Amy Hassinger

Writer. Teacher. Manuscript Consultant.

William Gillespie's HOW TO VOTE: A MANUAL, by Max Winchester

`Tis the season of voting all across the land. We’ve already had our presidential primary here in Illinois, but we’re still watching the gradual rolling in of results, and with it the gradual unfolding of the fate of our country. Voting is an extraordinary act, both a right and a privilege. But it’s also something that we can end up taking for granted if we’re not careful. Thankfully, William Gillespie has come along to trouble the waters of our apathy with a great new book called How to Vote: A Manual, by Max Winchester.

Max Winchester, you should know, is a character from William’s novel Keyhole Factory. William’s characters are so fully conceived that they write their own books! In How to Vote, Max cum William has written an extended meditation on democracy, the political process, cynicism, middle age, and post-millenial American cultural decadence. It’s a collection of 50 short prose poems, one for every state. I’m going to read you the first two pieces in the collection, which I’ve edited slightly for reading on air. William Gillespie lives in Urbana, Illinois.

VOTE AGAINST YOUR INSTINCTS. Peel off your bumper stickers, yank the signs from your yard. Let them know you’re a loose cannon, a maverick citizen who can’t be reasoned with or manipulated through loyalty. Vote without strategy. Vote to protest: Votest. Vote to threaten, to tickle, to embarrass, to streak unencumbered and uninhibited through the whitewashed walls of government. Vote again and again, screaming as you’re cut by the razor’s edge between agony and bliss. Vote with your heart, your spleen, your ovaries, your wiener. Grunt. Get into full-frontal voting. Vote gasping, spewing juices. Vote like a mother. Vote as if it were almost too late to do any good.
Don’t vote. You will be missed. You’ll raise suspicions, hurt feelings, undermine enormous campaigns costing the equivalent of thousands of new schools. You’ll sabotage the election, send a clear message, cast doubt on the process, trigger a recount, insurrect, invoke revolution. The candidates will come to your doorstep with tears in their eyes pleading for you to reconsider, to not let your country down. You tell them that democracy is an enormous, greasy iron-armored warship crawling out of the harbor into international waters, and to poke loose a chad would be to fling a single piece of confetti in celebration at the majestic dirty sight of it plowing through the roiling, oil-scummed seas on its way to occupy foreign lands whose histories are not taught in our schools. At which their eyes will brighten, and they will say, “Yes, yes, that is such a beautiful image! Throw that confetti!”

You can find William Gillespie’s How to Vote, A Manual by Max Winchester, with all cussing and obscenity intact at spinelessbooks.com or locally at Exile on Main Street.