Archive | April, 2013

WIPs Conversation: Ben Shaberman on His Work in Progress

Ben Shaberman

Ben Shaberman’s first book, “The Vegan Monologues,” is a collection of humorous essays published by Loyola University of Maryland. It features essays carried by a variety of media including: The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, VegNews, Vegetarian Times, Clean Sheets Erotica Magazine, and NPR’s Morning Edition.

By day, he is a science writer for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, reporting on research for inherited retinal diseases. He also has a master of arts in writing from Johns Hopkins University, and has won awards from the Stonecoast Writers Conference (University of Southern Maine) and the Des Moines National Poetry Festival.

Ben, “Missy” is an intriguing excerpt from Jerry’s Vegan Women. As it turns out, though, Missy is no longer one of Jerry’s women or a vegan by story’s end. Perhaps the ideal Jerry formed of her was better suited for her mother, Claire. At what juncture do Missy and Claire appear in Jerry’s Vegan Women and how does the story excerpted here play into the broader collection?

The book is comprised of ten different stories with each featuring a different woman or girl, though “Missy” is really a story about two women. The book progresses chronologically with Jerry transforming along the way. Some of the women appear in more than one story, but Missy’s one and only appearance is in this chapter. The resolution with the ex-mother-in-law-to-be Claire is revealed toward the end of the book.

“Missy” provides a major turning point for Jerry in which he has the proverbial rug pulled out from under him. Just as he has gotten his vegan life together — gone vegan and become an activist — “meat happens.”

But given that Missy is officially the fourth female in the book, there are six more adventures with vegan women to come.

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Ben Shaberman: Missy–(From Jerry’s Vegan Women, a Collection of Short Stories)

Claire cut the ribbons. Missy tied the ribbons into bows. Jerry attached the bows to the scallop seashells using a glue gun. Missy insisted they make three hundred ornaments — one for each of the two hundred wedding guests plus one hundred extra “just in case.”

“Just in case of what?” Jerry asked. “Someone can’t make it through the reception without just one? They need a yin shell for their yang shell? An Abbott shell for their Costello shell? An Agnew for their Nixon?”

Claire laughed. “Agnew, what a corrupt prick he was. As bad as Nixon. Do you guys even remember Watergate?”

“Don’t encourage him, Mom!” Missy said, glaring at her, then at Jerry. “What if some of the shells break? Or what if someone really likes them and wants two or three?”

“I’m sure that any heterosexual male with a pulse will gladly relinquish his sea shell if one of your girlfriends wants an extra one,” Jerry said in a facetious tone. “Especially if they’ll be used as pasties later in the evening.”

Missy slapped her hands on the table. “That is sick. These will be a nice memento of our wedding. People will love them.”

“Miss, I think you’re shell-shocked. Take a break,” Jerry said, as he glued another bow to a shell and placed it in the small pile of finished ornaments.

“Come on kids. Let’s be nice. Just a few weeks and it will all be over,” Claire said as Missy got up from the table and stomped off into the kitchen.

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