The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell is just out in paperback. The book follows a jaded time traveler who, after touring the entirety of human history, is content to keep his own company, thank you very much. Every year on his birthday he zips through time to the year 2071, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and spends the evening at an abandoned Manhattan hotel drinking Scotch with exactly no one else. Well, that’s not completely true. Versions of his past and future self are also in attendance. But on his 39th birthday his adventure takes a turn for the worse: Encountering your future self dead of a gunshot wound to the head has a way of doing that. From this point on, our hero tries to figure out what happened by chasing clues he may or may not have left for himself. Revisiting the past, he discovers paranoia and suspicion among his younger selves, and, most complicated of all, must decide what the sudden appearance of a mysterious woman named Lilly could possibly mean. Sound complicated? It is. Sound awesome? It is.

Ferrell lives in New York and occasionally blogs here. One recent post is “Brooklyn Pick-Up Artists”, and it goes like this:

The young woman climbs the stairs from the subway and lights a cigarette.

The young man walks up to the young woman.

“Hey, if you don’t mind, do you have a cigarette to spare?”


“Thanks.” He gives her a confident grin.

“Your barn door is open?”

The grin disappears. “Excuse me?”

She holds out the cigarette like a magic wand. “Your fly is down.”

He takes the smoke. “Oh. Excellent.”

Meanwhile, I am standing less than three feet away, watching them like a television screen, holding the leash of a dog who is urinating on an empty plastic bag.

From the curiously humdrum to the beautifully bleak. This one is called “The Good Life”:

Just now I killed a thumb-sized cockroach in my bathroom. I stabbed him with an umbrella and crushed him with a garbage can. We were both naked. He died, but in the grand scheme I think it was me that truly lost.

If you like this, be sure to check out Ferrell’s website, and follow him @byseanferrell.  There you can sample more of his unique take on the seemingly small things that make our lives so big.


But back to the book. As mentioned, it’s out in paperback. Would you like to read a brief sample? Here you go …

It is unfortunate for me that I am, by most any objective measure, a genius.

I was forced to realize just how unfortunate on my thirty- ninth birthday. As had been my custom for nineteen years, I arrived at the Boltzmann Hotel in Manhattan on April 1, 2071. One hundred years earlier, across town at New York Medical Center, lay my mother, lightning flashing outside the single window in her gray cube of a hospital room as I kicked and refused to come out. Later, in my twenty-sixth or twenty-seventh subjective year, while horribly, inevitably drunk, I paid a visit to the hospital on the night of my birth in 1971. I’d stolen an orderly’s uniform and faked my way through the halls, arms filled with bedpans, until I found the maternity ward. There she’d been, my mother, younger than I could ever remember, screaming and sweating. Inside her was me, preborn me, nascent genius (by objective standards, not mine), stuck on her pelvis and grinding my head into her spine.

She never saw me. I left after placing a bedpan on the floor— the doctor had to trip on it, fall headfirst against the bathroom doorknob, and spend the rest of the night concussed and vomiting. He had to be replaced by an intern and a near-retirement nurse who knew more than all the rest of us present, who took hold of me and pulled me into the world despite all my objections. I knew this from many tellings of “The Night You Were Born.” So I left the bedpan for the doctor.

That was the only year of my time-traveling life when I spent my birthday anywhere other than the Boltzmann. It was the year I stopped serving drinks to myself from behind the bar and focused instead on the drinking of them before it.

As I traveled, I counted my days. When another 365 had passed for me—subjectively, not objectively; objective time and I stopped talking years ago—I would direct the raft back to April 1, 2071. I would dock in the city at easily recalled locations—the mouth of the Holland Tunnel, the mayor’s Gracie Mansion bedroom, beside the Astor Place “cube” statue, atop the Empire State Building’s observation deck—and then walked directly to the Boltzmann. These places would echo with my footsteps, silence sealing in around me as the raft cooled and lost the pop and crackle of heated filaments and nearly burned-out wiring. In parking, my focus was making the raft easy to find. My celebrations were cloudier each year, and by my thirty-ninth subjective birthday, the possibility of entirely forgetting where I was parked and being stuck in the vacant city seemed very real. Sometimes I left chalk arrows on walls, signed with my age, pointing me back to where I’d left the machine. I could also follow my own footprints in the ever-present mud—a mix of the constant rain and the slow demise of the city’s concrete and stone. The city in 2071 is full of good parking places. Just one subjective year earlier, when I was thirty-eight, I had parked inside what was left of Lincoln Center. It resembled a rookery, flocking with parrots, their inane chatter filling the darkness with conversations echoing Playbill notes and intermission critiques of performances ended decades earlier. Manhattan had become a parrot’s island. I’d parked at Lincoln Center with Isadora Duncan in mind, a sentimental ode—I’d just left her in 1927—but upon returning to the raft, I’d found it covered in bird droppings. Lesson learned.

Did you read all of that?

Did you enjoy it?


You should enter to win a free copy of The Man in the Empty Suit, here.