My Year with Steve Industry - a review of The Autograph of Steve Industry; a novel by Ben Hersey
March 15, 2017
Author’s Note: As a reader, I sometimes get too deep in. The characters in books, I treat as real people. The real people in my life, I read like fiction. It can be troublesome. Below is one such confusing byproduct: my notes on being friends with a fictional character. These are my reminiscences upon reading The Autograph of Steve Industry by Ben Hersey, published by Magic Helicopter Press in 2016.
I spent a year of my life being friends with Steve Industry: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, Done. I have a lot of things to say about that year because it was a strange year; it was a crumbly asphalt year. I laughed at how absurd Steve was that year. I got mad at shit he pulled.
I met Steve Industry in the summer and I knew he was quite the character right away. His ramblings snagged me. He was a friend I’d need. Not because I liked him. I’m a bad listener to those that rag on their bad situations, that answer questions indirectly, that douse their language far-flung metaphors and obscure proper nouns. But I wanted to know Steve Industry. There was something about him that made me laugh. There was something that made me root his sad rock‘n’roll New England brand of pathetic on.
And that summer I learned all about his sometimes endearing wife, her constantly deplorable friends. Their young daughter. The mortgage. He shared all these parts of his life openly, ugly. Steve once said, “My life story is a sentence or two, four or six raised eyebrows, and some cocaine debris. I get it. Forever, I get it.” And yeah, sometimes it felt like that’s all it amounted to but damn, that summer I also saw some beautiful moments with Steve. He said some real things; truths that had been floating around my head, that he brought down and solidified in his surprising way with words.
I forgot to mention that Steve is in a rockband. The Steamrollers. It’s where his heart is really at. I mean sure, he loves his babygirl, but her and the band. That’s it. Sometimes Steve will be talking and then he will just burst out lyrics from some song his band plays. Often entertaining, sometimes relevant. So he has the band thing going, and with it a cast of other friends that he talks about, though I don’t particularly have interest in meeting them in person. The kind of people it suffices to just hear about.
I feel like I picked a certain style up from Steve. This conversation is just rolling on, no particular order. And I suppose that is a thing I learned from Steve. When Steve gets asked a question, he will sometimes answer directly. Other times he’ll treat a question like a chance to say whatever the hell is on his mind. No sense of obligation to reason. He’s got a way with words. I wrote this one down: “The sun reappears and we’re in the driveway and the morning is wet and cold and soggy and dewy and you can tell the sun is going to curl up and meow wild upon the clustered houses of this town-city where we bought this stupid castle for too much and where now we’re dissolving.” To be honest, Steve was kind of downer of a friend. But he said things with such flair. I think Steve’d agree that if you put a pretty dress on an ugly thing, then it is a pretty thing.
And yeah. I hung around Steve for one year. I despised him sometimes; he did the dumbest things and was surprised with their consequences. He really lacked control. He lacked conviction. He was telling a story once, somewhere toward the end of our friendship, and he honest to God, said to me, word for word: “I knew I was probably going to break the terms of probation. But then I couldn’t remember if I was even on probation. So, whatever.” And so it was hard to root for him in a serious way, when you know he’s hardly rooting for himself. It was hard to believe in a redemptive season for Steve, when he had quagmired his life into such a pile. And ultimately that’s why we saw the end of that year of our friendship so differently. That event he celebrated, I scoffed at.
When my year of friendship with Steve Industry ended, I wasn’t upset about the times I had listened to him rambling. In fact, I missed him once he was gone. If anyone had the time to be friends with Steve Industry for a year, I’d strongly recommend it. You’ll laugh, you’ll be struck by the beauty and the dinge. He’s a good friend to have for a year.