Student’s book recounts cousin’s crazy summer
‘Tomatoes in July’ started as collection of drunk text messages
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 02:03
After a year of receiving drunken texts and hearing about ridiculous adventures from her 28-year-old cousin, junior Chrissy Monastero decided to turn his exploits into a book published in January.
"Tomatoes in July" is the first installment of a three-part series that follows Monastero's cousin, who operates under the alias Benjamin in the book, as he embarks on an alcohol-infused, month-long tear through Manhattan. Monastero co-authored the book with her cousin AnneMarie Conway. It was published by Xlibris Book Publishing Company, an Indiana-based business that facilitates self-publishing.
The story began as a collection of text messages saved in Monastero's Blackberry, which eventually grew into several written manuscripts that the trio deemed worthy of expanding into a short novel. After nearly a year of work, the result is an eight-section, 108-page memoir from July 2009. Each story is intertwined with text messages and written in a language characteristic of the authors and their New York roots.
"Benjamin would type up these mumbo jumbo stories," Monastero said. "Me and AnneMarie would make it into English, and send it back to him."
Monastero and Conway have pseudonyms of their own in the novella, Chriss-A and Am, respectively. The book is aimed at the young adult demographic.
"It's offensive for sure," she said. "We told our mom not to buy this book. We have brief intermissions throughout the story and one is titled ‘Dead Baby Jokes.'"
Monastero said one of the most challenging aspects of writing the book was reaching a compromise with the editors.
"When we talk, it's all very natural, but it's a challenge to make the lingo understandable to everyone else while also keeping our personalities in it," she said. "We had to include a whole glossary."
The book's title comes from Benjamin's fantasy football team, Full Tomatoes, which Monastero and Conway co-manage.
"In the two weeks the website has been up with the limited bookstore availability and primitive Facebook marketing we've done, only about 60 copies have sold," she said.
Benjamin, who would not give his real name, is a sound engineer for the Blue Man Group and works as a Starbucks coffee promoter.
"I have two more books coming out and I have more—how should I say this? More research to do," Benjamin said. "The anonymity adds an element of surprise to it and keeps it separate from my real life."
Benjamin hopes college students find the book amusing. He said it is a quick read and can be therapeutic in a twisted and strange sort of way.
"There's stuff people take too seriously and they shouldn't," he said. "Whatever someone's situation is, they shouldn't dwell on it too much. They should be able to laugh about it too, and this book is a reminder of that."
Benjamin said he and his cousins are launching a book tour this spring, with stops at the University of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. They will appear at the university on March 13.
"The feedback has been overwhelming," Benjamin said. "Older men and kids maybe love it for different reasons, but they both enjoy it, whether they are looking back a week or 20 years."