Thursday, October 23, 2014

9. LITTLE TILES OF WEALTH

‘Little Tiles of Wealth’ is a story that focuses on a single mom who works as an ER nurse and worries as her pre-pubescent son’s interests diverge from her own. It’s just one of the 22 fiction pieces included in The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Stories, a collection Brooklyn Arts Press is publishing in December. If you don’t want to wait, though, you can pre-order the book HERE.



The story’s protagonist hears cryptic advice emanating from the philanthropic plaques she passes as she walks to work and makes her way through the hospital. ‘A walk down a hospital corridor reveals the outrageous inequality of contemporary health care …’ says writer Carol Guess about the story. Some of the more absurdist scenes from the ER in ‘Little Tiles of Wealth’ are courtesy of my friend who works the nightshift in a busy hospital. 

Another of the story’s themes was first suggested to me by my boyfriend: the campy potential of sports. One of the protagonist’s biggest fears is that her son is forsaking science for the pleasure of watching athletes onscreen. D. A. Miller writes about how athletes are seen as active rather than performative—although they are being watched, their movements are not scripted, but rather made in ways that deny the fact they’re on display. They’re part of a team that works together to dominate. Men on stage, however, have difficulty reading as masculine. They are not doing, but rather performing. According to John Berger, ‘men act and women appear.’

‘It is no accident ...’ writes David M. Halperin, ‘that sports matches—with one or two rare exceptions—are never reenacted, restaged, or reperformed exactly as they originally transpired. They must be seen to occur only once, because their very definition demands that they appear to be unscripted: in order to qualify as an “event," they must consist in a single, spontaneous action that concludes once and for all when it is over and that cannot be repeated.’



As athletes allow themselves to be more flamboyant, though, and—like David Beckham—sexualized, I wonder if spectator sports are changing. Maybe I’m just too gay for ESPN, but when I see its commentators debating, their humor feels frigid in a way that's weirdly outdated. The protagonist from ‘Little Tiles of Wealth’ feels this each morning as she walks past a sporting goods store and sees its employees clowning around, roleplaying as star athletes behind Xeroxed-face-on-popsicle-stick masks.

Visit Brooklyn Arts Press’s website to pre-order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales.


Friday, October 17, 2014

8. TOY STORY

‘Toy Story’ relates an interaction between two classic toys in their break room. I adapted it into a broadside, which you can learn more about here.



'Toy Story' is also included in my forthcoming Brooklyn Arts Press collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, which is now available for pre-order. The first 50 people who order from BAP's website will receive a free broadside adaptation of 'Toy Story' or another piece!

Monchichi, based on the early 1980s anthropomorphic monkey-doll phenomenon (spelled Monchhichi), has recently had her heart broken, and melodramatically pokes at her chef salad as she attempts to recover. Here she is in happier times:



Meanwhile, her stickler co-worker, Madball, regales her with libertarian propaganda. His political philosophy is a natural extension of his upbringing as a popular toy that tried to be as gross as possible:



Pre-order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales HERE.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

7. THE STORY OF HOW ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL

The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales is due out December 1! Meanwhile, though, you can pre-order it HERE

The book's Orwell-inspired title story appeared earlier this year in Grist 7. A depressed narrator engages in a power struggle with a strong-willed fashion design student who he platonically shares a bed with. The narrator watches Lena try on different animal identities as she sews clothes inspired by farm animals, adopts and discards—then rediscovers—a Pomeranian, and incongruously dresses as Jessica Rabbit for Halloween. At night, they re-equalize:
We slept in a Murphy bed that never went up. There were hooks mounted on the wall above it, with hats piled thick enough to keep the bed from lifting. The mattress was too short—if we extended our legs, our feet made contact with an icy iron bar at the foot of the bed. I imagined us as batteries recharging, the cold shock pushing exhaustion up through our bodies and sparking dreams. 
Sometimes Lena made animal sounds in her sleep. I would break the iron current then, and cuddle. We’d be warm together, my knees locked into the back of hers. Of course this place is haunted, she’d say, with all those hats falling on the bed all the time. She’d say it like it was my fault, but most of the hats were hers.
Things become tense as the narrator grows jealous of Lena’s other relationships. He finds himself mirroring her tyrannical personality, the thing that drew him to her in the first place:
Lena was eight days older than me, and shared her birthday with Hitler. I shared mine with Saddam Hussein. We had a joint birthday party where we spent the day in bed. We read to each other, played cards, and gossiped. We took turns going to the store for more champagne. When it got dark, we took a nap, then got up and went out dancing. She brought home an NPR reporter who said he couldn’t take her home because his house was being painted.  
That means he has a girlfriend, I told her. 
Whatever, she said. It’s my birthday. 
 It’s my birthday, too, I said, and refused to yield the bed. 
As the narrator’s depression deepens, the rainy season sets in, and Lena obsessively listens to Prince’s ’17 Days’, a song that tonally syncs with the story’s up-tempo sadness. Because the Artist is such a freak about copyright issues, I can’t post the video here, but hopefully this link will stay up for awhile: http://www.wat.tv/video/prince-17-days-3oo43_3mbzf_.html
One time Lena said, Prince is such a man. 
Prince wears mascara, I said. 
I don’t mean a man like macho. I mean a man like human. Listen: there’s nothing animal in Prince’s world. It’s all artifice and emotion. 
I moved a beret from the bed to the hat rack.  
All you ever listen to is this one song, I said, and it’s the b-side to ‘When Doves Cry’. That’s maybe the most animal song ever. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

6. THE HARE

I never noticed how much Angelina Jolie's acting relies on posing until watching The Tourist on an airplane. I was too cheap to buy earphones, and the postures were probably heightened by the lack of sound: the silence made me conscious of how much the actor's striking appearance must limit her range. I haven't seen Salt, which came out around the same time, but it seems to be essentially the same role. Turn down the sound and see:


It’s a face that wants to be static—when she has to move and talk, it feels a little like someone made a puppet out of a Vogue cover. Thus, she becomes the default Woman of Mystery, someone remote enough to never emote. So is Angie Jo an extremely well paid character actress? 

Intrigue is essential to everything she does (at least, in recent years). And when I sat down to write ‘The Hare, I tried to harness—and satirize—the emotions that filmmakers set out to evoke when they do intrigue: the frisson of realizing things aren’t what they seem, the heart-sink that comes with betrayal, the childish thrill of being chased.


‘The Hare’ first appeared in BOMB, along with the above collage. The story is just one of 22 featured in my forthcoming collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales. Click HERE to pre-order it. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

5. PRIDE GOETH BEFORE

‘Pride Goeth Before’ is basically an altar boy memoir, as much as that’s possible—the performative nature of the role being one that lends itself better to fiction. The narrator’s rival/inspiration is an off-Broadway belter gigging as cantor whose carefully crafted femininity perturbs the congregation. An earlier version of the piece appeared in the debut issue of Mixed Fruit (check it out on page 11), and it continues to evolve. In the very first drafts of the story, the cantor’s owlness was much more explicit—she actually shape-shifted and flew around the rafters

Serving as an altar boy was such a formative experience, it continues to be a theme I can’t escape. I’m currently making an artist’s book called Catholics, where my bizarre altar boyhood is a major theme. Catholics won’t be done until Spring 2015, though, so meanwhile get your dose by pre-ordering The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales HERE.

Monday, September 22, 2014

4. THE BANSHEES

The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, my forthcoming short story collection from Brooklyn Arts Press (pre-order it HERE!), features a cover image created by artist Alicia DeBrincat. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was ‘The Banshees’.


‘The Banshees’ is a story that explores a love triangle between three disaffected girls who are renegotiating their identities as punks. Spoiler alert: at the end of the story, Siouxsie Sioux—‘a throatfully cawing black-haired sun’—has a cameo, and she’s pissed, which makes everyone really uncomfortable. Watch this and imagine:


And here’s my own collage to accompany ‘The Banshees’:


My collage, awkwardly craftsy, is not afraid of being literal (Sharpied-on Siouxsie makeupreally?), whereas DeBrincat’s cover image, while it may use ‘The Banshees’ as a launching point, works to embody the character of the whole collection. 

The book comes out December 1, and you can pre-order it HERE. Ok, here's one more: 


Monday, September 15, 2014

3. GRIDLOCK

‘Gridlock’ has a history—an early draft of the story first appeared back in the early 2000s in the zine Glossolalia. That zine’s creator and publisher, Sarah McCarry, has since gone on to prove herself a publishing virtuoso: the second installment of her All Our Pretty Songs YA trilogy, titled Dirty Wings, came out earlier this year to rave reviews. The ingenious creative nonfiction chapbook series she edits and produces, Guillotine, has brought to light obscure musings from writers ranging from Bojan Louis to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick to Mimi Thi Nguyen and Golnar Nikpour. And her blog, The Rejectionist, which sprang from her travails as a publishing-industry workhorse, continues to draw a devoted readership.

‘Gridlock’ has evolved a bit since it first appeared in Glossolalia—although its core remains: two women stagnate in a parked car at a gas stationeither one year in the future or one dimension to the left—and perhaps, more than anything else, it’s an erotic tension that keeps them both there. A later version of the story has since been featured in Metazen, and an even further evolved version appears in The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, which you can pre-order HERE.

Meanwhile, enjoy the following two inescapable songs, which lilt forth from the gas station speakers at polarly inopportune times:



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2. THE TACO GROUP

‘The Taco Group’ relates the tale of a post-apocalyptic kaffeeklatsch dedicated to founding a utopian city on the ashes of the city that came before. Unfortunately, the group devolves into Real Housewives-style infighting, and their often conflicting visions never get off the ground.

According to my artist’s statement, the story was inspired by a bunch of junk: 
... a couple of business cards I’d saved (one for a company that referred to itself as a Group, the other from a man I met in a sauna who asked for help building a virtual city), a book of baby names (the androgynous, melodramatic ones that are now popular), a shredded Styrofoam cup I passed on the street (peeled and cut in a way that resembled the Eye of Horus), the tangible comfort I feel when I see a taco buffet (it’s been too long).
I wrote the artist’s statement to accompany a performance I adapted from the story for the Breaking Ranks Reading & Exhibition held at the Headlands Center for the Arts. In addition to the artist’s statement, I letterpress printed a progress report, assembled a slideshow bordering on rudimentary animation, and handcrafted a taco buffet made of paper, glue, Mylar, and polymer clay.

Click HERE to pre-order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales—a fiction collection that features ‘The Taco Group’ along with 21 other stories.

Friday, September 5, 2014

1. SPIEL

I’ll spend the next couple months posting about the 22 stories featured in my forthcoming fiction collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales (which you can pre-order HERE!). 

The first story on deck is called ‘Spiel’, and it first appeared in Wigleaf. I made an accompanying collage that employs the dreaded Comic Sans—the perfect typeface to embody that place where kitsch becomes so sickly, the sugar self-combusts and an unexpected bitterness creeps in. Perfect for a shopkeeper narrator with a cynical relationship to her wares. Read the story here. And stay tuned for more …