Guest Post and Giveaway: The Opposite of Everything

Today we are honored to have author David Kalish guest posting, telling us about how he turned tragedy into comedy in his book, The Opposite of Everything.  Welcome, David!

How I Turned My Personal Struggle Into Comedy
By David Kalish

Writing about one’s personal past can feel overwhelming, particularly if the past was painful. You’re forced to revisit all the ways life hurt you and those around you. As an author, I struggled over how to make sense of traumatic events in my life that began in 1994. That year, I was diagnosed with incurable thyroid cancer at the same time my first marriage fell apart. I grew depressed.  My failed first marriage left me feeling as if I could never love, or be loved, again; my incurable cancer made me feel it didn’t matter.

I tried writing about it as memoir. My life felt like the perfect setup for autobiography. Lots of dramatic material. Besides, I was a journalist for many years, used to trading in facts. But as I read back my early drafts something funny happened. I couldn’t stand my own writing. Scenes seemed melodramatic. My characters were stick figures. Fact is, I didn’t want to reveal anything about what I felt, or what my characters felt. The material was too hot for me to handle.

So I played around with the truth. I stretched it -- made up characters that did the opposite, in some cases, of what their real-life counterparts might consider.  Told the story in third-person. And I made it funny. The best jokes, I learned, reveal hidden truths about characters and situations.

So, in short, because the material hit so close to home, I chose a narrative technique that gave me just enough creative distance from the material to give me perspective. And to make it entertaining, not maudlin.

My book is still a story about one man’s struggle, his search for renewal. But I’ve handed it over to actors who are free to do all sorts of crazy things. It’s liberating. I can focus on the story’s narrative arc. I can go to town on my life.

I’ve always had a bit of the stand-up comedian in me, but it wasn’t until life handed me a mudpie that I decided to toss the pie in my own face. Making jokes was my way of having fun – not just entertaining readers, but entertaining myself too. 

I believe humor, done well, can reveal truths in more interesting ways than a straight-forward telling. It reveals the coping mechanism of the characters, and the narrator – humor as medicine to get through the tough times. And it allows me to push my characters to extremes. The reader is too busy being entertained to question whether, for instance, someone’s father would accidentally push his son off a bridge. Which is something the father character in my novel does.

I drew inspiration for my book, and its title The Opposite of Everything, from an episode of Seinfeld, the 1990s sitcom, called “The Opposite.” Coincidentally, that episode first aired in 1994, the same year that I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent divorce.

In it, George Costanza is so fed up with life he resolves to do the complete opposite of what came normally. He orders the opposite of his normal lunch, and introduces himself to a beautiful woman who happens to order the same lunch, saying “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” To his surprise, she is impressed and agrees to date him.

Looking back on those years, I sometimes felt as hapless as George. I was a busy New York City journalist struggling through stress at work, health problems, and a failed marriage. So when I sat down to write my book, long after Seinfeld went into repeats, I drew on the opposite theme for inspiration. My struggle to write the book echoed the life it depicted. At times, I wanted to run away from both. Instead I fictionalized my trauma, viewing my life through a contrarian lens. The further I distanced myself from my struggles, the less I felt like a victim.

In my case, as in my character’s, cancer provided motivation to live every day as if it were one of the last. If not for cancer, I probably would have stuck with my mediocre first marriage for a few extra years.  I didn’t have time to mess around with something half working. Cancer has been a gift in a way. It forced me to face my mortality and make the most of my time, and my relationships, and as a writer I got a book out of it and a second marriage that's a lot better than my first. I'm also on an experimental drug that's holding my disease at bay, even though it's in my lungs. So all in all, not a bad deal.

The Opposite of Everything is a hilariously fast-paced first novel for David Kalish. When Brooklyn journalist Daniel Plotnick learns he has cancer, his fortunes fall faster than you can say Ten Plagues of Egypt. His wife can’t cope, his marriage ends in a showdown with police, and his father accidentally pushes him off the George Washington Bridge.

Plotnick miraculously survives his terrifying plunge, and comes up with a zany plan to turn his life around: by doing the opposite of everything he did before.

In the darkly comedic tradition of Philip Roth and Lorrie Moore comes a new novel from author David Kalish, who draws us into a hilarious, off-kilter world where cancer tears apart relationships…and builds new ones.

Paperback:  191 Pages
Publisher:  WiDo Publishing (February 17, 2014)
Twitter hashtag: #OEKalish

David Kalish left a career as a big city journalist and became a fiction writer, earning his MFA from Bennington College. His first novel, The Opposite of Everythingwas accepted for publication by WiDo Publishing, and he's working on a second novel entitled Stoner Hero, which he often writes in his head while walking his two dogs in a forest near his upstate New York home.

In addition to the longer form, his short fiction has been published in Temenos, Knock, Spectrum, and Poydras Review, his non-fiction in The Writer's Chronicle, and a short film of his, "Regular Guy," was selected into film festivals here and abroad. As a reporter at The Associated Press, his articles appeared in major newspapers such as Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. He is currently working on a comedic theatre script for a Latin version of A Christmas Carol. He lives in Clifton Park, New York, with his wife, daughter, and two canaries, as well as those two dogs.
David’s Website:
David on Facebook:

Want to meet David Kalish?  Here is his upcoming tour schedule:
-- Thursday, April 17, 7 p.m., Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs
-- Tuesday, April 22, 7 p.m., Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island 
-- Thursday, May 1, 7 p.m., Book House in Albany, N.Y.
-- Saturday, May 3, Grubstreet Conference in Boston, panelist
-- Wednesday, May 7, 7 p.m., Newtonville Books, Boston
-- Saturday, May 24, 2 p.m., Golden Notebook books, Woodstock, N.Y.
-- Monday, June 2, 6 p.m., Mechanicville Public Library
-- Saturday, June 21, 3 p.m., Open Door Bookstore, Schenectady, N.Y.
-- Saturday, July 12, Book Store Plus, Lake Placid, N.Y.
-- Saturday, July 19, Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Philadelphia

Giveaway Rules:  Anyone can enter to strings attached!  Giveaway will end on May 7, 2014.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email and has 72 hours to respond and claim their prize. Good luck!" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Oh wow. It sounds SO good. I love that last quote.
    (not an entry)

  2. Please note: David's website is


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