The following essay is excerpted from the epilogue of André Aciman's new collection Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere. He is the author of Eight White Nights, Call Me by Your Name, Out of Egypt, and False Papers, and is the editor of The Proust Project (all published by FSG). He teaches comparative literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He lives with his wife and family in Manhattan. I was born in Alexandria, Egypt. But I am not Egyptian. I was born into a Turkish family but I am not Turkish. I was sent to British schools in Egypt but I am not British. My family became Italian citizens and I learned to speak Italian but my mother tongue is French. For years as a child I was under the misguided notion that I was a French boy who, like everyone else I knew in Egypt, would soon be moving back to France. "Back" to France was already a paradox, since virtually no one in my immediate family was French or had ever even set foot in France. But France—and Paris—was my soul home, my imaginary home, and will remain so all my life, even if, after three days in France, I cannot wait to get out. Not a single ounce of me is French.
Frank Bill usually traffics in fiction that hits with the revelatory power of fact—the stories of his debut book, Crimes in Southern Indiana, have the power of bristling frontline reports on the havoc methamphetamines have wreaked on the American heartland. But here Frank steps out from behind his fiction to tell us about a time in southern Indiana when meth was but an exotic treat that came in the mail to only the most enterprising drug dealers. The intervening years would bring all variety of twisted darkness to Corydon, Indiana, but as Frank makes clear here, even in that more innocent time, those looking for trouble—and even those running away from it—had a pretty good chance of finding it. -Sean McDonald, Vice President and Executive Editor, Paperback Director Banger’s family got meth in the mail about once a month. It came from the West Coast in a large manila envelope, moist dandruff flakes lumped to the size of an unfolded diaper. This was before the Sudafed, distilled water, liquid heat, batteries, Coleman fuel, and farmer’s-ammonia craze ignited small-town America, created broken pickets of teeth, catabolized tissue, and scalded the heartland into skin and bone. This was sometime around 1990, when I chewed on adrenaline and spit madness.