André Cotto. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author.
Brooklyn author Andrew Cotto will have his seventh work of fiction published this week. “Pasta Mike: A Story of Friendship and Loss” is a short story heavily based on the author’s experiences. The Brooklyn Eagle sat down with Cotto to discuss this book, its themes, the unique approach to storytelling, and, of course, his party plans.
Brooklyn Eagle: The characters in the book are Andy Cotto and Mike O’Shea. They are real people based on real events. Why not a memoir?
Andre Cotto: That was the original intention, but it got too complicated. Mike’s life, even cut short at 42, was so huge. His sphere of influence, so to speak, was so wide that it would have been really difficult for me to include everyone and everything that deserved attention. I have never known someone who was loved so much by so many people. Not only was this intimidating, but it also took us away from the focus on this special friendship that we value. So I romanticized a world with two real characters. Two friends. Me and Mike.
TO BE: Tell us about friendship.
THAT : Mike and I literally knew each other before we were born. Our mothers were neighbors and were due to give birth the same week. They bonded through their pregnancies and spent a lot of time together during and after with their newborns. Mike and I were born five days apart. We were best friends all our lives. There’s nothing we didn’t know about each other. I’m sure I could read his mind…
TO BE: Was writing about this friendship cathartic at all?
THAT : Yes it was. I felt like I was spending time with him, but I also felt like I was paying homage to him. That was the best part. I wanted to create a record, a testimony, to an incredible human being, someone with such a capacity for love. I want his friends and family to have something that commemorates Mike accordingly and also serves as a way to share with others. You know, I want his three children, for example, to introduce their father to those in their lives who have never met him.
TO BE: Was it difficult to write about the loss?
THAT : It was really difficult, but it’s also a very important part of the book. Along with the tribute to Mike, I wanted to generally explore the power of male friendship and its importance in our lives. I also wanted to reveal vulnerabilities that can be triggered after a loss. Loss is very difficult for everyone. I know. I think men, however, just don’t deal with loss particularly effectively. And this is especially true when the loss involves a friend. We just don’t talk about it; we’re not saying that we’re hurt and that maybe the hurt – wherever it comes from – is bigger than us.
TO BE: This is what happened to you?
THAT : Oh shit yeah, and I felt compelled as a writer to put that experience out there. I had written an essay for TalkSpace about losing a friend, and I got some really thoughtful notes from men across the country telling me about their loss, how painful it was, and how the essay made them feel less alone. I then thought of doing something bigger than an essay, but anything bigger than a novella would have been too much for me!
TO BE: We covered your latest event in person, for the novel Cucina Tipica: an Italian adventure at the Littlefield performance space in Gowanus, which was quite the party, with food, drink and live music from Brooklyn’s Bette Smith and her band. Will you organize local events to promote this book?
THAT : Absoutely. Since that party, I’ve done two virtual book launches, and both were fun, but I’ve had enough fake “lives” in my life. I need a real concert. I had planned something for Pasta Mike in Littlefield with Bette and her band, but we had to cancel because of the virus bullshit. I’m waiting for the coast to be absolutely clear before I do all that planning again, but I’m going to, and I’m also going to do something a little more intimate at the BookMark Shoppe in Bay Ridge with dinner afterwards at Cebu Bar & Bistro. I think March for both, but I will be patient.
Ian S. Maloney is Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing at St Francis College and Project Coordinator at the New Literary Project.