This piece was originally published on December 5, 2018. It is now accompanied by a dramatic reading performed by the author.

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My notes for a potential story about Brad’s face on the evening of November 8, 2016

Start with some general thoughts about Brad, maybe just the grass in Brad’s backyard and his cool studio/garage area. Focus on the small stuff that I like about Brad. How nice it was for him to invite us over for the election suicide party. How the night is blurry, and how I don’t really remember my children being there, but instinctively feel that my children were there to witness to Brad’s face. Relate that there, at Brad’s house, Brad’s face happened. Share that to this day Brad’s face on the evening of November 8, 2016 haunts me as a vacant, soul-baring portrait of American loss. Write something clever, call it “a piercing reflection of a deeply fucked moment.” Talk about the not-Brad things of the evening? Maybe throw in the junk food we stress ate in the car on the way to Brad’s, or how beautiful Jenny was in white. Potentially allude to the future we’re living and the one that might occur. Transition through the hope then, the fear then, and end with the reality now. It’s hard to talk in a controlled manner about a hell we’re all in, but like try to do that for a few sentences. For sure talk about Brad’s face once more, right here at the end.

 

Hello. My name is Joseph Grantham. I edit this website. I’m also an artist (see above). I asked some writers and friends to recommend some short stories to you, the readers of this website. All I asked was that they do this in 3-5 sentences. Other than that, there were no guidelines. I’ll start.

 

“Victor Blue” by Ann Beattie

 

This story is from Beattie’s first collection, Distortions, and it is written in the form of journal entries, composed by an elderly man who spends his days taking care of his ill wife (“Mrs. Edway,” as he refers to her). He cooks for her, takes care of her violets (one of them is named “Victor Blue”), reads novels to her, and whenever he and his wife have to make an important, or not so important, decision, they vote on it, each writing down their answer on a piece of paper and then holding it up for the other to see. Do they want a kitten or a puppy, do they want to hang up the embroidered Eiffel Tower picture which was a gift from Mrs. Edway’s cousin, should Mrs. Edway kill herself or continue living in pain? Beattie wrote this story when she was in her mid-twenties and you’d never know it.

 

Okay. Now, on to the main event.

 

 

“Good Old Neon” by David Foster Wallace

 

“Good Old Neon” is about a man who killed himself in 1991, told from the perspective of his post-death existence outside of time, written by a man who killed himself in 2008, published in 2004. It feels impossible to distill a ~40 page story that works on so many levels of thought and heart into 3-5 sentences, which is basically the premise of the story itself: that linear time and language are inherently limiting modes of describing the dimensionless flashes of perception that color each person’s interiority with significance, but until we die, we can only use one word after another to relate ourselves. Since his first successful lie at age 4, or arguably birth, the protagonist placed himself at the center of a “fraudulence paradox,” which meant that the more he tried to be something he wasn’t, the less he felt like the ideal image he performed, and “…the more of a fraud [he] felt like, the harder [he] tried to convey an impressive or likable image of [him]self so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person [he] really [was].” What hits me so hard about “Good Old Neon” is the vagueness about its audience: the post-death protagonist addresses himself the moment before his death in a car, but he also makes lovingly dry meta-asides to another reader (from who, at least in the confines of a reader-author relationship, David Foster Wallace didn’t view himself as so apart), and I can’t help but feel witness to some similar shade of dialogue Wallace could’ve worked out with himself before his own death. The message of the story, to me, is not to succumb to our self-imposed limits; the message is in the beauty of trying, at least for a moment, to describe what it was like to be human. 

 

– recommended by Megan Boyle, author of Liveblog

 

 

“A Man Came to Visit Us” by Brandon Hobson

 

Your question is so difficult to answer.  I read and reread and am taken up by so many stories all of the time — both ancient and modern.  But the story foremost in my mind is always the most recent one I have accepted for NOON.  And at this minute, it is the unearthly stunner by Brandon Hobson — that is jammed with mystery and passion –“A Man Came to Visit Us” (due out March 2021).  

 

– recommended by Diane Williams, founder of NOON and author of The Collected Stories of Diane Williams

 

 

“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison

 

I assign this every semester to my English 102 students, out of The Norton Introduction to Literature. Despite the fact that I read this twice a year, it gets me every time. This story is a good example of why fiction is a superior art form; it says more about big broad important topics, like race and class and friendship and memory, than any piece of nonfiction ever could. This statement will probably offend a nonfiction purist if they happen to read this, whoopsie.

 

– recommended by Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac

 

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.

Rita Banerjee interviews author David Shields about his book, Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention. Listen below:

 

Below is an excerpt from the transcript:

 

Rita Banerjee:    David, thank you so much for talking to me about Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump. I really enjoyed reading the book; I thought it was compelling and a really fast read. I just wanted to start off by asking you a question about the form of the book and its composition. You often call this  a curated diary or a thematized journal, and it seems like there are six major acts to this book, everything ranging from “A rage to injure what has injured us” to “Apocalypse always.” How do these major themes tie into one another and build up to the book’s final epiphany?

David Shields:    Thanks, Rita. The book is indeed broken into six chapters. What is it, this culture that we are living in, which seems qualitatively different from previous political cataclysms? As a citizen of the republic, what could I do to address it? There is or was something riveting about the Performer-In-Chief. There’s something in him – we can all pretend that we’ve turned it off, and maybe some of us have. I wanted to explore this mixture of revulsion and attraction. Not to any political stance of his, but to his performative chops. I’m a big fan of the idea that great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings. On the one hand, my intellectual self is actively opposed to him; I’m doing all kinds of things to contribute to his defeat.. But there’s this other quite primitive part of me that is fascinated by the fact that he is still President. So I just kept a journal. Every day I’d walk around the house with my headphones on. I’d be flying back and forth from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News, from Christian talk radio to NPR to local news. I read every book about and putatively by him. I listened to every episode of the Howard Stern Show with Trump and I watched every episode of The Apprentice. With this onslaught of media coming in, it almost felt as if I were in a war zone. That was important to me, to just gather all of this stuff. I had hundreds upon hundreds of pages of this stuff, but I wanted to organize it into a very carefully structured pattern. =This book is organized within an inch of its life. Among the many things I find exciting about collage, is that it can boundary jump. One of the pleasures of writing this book for me, and I hope for a reader, is you never know what’s going to come next. I can cut to anywhere I want to go as long as I am getting a deeper purchase on Trump. The whole excitement of this form is that you’re not just making a fictional gesture or essayistic gesture or a stand-up comedy gesture. You can pull from any possible pot of clay, so long as you are deepening your investigation. I also hope that it almost feels for reader that you are spying on the writer as he is going on this existential adventure. And the reader kind of feels like, “this is actually adding up to something.” One of the chapters, “A rage to injure what’s injured us,” is really about Trump’s childhood. There is a wonderful line by Robert Hass from his great poem“Bush’s War.” He says that there is a rage to injure what’s injured us. Without turning Trump into simply a psychoanalytic category, he was demolished by his father. He’s hugely projecting that anger elsewhere. Then there’s the chapter “The frenzy of the visible” in which he’s trying to experience love through the media. There’s this amazingly interesting feedback loop in which he’s watching TV watch him watch TV watch him. It’s like Being There  times one hundred, in which he’s trying to experience love through media forms. Out of his broken childhood, he became incapable of human love. Out of that incapacity, he attempted to live within a sort of “mediaverse,”hoping and believing that somehow the big TV in the sky would love him back. The big message of the book is that he may destroy the planet out of the rage that has injured him. The final revelation of the book is that the thing that will save us is Trump’s self-destruction. There’s such profound self-loathing that animates his hatred. I argue that before Trump destroys the planet, he’ll destroy himself. The book is making a very clear argument about how brokenness leads to lovelessness, how that lovelessness leads to an over investment in media culture, how that media culture can in no way can yield a love that he wants, how out of that emptiness creates a huge drive of destruction, and how the possible saving grace is that he finally will self-destruct. It’s a beautiful and terrifying circle.Hidden within these 400 paragraphs is this relatively tight psychosocial argument of the book. It’s really a very specific investigation – how destruction comes from in its own woundedness, how it projects itself outward, how it often defeats itself through self-loathing.

 

 

 

 

 

One sentence from each book I read in 2019, in the order I finished them.

 

It must have been horrible for him to create me and then lose control of the narrative in this way. In these investigations of why and how, I am hoping to uncover an origin story. It had happened, but not the way I told it in the book. Let’s see here, let’s see. Now that I was looking at them full on, I could see something coming out of their chests, from their hearts, like glow-in-the-dark string. People should just wear glass with electric lights inside. I crack my knuckles and open up my emails. Call me when you’re tired of wasting this life. You guys are from an effed-up time. It was as though she volunteered to become an adult before she was ready, and something was sucked away from her, and suddenly she could be sad at any moment without ever knowing why. Comedy for me is watching someone perform open heart surgery on themselves because no one else will. Anyway, there’s some writing on sex addiction for you, darling sister. That’s not the right question. Peace, peace, peace, happiness, happiness, happiness. Cringe denotes embarrassment, fleeting shame. People like us are often herded together slowly by the invisible will of the damned, fake-happy. He went into seizures. He was Goth when he felt like it. He hates his job and what he really wants to do is make art and be happy. I guard my memories and love them, but I don’t get in them and lie down. I, wretched, was there, sitting in this office, and I was to tell my wretched story. The book goes on even if it’s closed. Life was the only thing.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

In December, the TNB Book Club will be reading You Can See More From Up Here (Golden Antelope Press), by Mark Guerin.

 

Sign up by November 15th to get your copy and join the club!

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.