Inspired by the novel and film of the same name, one local mechanic has decided to lay down his socket wrench and pick up a pen to write what some are calling “the automotive answer to Eat Pray Love.” It all started when Dan Delaney found a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular 2007 romantic memoir while servicing a customer’s 2023 Chevy Blazer earlier this year. Bored on his lunch break, Delaney cracked open the best-selling novel and was soon engrossed by Gilbert’s recollection of her time exploring new countries, cuisines, and romances. The long-time mechanic was so inspired by the author’s candid retelling of her adventurous, post-divorce sojourn that he immediately set out to tell his own story, albeit one with a little more of an automotive bent. Drawing on his own experiences navigating love and lunch in the glamorous world of engine repair, Delaney’s debut novel “Intake Compression Exhaust” is expected out later this year.
Named after the three distinct strokes that take place inside any gas-powered engine, Delaney’s memoir is an intimate look under the hood of the mechanic’s personal and professional life. The manuscript was picked up by an unorthodox publisher, more on that later, and will hit bookshelves in time for the holiday season. In the meantime, we sat down with Delaney to discuss the novel, how Gilbert’s work influenced him, and get a second opinion on our noisy transmission.
The Lemon: So Dan, have you always had literary ambitions or is this an entirely new venture for you?
Dan Delaney: I’ve always written little things here and there: illegible notes on customer’s invoices, dirty limericks, my name in the snow…but yeah, this is the first time I’ve really tried to tell my own story.
TL: How was your work inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel?
DD: We have a lot in common, me and Liz. I, too, found myself divorced and a bit unmoored in middle age, but unlike Gilbert, I didn’t have the disposable income or frequent flier miles necessary to get over my heartbreak through international travel. Luckily I had the next best thing, which is a collection of the finest takeout menus in the greater Milwaukee area, an open tab at my neighborhood bar, and a project car that I can fiddle around with on the weekend.
TL: So that’s your version of Eat Pray Love?
DD: Yup. I like to order two dozen of the hottest wings in town—that’s the “eat.” Slam enough beer that I either see God or start to feel like him—pray. And then go down to the garage and polish the chrome on my ‘74 Stingray—love. I’ve just rebranded the whole experience using automotive metaphors that men can embrace without ever coming face-to-face with their actual feelings. I “Intake” as much food as possible, “Compress” my emotions deep down inside myself, and then express “Exhaust” myself by showering affection on an inanimate object. It might not seem as spiritual or enlightened as Julia Roberts memorizing a 182-verse Sanskrit chant, but I do like to put on a little Skynyrd while I work, so, the same thing, basically.
TL: Eat Pray Love received unprecedented coverage from some of the biggest names in the media. What does your own promotional campaign for “Intake Compression Exhaust” look like?
DD: Well, Oprah wouldn’t return my calls, but she wasn’t really the target demographic anyway. Thankfully my nephew made a lot of contacts selling Cambodian steroids in the parking lot of the local gym, and because of him, I’m happy to say that I’ll be interviewed on Joe Rogan’s podcast later this month. I’ve been drinking a little mezcal with every meal to prepare myself and boning up on some light neo-fascist men’s rights literature.
TL: Tell us a little about your publisher. We heard that this is actually the first novel they’ve ever produced. Is that true?
DD: It is! They had been big players within an unrelated industry, but they said that the novel would dovetail well with their existing customer base and decided to try their hand at the publishing game. Some people might think it’s odd to have a beef jerky manufacturer suddenly churning out books, but I think it’s a match made in heaven, especially given the culinary aspects of the book. I get a lifetime supply of jalapeno Slim Jims, and the readers get a hardcover book that smells vaguely of mesquite. It’s a win-win.
TL: Well, thanks so much for your time, Dan. Just one last question before we finish. I’ve got a 2017 Sonata, and it’s making this…
DD: I have to stop you right there. Labor starts at $110 an hour, and if you say one more word, I’m going to have to put you on the clock.