Review at Kenyon Review

I’m very happy to have a review of The Sleeping World by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes up at the Kenyon Review. It’s weird: I wrote this a couple months ago, before the violence in the public sphere seemed to have escalated in Charlottesville, particularly the violence incited by fascists and Nazis at protests, all of which makes the book seem more timely, and of course all the more distressing. I still find its pessimism about collectivization difficult, though whether or not that reflects the reality of Spain in the late 1970s, I think it reflects a truth about the United States in 2017: we live in an increasingly atomized, individuated culture, and even liberals set a great deal of stock in ambition and individual achievement, not so much in the bonds that hold family and community together, and that help people resist power.

To wit: a liberal culture that hates Trump but is okay with Uber, which embodies most of the qualities people find so loathsome in our president (a sexist, me-first power structure that former employees say encourages sexual harassment, a labor model that makes collectivization impossible and destroys any bargaining power workers might have, and since “working class” doesn’t actually mean white but more often means people and usually women of color, don’t fool yourself about what Uber means for race, either).

To wit: the asshats who gave us the bodega app, who surely deserve to be punched in the face as badly as any Nazis do. Not that I think anyone deserves to be punched in the face. But I’ve definitely felt my convictions about the efficacy of nonviolence being challenged in the last few months, and I think it’s important to recognize that for all the ire directed at them by liberals, for all the misgivings I might have about them, Antifa probably saved a number of clergy members from getting beaten up–or worse–in Charlottesville.

We have two corner stores four blocks from our house, and one more a block away. One of those stores has been around for 90 plus years. A few years ago, the family that owns it had a block party for the store’s 90th anniversary. Neighborhood resident John Boutté fronted the Iguanas, and if it hadn’t rained, the late Allen Toussaint (also a resident) would have played. At the corner stores in our neighborhood, rich white Faubourg St. John residents brush elbows with the people who work at the racetrack, with the neighborhood drunks, with the people who loiter in the weird triangular park across the street, and there’s value to that, too: being forced to mix with people outside your own socioeconomic bracket and class and whose skin isn’t the same color as yours isn’t just good for you, it’s good for the culture as a whole. Those kinds of spaces are fast disappearing, and their loss means the loss of vital cultures that have given shape and meaning to people’s lives, cultures that–as the bodega strike in New York City suggests–incubated pockets of “resistance” long before it became a buzzword. The loss of those cultures will create a more stratified, more intensely hierarchal world.

I reference The Mekons in the first paragraph of the Fuentes review when I’m talking about the history of violence at punk shows. I discovered the band recently, through Joe Angio’s excellent documentary The Revenge of the Mekons. This song has been in my head lately, and it generally makes me feel better about things.

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New song: “That Yellow Cajun Moon”

Sometimes I write songs, and sometimes I sing them, too. I know, I know: there are lots of songs called “Cajun Moon,” two of them, in fact, one by Ricky Skaggs, the other by JJ Cale. (And hell, there are probably others.) I might’ve been thinking of the latter when I wrote this, since it’s basically a blues with that sleepy major seventh chord Cale uses in “Magnolia.” Anyway, it’s called “That Yellow Cajun Moon,” and I wrote most of the words on the back of the program from the ceremony where my brother-in-law took his vows to become a Jesuit. (You can hear that in the words.) My friend George plays a nice piano that spices this up with a little New Orleans rhythm, but this is just me and the guitar, singing and playing into my iPhone.

Essay in Guernica

I’m super psyched to have an essay up at Guernica: A Magazine of Global Arts and Politics, a journal I’ve admired for a long time. Back in February, I went to a town hall meeting with some friends to protest what was then a potential Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act. I found myself caught up in the energy of the moment, and also wanting to write about how a lot of the people I met that day didn’t strike me as “typical” of the types of people I’ve met at other protests. In fact, many of them didn’t even seem to identify as political.

We live in a strange time. The situation seems dire, and I believe the pundits who describe the current administration as a stress test for the Constitution. If so many people’s lives weren’t being adversely affected, the level of buffoonery would be comical, though that buffoonery also masks the agenda at which the administration is so far succeeding: slashing what remains of civil society in the United States to pieces and selling the remains to the highest bidder. (To be fair, this project has been in the works for a long time.)

Yet, I also find myself thinking about the many “red” states I’ve lived in, and how politics in those places were often more complicated than they seemed. I wanted to try to write about the ways in which my experience that day both did and didn’t conform to my expectations and to conventional wisdom about our political moment.

Story in Great Jones Street

I’m very belatedly posting a link to “I Want to Destroy You,” a piece of flash erotica I was commissioned to write by Great Jones Street, which is an excellent magazine I’m really happy to be part of, for their My Bloody Valentine collection. Though I approach it with trepidation (because it’s easy to do badly), I like writing about sex, so this was a really interesting challenge. (If you download the Great Jones Street app, you can read two more of my stories: “Give My Goodwill Hunting,” which is another flash piece commissioned for the same anthology, and “The Hit,” which first appeared in Xavier Review in 2011 and was reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories 2012.)

Stories

Check out “I Want to Destroy You,” a piece of flash erotica I was commissioned to write by Great Jones Street, which is an excellent magazine I’m really happy to be part of, for their My Bloody Valentine collection. Though I approach it with trepidation (because it’s easy to do badly), I like writing about sex, so this was a really interesting challenge. (If you download the Great Jones Street app, you can read two more of my stories: “Give My Goodwill Hunting,” which is another flash piece commissioned for the same anthology, and “The Hit,” which first appeared in Xavier Review in 2011 and was reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories 2012.)

I have a story, “Customers,” up at the terrific Akashic Books Mondays Are Murder Flash Fiction Blog. Thanks so much to the editors for running this story and for presenting it so beautifully.