JS BreukelaarI’ve heard two things about you: One, that you wear your grandmother’s necklace to readings of American Monster for luck, and two, that the book is about an alien penis-hunter. Is that true?

Yes, but—

 

No buts. Is this some kind of affirmative action female predator alien girl-power bs?

Why? Does that make you uncomfortable?

american-monsterSometime in the night back in the Spill City trailer, Norma had woken up and eaten the last churro but in the morning had no memory of doing this, or of anything else. She tried to shrug the burn out of her shoulders, her night with Bunny slowly coming back to her. Calling Mommy down at the beach. Half-falling over some kid outside the pay phone.

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I live in an incredible area. It’s a tough inner city hood boasting an elite private boys school, where doss houses sit alongside mansions and where strip clubs jostle with Portuguese butchers. Six months ago, one of those strip clubs, the iconic Sydney institution, the Oxford Tavern, closed down.

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People who have known you all your life are often surprised when they read your fiction. People who have held you in their arms, buttoned your pajamas, put band-aids on your booboos, whose children you grew up with. People who are family, and who like to remind you about that once or twice a year over a Rubio’s fish taco at the mall.

Verisimilitude is death. Every writer knows that. Any and all attempts to make a fictional character, place, or event true to any kind of an original guarantees the failure of the work. The truth is best expressed in stretchers, and no writer worth her salt can do it any other way.

But sometimes life falls at your feet so pre-stretched and warped that you don’t need to touch it. So broken and fragile that you fear too much handling will tear it apart. If you have the presence-of-mind to cup it in your hands, or the artist’s hardness of heart to make a note and file it under ‘material’, you do, but so often you don’t. It slips through your fingers, too beautiful (or something) to live.  But it marks you, changes you.

There is a character who haunts my work, a flesh-and-blood person, as unviable in life as he lingers beyond it. Like a monster. There has been a film made about him, which I won’t watch until after I’ve written this piece, until after I’ve exorcised the memory, tried to work out for myself why Richard Blackie just won’t die. And I may even decide to visit his grave. One day.

It’s that time of the year again. When thoughts turn to the dread VISA Card statement, office Christmas parties, and Uncle Creepy’s eggnog (what is that secret ingredient). As an antidote to these and other horrors, I’ve assembled a few of my favorite monsters. A Christmas card from where the wild things are to my fellow nervous breakdowners. Wishing you all a truly festive season.