A Voyeur

 

Mr. Adams was our seventh-grade woodshop teacher. He lived on the hill with his wife and two kids. He had a false eye and once showed us a video of himself riding a homemade hovercraft on the high school soccer field. He had a soft spot for girls and would always ask if they could help him clean up the classroom. Many did and asked for extra credit, and he gave it.

A guidance counsellor walked into our class after Christmas break and didn’t say anything about what happened to Mr. Adams. It’s not like he had to. Facebook was new, and everyone had already seen and shared the post. It happened the week before Christmas. At least that’s what people said. None of us were there. Most of us only saw his mugshot on the county bookings website and made up our own versions of what happened. Apparently, Mr. Adams had been looking into people’s windows and videotaping them naked. Or having sex. Or maybe it was little girls in their bathrooms. The only foundation validating the rumors was one word: voyeurism. I didn’t know the definition. My parents said a voyeur was a Peeping Tom. I imagined Mr. Adams climbing into a tree like George McFly and spying on someone with binoculars. Why would anyone do that?

When I came home, I got on Facebook, combed through the posts about Mr. Adams, and read all the comments. My crush commented on one of them. She said he was a pervert sicko and looked at her bare back when she bent to pick up trash in class. I clicked on her profile. We were friends, but we’d never talked and never would. I looked at all her pictures, framed in tiles on my screen. I could see everything.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Kathleen Rooney. Her new novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, is available from Penguin Books.

 

 

This is Kathleen’s second time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 274 on May 4, 2014.

She is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her most recent books include the national best-seller, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk  (St. Martin’s Press 2017 / Picador 2018) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (Spork Press, 2018).

A winner of the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, she is the author of nine books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014); the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012), based on the life and work of Weldon Kees; the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010); and the art modeling memoir Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object (University of Arkansas Press, 2009). Her first book is Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America (University of Arkansas Press, 2005), and her first poetry collection, Oneiromance (an epithalamion) won the 2007 Gatewood Prize from the feminist publisher Switchback Books.

With Elisa Gabbert, she is the co-author of the poetry collection That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths, 2008) and the chapbook The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere to Go (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). And with fellow DePaul professor Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of Rene Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

Her reviews and criticism have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Poetry Foundation website, The New York Times Book Review, BITCHAllureThe Chicago Review of Books, The Chicago TribuneThe Paris Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Nation and elsewhere.

She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay.

Get Otherppl gear.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

Your book, “All That Shines Under The Hollywood Sign” what’s the significance of your title?

I’m a native Angeleno, the lore and the lure of Los Angeles and Hollywood is ultimately what’s shaped who I am.  I’ve always been infatuated with Hollywood and it’s rich history. This book is just my way of saying thank you.

Artwork by Scott Aicher

Part #1

Palm trees
standing gorgeous
erect and regal
they call to me
they whisper things
to each other

 

Brad Listi, the founder of this website, is now keeping a daily blog where he documents his existence.  It’s called notes from the fallBut I like to call it Bradpocalypse. He’s going to do this until Inauguration Day. For some reason I think it’s compelling to read about a dad in Los Angeles. I think my favorite part so far is that his son wants a John Williams t-shirt. John Williams, the composer. The Star Wars composer guy. That makes me laugh.

 

If you’d like to read follow along and you didn’t understand the hyperlink above, then I’ll make it very obvious for you right here. Click this link if you’d like to follow along: https://bradpocalypse.blogspot.com/?m=1.

 

And by the way, this is Joseph Grantham writing this, not Brad Listi. This isn’t Brad doing a third person self promotion thing. This is Joseph. I hope you’re all well, except those of you who annoy me. As for the people who annoy me, I hope you’re doing fine, just not well.

 

Goodbye.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Matthew Salesses. His new novel, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, is available from Little A Publishing.

This is Matthew’s second time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 145 on February 3, 2013.

He is the bestselling author of The Hundred-Year Flood, an Amazon Best Book of September and Kindle First pick, an Adoptive Families Best Book of 2015, and a Best Book of the season at BuzzfeedRefinery29, and Gawker, among others. Forthcoming in 2021 are a craft book, Craft in the Real World, and a collection of essays, Own Story. His previous books include I’m Not Saying, I’m Just SayingDifferent Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity; and The Last Repatriate.

He is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Coe College, where he teaches fiction writing and Asian American literature.

Get Otherppl gear.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

 

I first met Kristen Millares Young at the venerable Hugo House, a central hub of literary life in Seattle, WA where she was Prose Writer-in-Residence from 2018-2020. I’d driven up from Portland to read a story at the Hugo Literary Series that featured a new mother whose brain, body, and sexuality made choices the narrator didn’t feel in control of. After the reading, Millares Young approached me and said, essentially, Thank you for that. I knew exactly what she meant. She also had two young children at home, was midway through mentoring a hundred or so writers as part of her writer-in-residence post, and her first book Subduction was due out the following year. Within the first few minutes of our conversation, she felt like kin. 

When speaking, Millares Young exudes a fearless intelligence and a laser focus of concentration, with just the right amount of cursing (to my taste) peppered in. I suspect all three traits are useful and/or born from her background in investigative journalism. Her work appears in the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the New York Times, where she was the researcher for the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for “Snow Fall,” as well as many other newspapers, literary reviews, magazines and anthologies, including Latina Outsiders: Remaking Latina Identity (Routledge). She has degrees from Harvard and the University of Washington, and she was co-founder of InvestigateWest, a nonprofit news studio in the Pacific Northwest.

Her debut novel Subduction launched on April 14th, the same time COVID-19 began to pummel New York after shutting down most of the West Coast, and many of her book launch events had to be postponed or moved online, including a bunch of readings coming up this fall. By the time we got together for this interview on June 1st, we were more than two months into lockdown while homeschooling our kids, and it had been exactly one week since George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police. 

The escalating roar of national anger and demand for rights and protection is a macrocosm of the issues explored in her novel. As a Latinx woman, Millares Young is well acquainted with both the weight of America’s historical oppression and its racist counterpoint of representation.

Precisely as in real life, Subduction and its characters navigate complicated truths that often don’t settle easily into alignment with everyday reality. The story unfurls between dual narrators, Claudia and Peter. A Latina anthropologist, Claudia has just fled her falling-apart marriage to throw herself into fieldwork studying the ritual songs of a Makah whaling village. She collides with Peter, back home in Neah Bay to get answers from his failing mother about his father’s murder. Both of them, in their own ways, are desperate to make meaning of their lives. 

As are we all.

 

 

Subduction is a finalist in two categories (Best First Book and Best Novel, both in English) of the International Latino Book Awards.

Purchase a copy here!

 


 

 

I’m curious about the idea of complicity in Subduction.

 

Millares Young: Subduction is a case study of complicity. Which of course is a national condition shared by immigrants to this country and their descendants, everybody who’s not Indigenous or who was not brought here against their will. We have a responsibility to address the truths of our nation’s founding as it pertains to continued repression, and to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination and their lands. 

The best way for me to bring readers alongside my decade of exploring these questions was through fictional narratives, which allow readers to process dangerous emotional responses in a safe place.

 

I’m interested in the dance that happens between complicity and appropriation where Claudia is concerned, the Venn diagram overlap of these two ideas in the book. 

 

Millares Young: There’s a very long history of exploitation of Native stories and immigrant stories, and rarely are they put into juxtaposition in such a way that affords greater insight into the pressures that each are facing as they come into moments of contact. My hope was to show through Peter and Claudia how even small moments are imbued with fractals spanning cultural, interpersonal, historical and geologic concerns. If I can help readers begin to highlight patterns in their own thinking, or if they can begin to recognize some of the forces that condition their ways of being and thinking, then I think that the book will have done its work. 

There are many white people across this country right now who, in part because of the structural insufficiency of our educational system, are struggling to understand what it means when a police officer asphyxiates a handcuffed Black man to his death. And it’s because they have not really confronted their role in revealing and healing the truth of our origin story. And, of course, the truth is that origin story is so multivalent. It’s Black, it’s white, it’s Indigenous, it’s Latino, it’s transnational, and that story cannot just be stripped down to its parts. 

But part of the project of fiction is to portray complexity by allowing access to the interiority of characters and also to heighten the readerly experience of that complexity by choosing the glimmers, curating the portrayal of those moments, and allowing these daily situations to stand in for hundreds and thousands of years of cultural conflict. And so, you have to be incredibly careful about what you choose.

 

I know Sophie Jennis from the internet. The internet is also where I first read her poems. That’s relevant because Sophie’s work, particularly the poems in her debut full length Hot Young Stars (House of Vlad), engages with what it is like to be online. I don’t mean that these poems recycle the language of the internet, or the general “mood,” but that they are fractured and spontaneous; elusive and aphoristic. Sophie often writes about the body, but this is a body made unreal with language. A body made of voice, obscured, filtered. We conducted this interview over a few hours in July via email. My body was in Syracuse, NY. Sophie was in the same state, further south. 

 

Sophie Jennis is a poet from the Hudson Valley of New York. Her writing has appeared at NY Tyrant and Hobart, among other places. Her poetry chapbook, Find Peace Either Way, was published by Blush in 2019. Hot Young Stars is available now, get it here.

 

What was your process writing these poems/where was your starting point? How did the book end up in the shape it’s in?

 

The first poem I wrote with the intention of starting a full-length collection is also the first poem in the book. I wanted to show the process of what developed naturally based off of the tone it set for me. Before I wrote that poem I had the intention of wanting to make a really fun book, especially to contrast my chapbook, which is a bit serious both in its tone and content. The process of writing these poems was pretty random, mostly written on the notes app in various settings; otherwise it involved staring at a Google doc in the hopes of writing four or five at a time. I write really fast, one reason being that the poems are so short, and also because my style is to not think at all before I write. That has brought me the most success in terms of the poems being genuine and spirited (I did this also for my chapbook), and the only thing that feels natural to me. 

 

Given that none of the poems are titled, do you want people to read Hot Young Stars as a sort of long poem? 

 

I actually don’t intend for it to be read as one long poem, but I can certainly see how it might come across that way. I like keeping each idea separate, but however anyone wants to approach its format is cool with me! 

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with David Goodwillie. His new novel, Kings County, is available from Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster.

Goodwillie’s other books include the novel American Subversive, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and the memoir Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

Goodwillie has written for the New York Times, New York magazine, Newsweek, and Popular Science, among other publications.

He has also been drafted to play professional baseball, worked as a private investigator, and was an expert at Sotheby’s auction house. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lives in Brooklyn.

Get Otherppl gear.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

 

How could I have anticipated becoming friends with two Sarahs in less than a year? In July, I wrote 31 sentences about 11 hours because the timespan unfolded into a tidy narrative. But I didn’t write about meeting the second Sarah and I didn’t write about drinking humongous Bud Light Oranges on her roof, the overlap of our Venn-diagram so fat we both kept saying, “Wait, wait! I got a story about that,” and then never telling any of them. I began writing this novel January 1st with two parameters: 1. I’d compress the primary occurrence, thought, or theme of each day into a single sentence 2. If anyone is mentioned by name, I must get their green (or, in some cases, yellow) light prior to publication. I ditched the first rule in lieu of the linear essays I wrote in June and July and I’ve abused punctuation to turn full paragraphs into sentences and there are a slew of other ways I’ve circumnavigated to allow myself greater narrative freedom and, if I’m being completely honest, to save my ass from habitual procrastination. But I’m committed to literary consent because no sentence is worth bridge-burning or hurting someone and I’m committed to real names because if someone says they’re comfortable only if I pseudonym, they’re not comfortable. First Sarah has been mentioned twice so her name will remain “Sarah” while second Sarah will appear as “Sarah Q.” I think often of the sentence couplet in Scott McClanahan’s The Sarah Book where he writes: “She had a brother named Jack who I never liked but who I always said I liked. I never liked him though and I’m not putting him in my book.” I didn’t write about the divorce my coworker is going through, how his wife blindsided him one day with “I don’t think I ever loved you.” And I didn’t write about how he discusses it in such a water-cooler way even though it’s gotta be weighing on him. Or how I could never be like that, my interior life on full display even when I’d rather it not be.

what’s the harm in
letting your toes wriggle
away from your shoes
& over the sudden edge
of a waterfall? painting
the town not in red but
in earth tones? saying no?

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Emerson Whitney. He is the author of a memoir called Heaven, available from McSweeney’s.

 

Whitney is also the author of Ghost Box. He teaches in the BFA creative writing program at Goddard College and is a postdoctoral fellow in gender studies at the University of Southern California.

Get Otherppl gear.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

 

As I’d written in 2017, in a review of his novel Beautiful Animals, Lawrence Osborne’s characters tend to stumble into things: whether as a result of an accident, as in The Forgiven, or by winning big at the roulette table, as in Hunters in the Dark: as if they had stepped into the intersection of opportunity and desire. What they heretofore envisaged only nebulously, something that couldn’t be put into words, now possessed a vocabulary and the will to act upon it. Like so many of Lawrence Osborne’s characters, Sarah Mullins, late of New York City and now a fugitive from the law, is a Westerner stuck in the quicksand of an alien culture she can’t even begin to comprehend; and like Robert Grieve, in Osborne’s earlier novel, Hunters in the Dark, she has travelled there to reinvent herself. Or maybe just to lose herself. Because, like so many protagonists in Osborne’s work, she has stepped over the bounds of the light of day and found treasures in the night, and one day someone might come knocking at her door.

 

She has just moved into her seven-room apartment in the Bangkok complex known as the Kingdom, with its four glass towers, each of twenty-one floors, in a city with its “decay that held a dark human nectar inside it.” Impressive in its description, the place is running down fast, just like the others in the city, “sinking into their own twilight.” And, as with Elsinore castle in Hamlet, nearly all the action is set within its walls. The claustrophobia, the ability to see into other people’s rooms and habits in this world of glass, works on the reader to evoke a sense of foreboding. Something’s coming; something bad.

Why do you write about menstrual blood, clitorises, and multiple orgasms?

Because the body is beautiful, our anatomy is beautiful. I want to celebrate its power and its limitations. Because these are experiences inherent and integral to womanhood, that are yet shamed, politicized and fetishized simultaneously. How many people out there are ashamed of the way their labium is shaped? Ashamed of their size, the slope of their breast, the stretch marks on their skin? Who out there has experienced sexual trauma? Puritan repression? Molestation, assault, rape? Who’s been told that their sexual preferences or gender are unnatural? Who is unable to orgasm? Who orgasms too quickly? Who’s been told they are ugly? Who’s been told they are too sexy? So much silence and pain. How many girls are terrified to go to school because of their cycle, told their blood is gross and stinks? How many were taught that marriage would save them? Told to be more attractive but remain pure virgins? Did you know the ‘father of gynecology’ was a slave owner who experimented on black women because he believed they didn’t feel pain? A father of gynecology. Can you swallow the irony? Did you know midwives and healers were deemed witches and cast out of society? Look up the rate of this country’s infant mortality. Did you know priests are still abusing young boys in silence and circumcision is rooted in sexual oppression? Our bodies are our temples, the only thing we truly own. Why can’t I talk about my nipples the same way I talk about my feet? I fed and nourished my son with my nipples. I bled to create and birth him. How is this not poetry? I name body parts because they need a voice. I name body parts so that I might heal, so that we might heal. I believe we have all been traumatized by the structural values of the patriarchy—and language can call it out, name the thing, heal the thing. Language can destroy, yes, but it can empower, too. Language can be a lie, but it can also be true. It can shine light into the shadow. The shadow is the reason I write. To talk to demons. To excavate the inside so that I might see, understand, know the outside more clearly. Our personal and collective traumas are asking us for a throat, a tongue, a song, an utterance, something, anything. I write about menstrual blood, clitorises, and multiple orgasms because I do not choose my themes, they choose me.

Sylvia,

Aren’t we all looking for a way out of the owl’s talons?

A way not to remember

the honeybee’s sting, the shape of a boot on your back,

all the nights your breasts would leak, a child,

the sucking, the screaming.

Aren’t we all looking for a way not to remember

the poems that cry us to sleep, the little ghosts

we carry in our hands, dare we tell?

Forget the Ativan, the razor, your car in Little River.

You wrote in blood, and for your sacrifice, I thank you,

dear Poetess, dear Mother, you took care of your children

the best you could. I’ve heard the stories.