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Book Review: Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi

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Book Review: Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi


Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi. (Ig Publishing)

I’ve been listening to the Otherppl podcast for the last eight years. It’s a show featuring a new literary guest each week and I find it fascinating. I was immediately intrigued by host Brad Listi’s interview style which, like Marc Maron, relies more on having a conversation as opposed to asking direct questions that may or may not be related to one another.

For me, at least, Listi’s outlook on the world was familiar and personal, and I can see my own perspective being observed. Basically—and this shows my laziness—Listi probes and explores specific topics that I’ve grappled with, only he takes the introspection even deeper; meaning, I don’t have to. I’ve learned more about how I feel about things because Brad Listi did the hard work.

And, really, this trend continues through his new “novel” Be Brief and Tell Them Everything.

Brad Listi has put together a compelling book about self-examination and life’s general struggles. It acts as a memoir of sorts (a “novel” starring Brad Listi as the main character) where he susses out what he’s learned through his life while contemplating what it means to be an artist. After we’ve made our way into the story a little bit, he opens up about his child with disabilities. His son had a seizure in utero which caused physical issues and cognitive delays.

Listi writes about these experiences in a way that we not only read about how hard they are, but we also feel how hard they are. It’s difficult simply having a kid, but to then add physical issues on top makes it seemingly impossible. This is where Be Brief and Tell Them Everything becomes so much more than a “life is hard” book. Listi goes into how it’s difficult to see your kid, this miracle child after five miscarriages, and wish he’d wake up and simply be normal—as if normalcy is such a thing, as if that wouldn’t change the person he inherently is.

Listi tracks his process in finding a balance between wishing for something more and being grateful for what he has (and yes, we’ve seen that before, but this book puts a human life at the center of this tug-o-war). And none of this summary hints at how funny this book is, which, to be clear, is a hard thing to pull off with a subject matter this heavy. And yet, Listi does it.

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Having listened to Otherppl so much, I’ve gleaned some things about Brad Listi’s personal life. Sure, he has an interview-based podcast, but one aspect I love (which others have criticized) is how much of himself he puts into the show. While he’s cracking open these literary lives, he’s also showing the deepest parts of himself. He makes connections with relative strangers by tying their experiences back to his own life and working through his own thoughts and feelings about topics.

This is why I put “novel” in quotes at the start of this review. Be Brief and Tell Them Everything is classified as a novel, but after listening to this man for nearly a decade, I’ve learned things about his personal life—which I’m now seeing is kind of weird because we’re pretty much strangers; it’s a one-sided relationship where I know lots about him and he effectively knows zero about me; such is the life of a successful, rock-star podcaster, I suppose—about the members of his family, his pets, his son’s medical struggles, and his general worldview.

So, when I started reading this book, it did not strike me as fiction. I’m sure it’s autofiction, of sorts, but I can’t really speak to the small details found within. I started to wonder why he chose to call it a novel as opposed to a memoir. Then, I read the section about memory and how the more you tell stories the less accurate they become. I wrote an essay about this very phenomenon a couple years back: the way it works is your memories get wear and tear from you handling them, just like your furniture. The wild part is when you retell a story, you’re not telling the original, but you’re reiterating the copy. You’re simply remembering the revised version of that specific memory—effectively rendering the truth useless.

Listi is sincerely looking for the best way to get through life, appreciating everyone for what they have to offer, as long as they’re being authentic.

I can’t help but feel like this is why, or at least part of why, Listi chose to call this book a novel. Yes, this is about him. This is his life. But it relies completely on his retelling of it, and if anyone is aware of memory’s fallibility, it’s Brad Listi.

Be Brief and Tell Them Everything can act as a companion piece to the Otherppl podcast. It is another entry into the life and times of Brad Listi which, in the end, I can see as an important text, because, through the years, I’ve come to trust that he’s an honest operator. He doesn’t always get it right, but, of us, who does? Listi is sincerely looking for the best way to get through life, appreciating everyone for what they have to offer, as long as they’re being authentic. It’s like Listi does on his podcast: your struggle is my struggle and we’re in this together, trying our darndest to get through as unscathed as possible, but we’re gonna get hurt.

That’s an inevitability in life, and it’s at the core of Be Brief and Tell Them Everything. We’re going to get hurt, but hopefully we’ll learn a thing or two. I enjoyed this book so much I wish he wasn’t so brief. Chew the fat a little longer, Brad—release an extended director’s cut, please.

Buy now from Ig PublishingBookshopIndieboundPowell’sAmazon, or Barnes & Noble.


Joseph Edwin Haeger is the author of Learn to Swim, a memoir published by University of Hell Press.


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Joseph Edwin Haeger

Joseph Edwin Haeger is the author of Learn to Swim (University of Hell Press, 2015). His writing has appeared in The Pacific NW Inlander, RiverLit, Hippocampus Magazine, and others. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife and son.