedy show, but Matt and the other readers (Laura van den Berg, Dan Gutstein, and Sarah Burnett) were utterly incredible—especially considering that there was this obnoxious improv group stomping on the floor above us because they thought they were at basketball practice, or something.

Anyway, there’s nothing all that funny about Matthew’s new Book, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. At its surface, Matthew’s book is about the predicted failures and slow learning curve of a nameless new father. But deeper down, it explores how our actions and desires are intrinsically linked to our identities and our understanding of ourselves. I’m personally a big fan of Matthew’s terse, controlled prose, which almost always looks this beautiful:

Who would have thought white people would eat sushi rolls with no sushi in it? Though I knew better than to call it sushi—it was kimbap—even if the menu said sushi. Being Korean was like that. The boy had probably lived unsushi sushi since his mother died. By which I mean, what do you call that? When the world isn’t ready to call something what it is?

I’m Not Saying is a short book with short chapters, but it’s worth reading slowly. I’m always inspired by how dutifully Matthew matches tone and subject matter in his writing, and there’s more than enough proof out there that I’m not the only one inspired by it.

But I’ll stop gushing and get to what’s important: Matthew has agreed to give away two signed copies of I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. Quote the weirdest/funniest/strangest thing your father has ever said (and try to avoid being offensive) in the comments by Tuesday, March 5th and Matthew will pick two winners. Get’it’gurl.


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  1. vjb77

      My father would always comment that my mother’s cooking was terrible and then say that she never made enough.

  2. Mauricio Le Sage

      “I like my tricks.”

  3. Aubrey

      When I told my dad I had gotten my first period, he said, “Congratulations. Now all that’s left to do is die.” This is a true story.

  4. Adam Robinson

      “Not good towels!”

  5. herocious

      “a good dog is a fooled dog”

  6. Sarah Jean Alexander

      My dad called me last fall and said, “I just googled you. Are you sad?”

  7. Tony Mancus

      what if batman just cursed all the time – holy s**t robin, look at that egg!

  8. Joe Kapitan

      “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl.”

  9. mimi

      “i’ve only been wrong one time, and that’s when i thought i was wrong but i really wasn’t”

  10. kimberly southwick

      my dad was drunk at his famous summer party and my friend Ian asked about something on his wall, not realizing it was Philly Eagles paraphernalia, so my dad said, appalled, “you’re not a football fan? what do you like, then? Prince?” as though these are our world’s two cultural binaries. (p.s. my dad’s favorite Superbowl halftime performance? Prince.)

  11. Mary Akers

      When I was an easily mortified teenager, my father used to get drunk and call me. During every one of those phone calls, he told me at least once (often more than once) that I was, “The fruit of his loins.”

  12. Sandra Beasley

      This book looks incredible. I really wish I’d been in DC for the reading.

      Once we were driving to 95 and I found myself saying, “Have you ever driven in worse weather?” My dad’s answer was immediate: “Once. In a sportscar, on my way to Munich during a snowstorm.”

      He offered no further explanation. The man is James Bond with a Nats cap.

  13. Joseph Riippi

      (I was 6 years old and had gotten an A+ on my spelling test. We were in the car, driving to dinner. My father was driving, my mother in the passenger seat).

      MOTHER: Joey, tell your Dad how you did on your spelling test!
      ME: I got an A plus!
      FATHER: Wow! Good for you! What was the hardest word.
      ME: Probably “Monday.” I thought it might be “M-U-N” but I remembered the calendar in the kitchen had an “O”.
      FATHER: Good for you! How about “Wednesday.” That’s the toughest day. Can you spell “Wednesday”?
      ME: Ummm…
      FATHER: How about this, you get one chance to spell it, and if you get it right, I’ll give you 5 dollars.
      ME: Hmmm…W-E…D?…N?…E?…S…D-A-Y?
      MOTHER: Good job, Joey!
      FATHER: Hey, you got it right!
      ME: Alright! So I get 5 dollars?
      FATHER: Nope.
      ME: But you said…
      FATHER: Joey, you have to realize something. Sometimes people are lying.


  14. Kiri McGhee

      On my fourteen year-old sister: “Wait. She still believes in Santa AND Jesus? I don’t understand. Where have I gone wrong? What did I ever do to deserve this?”

  15. stefan michael

      My father’s accent was as thick as pierogi. Despite having emigrated from Poland to the United States after the war,decades later his phrasings and pronunciations in English were still almost painful to listen to. His intonation and dropped articles, conjunctions, adjectives, participles, and other parts of speech defied inflection and went straight for the meat and potatoes but never belied a specific Eastern European point of origin. Rather, he spoke a kind of pidgin; to me he always sounded like Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s obsequious kemo sabe. The fact that he spoke at least five languages, and English was the one to which he had to acquiesce, never really occurred to me. In fact, I was embarrassed by his accent any time one of my friends would meet him, finding his voice to be a singularly thick and stupid sound. My father was a darkly complex, angry man who lashed out at the world in irrational vitriol and psychological and often physical violence toward his family. The horrors he experienced in the war were more implicit than expressed. Fear had made him a kind of spiritual burn victim where the outer flesh of his humanity had been scorched and scarred, and now he acted out of fear and used fear as his means of manipulation. My story is his story turned inside out; I am a version of him that I don’t understand. Or is all that bullshit, the archetypal oedipal rationalization? Whatever “all that” is is irrelevant.

      During the final five years of his life or so (“or so” was one of his ubiquitous qualifiers) – he died in 2002 at 82 – my anger and, I want to say, hatred, but the word is not quite accurate, diminished like dying embers. Metaphors and similes don’t really work when your own life is a myth. Clichés fit like a glove, however. I began to have actual conversations with him: awkward, stilted, floundering sentences that left an odor of stale air. He had been a life-long Democrat, although he seemed to have a disdain for liberalism. The point of all this goes back to his manner of speaking; he used certain phrases repetitively, like leitmotifs, in his discourse on economic, political, or social issues. One of these leitmotifs was the descriptive modifier, “out of proportion.” He would describe, for example, the exorbitant and constantly rising prices of his many prescriptions – most of which he would have to pay for out of pocket and put in vouchers for partial reimbursement – as “out of proportion.” He would add the word “not” to the end of a statement to turn it into an interrogatory. He was always driving past destinations, for example, or getting lost, and I would hear him say, “I should have turned there, not?” “Sure not,” was also the equivalent of “of course.” Many of these idioms seemed comical. But he was also terse. He often called me a “crumb.” A few times he embellished to “a filthy crumb” so that I knew without a doubt that he hated me. At least at that moment. His hate was anger and fear fueled and would dissipate in interminable silences. “And so goes it,” as he would say.

  16. peter

      There’s a hump in the road on 37 and it’s me and him and this girl I was into as much as an eighth grader could be. he says, “Heh, remember we went over this, and you were about 5 and you were laughing and I asked you why you were laughing, and you said ‘it makes my penis feel funny’.”

  17. Caroline Jones

      My dad recently told me that he’ll retire when he has grandchildren, so if I could get to work on that, it would really speed up his process.

  18. Ryan Sheldon

      “And it’s a Friday night! Ice cold fatty whippets!”

  19. htmlgiveaway

      “I need that like I need a hole in the head.”

      “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

      “I love you a whole bunch, and I hope your day goes real good tomorrow, and the day after that, too.”

  20. Douglas Fir

      “Knowing is half the battle.” This was repeated throughout my teens, reserved for when I messed up.

  21. Don

      “It’s like shooting babes in the woods…”

  22. rawbbie

      I was talking to my dad about how big a pain in the ass my little brother is and he says,
      “Robbie, you’re talking to a dead horse here.”
      so he gets his phrases mixed up sometimes. My favorite was when he was telling a story about a couple getting kicked out of a bar and he says in the culminating statement:
      “Then they just 69ed ’em right outta that bar.”

  23. mimi

      “does the pope shit in the woods?”

  24. Heidi Bell

      As a young man my dad was stranded at a bar up on the bluff, so he finagled a ride home with the friend of a friend who drove a fancy sports car. They got into the car, and my dad said, “All right! Let’s see what this piece of shit can do!” At which point the driver got out of the car, dragged my dad out, beat him, and left him in the gravel parking lot. (My mom told me this story, gleefully, years after my parents’ divorce.)

  25. Heidi Bell

      As a young man, my dad was stranded at a bar up on the bluff, so he finagled a ride home from a friend of a friend who drove a fancy sports car. They got into the car, and my dad said, “All right! Let’s see what this piece of shit can do!” At which point the driver got out, dragged my dad out of the car, punched him, and left him lying in the gravel parking lot. (My mom told me this story, gleefully, years after my parents’ divorce.)

  26. Mark Cugini

      Hey peter–you win!!!!!1!!1!

      hit me up at markcugini[a]gmail.com with a mailing addy.

  27. Mark Cugini

      Hey Sarah–you obviously win!!!!!1!!1!

      hit me up at markcugini[a]gmail.com with a mailing addy.