Assistant’s Note: Hi! I’m Fabian, Mr. Dust’s personal assistant. As some of you may know, Mr. Dust performed his first public reading in San Diego last week at the vaunted TNB-SD “Stay Classy Edition” event. I’ve heard over and over that it was a total blast! Of course, I wouldn’t actually know, since I wasn’t allowed to come. Invited, yes. Allowed, no. The word through back channels is that Helmsman Listi himself really wanted me there. Nevertheless, I was forced to stay down in the bunker and coordinate. I guess you can’t always get what you want, even if you try sometime and you may find that you get what you need. Can you? At any rate, if you were at the event and “heard” rumors that I refuse to fly anything but first class, well that’s just not true.

The bottom line is that ever since the event, the Castle Dust mailroom has been DELUGED with letters. Let’s get to them, shall we? Yes, we shall!

(Also, Mr. Dust made me promise not to post these pics. Did anyway! Ha. Next time, maybe I’ll get an extra legroom seat in business class.)



Dear Dust

Was that really you? I couldn’t decide. I wanted it to be you, since if it was you, it would be, like, a true event and maybe even a little piece of history. I’ve always wanted to be a part of history.

From the Back Row


Dear Back

Yes, that was me. You may now feel free to tell the story of our initial contact at various cocktail parties, tailgates, seances, and family gatherings for the next twenty years. It’s almost like you were at Actium. Or Belleau Wood. Or Altamont. Or the Jersey Shore.



Dear Dust

I keep hearing rumors that the guy in San Diego was Thomas Pynchon. Does that mean you’re Thomas Pynchon, or that you’re friends with Thomas Pynchon and got him to come and stand in? Or that rumors should be ignored, and you actually brought down the house? Or that Rumer is the name of Bruce Willis’ daughter, and you are simply you?



Dear Jessica

I’ve never been that fond of Gravity’s Rainbow, and I found V to be pretentious and unreadable. That said, Thomas (who is known in certain writer’s circles as “The Pinch,” mostly for his tendency to unexpectedly lean over and “take stock” of your junk, usually saying something along the lines of “I cannot trust the prose of a man slimmer than a broiled kielbasa”) and I once went on an author’s retreat/white water river rafting trip together, down the heart of the mighty Congo river. I will say that there was no small amount of bonding over our shared love of Meryl Streep’s milky white skin. Which we discussed at length by the light of rows of votive candles set upon a dead Banyan tree while our cheeks rested on the soft nap of our plaid sleeping bags, as the cooks and guides and sherpas performed their duties and ablutions at base camp below. In any case, I am me. And that particular me took the stage at San Diego’s Sunset Temple and, hopefully, killed it–just like I once killed a charging rhino at thirty paces with a single shot from my 1895 Winchester .405 while The Pinch and the rest of the help moaned and cowered in the scrub like children.



Dear Dust

Why did you pick San Diego for your coming out party? I mean, hey, why not Radio City, you know?



Dear Matt

Well, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that San Diego was not my first offer. In fact, for six months certain promoters have been dangling both the groupies and the profit margin likely to result from an Almond/Dust 2011 tour of the deep South. I always referred these offers to my lawyer, O. Acosta III, who declared them to be “practically Nigerian” in the flimsiness of their schemes and enticements. No, I finally agreed to read publicly because San Diego was the first venue at which Helmsman Listi agreed to lay out sufficient cheddar in order to make both the travel and The Unmasking worth my while. The remuneration–which came in at just under five times my normal fee, plus airfare and hotel, and with an additional grant of preferred, backdated TNB stock–was simply too generous to refuse. Also, I live to surf. The break at San Elijo was truly outstanding on Friday morning, set after set hitting hard along a reasonably deserted stretch of sand. I carved that shit fierce, made a few friends while floating out in the lineup, one of whom I would have sworn was Lori Petty, then paddled in, tossed on a flannel dashiki, and partied through a long night’s beach barbeque supplied by cooler after frozen cooler full of Keystone Lights. The moon came out, the foam was sibilant, pop tops popped, fire crackled, lips glistened, the spirit of the waves was discussed at length, and salty flesh was repeatedly pressed. Who says it pays to stay in the literary closet? Mahalo.



Dear Dust

So you finally got to meet a bunch of TNB people in person, huh? What did you think?



Dear Glory

Well, it is well known that I am fairly shy. Although I arrived at the event early, I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone until after I read. Also, I was, to be honest, a bit nervous and needed that time alone to get my poetics face on. The reading itself went by in a haze of camera flashes. Afterward, The Helmsman gave me his usual “nothing homoerotic about this” man-hug and then faded away before I could ask him for an advance on my next check. I spoke briefly with a Ms. Zion, who complemented me on my suit, vaguely doubted my provenance, and referred to a long ago contretemps between us of which I had (and still have) absolutely no recollection. Still, I found her to be lovely and quite charming. A Mr. Haney approached me with a fixed sharp-pencil-to-balloon look in his eyes and mentioned that we’d also had a previous verbal rift, of which I had (and still have) absolutely no recollection. Then he wondered what my feelings were on the subject of someone named “John.” I was about to ask him if he mean John The Baptist, Johnny Cash, Johnny Unitas, or Jonathan Livingston Seagull, when he asked “you do know who John is, don’t you?” I was tempted to inquire if he might be making a joke along the lines of knowing “What the frequency is, Kenneth?” but we were interrupted before I could unveil that mot juste. Nonetheless, I found him to be an interesting sort and one that I might like to have standing just to my left during a bar fight. A Mr. Beaudoin read a mildly amusing piece about the devil, and although I cannot imagine a more cliche’d subject for any piece of short fiction–unless it also included the ghost of his cancer-dead grandmother–the piece boasted a few good lines. He also gave me a large hug afterward and, frankly, held it a beat too long. Only Mr. Baldwin knew enough not to touch my suit, and he and I had almost the perfect interchange: a brief mutual congratulation on successful readings at the proper distance of three feet, six inches. Finally, a certain Mr. Daly–in dire need of a hair cut–for some reason used our nineteen seconds together to let me know that while he was not fond of poetry, under the right circumstances he might be in future. I suggested he begin with a steady diet of Baudelaire, read very slowly and always, always outdoors. Have I forgotten anyone? I hope not. Overall, I do very much appreciate my inclusion and friendly reception. I have spoken and read at many a cutthroat event, and this one was nothing of the sort.

The Dust’s One Sentence Summation Of The Evening: A good man is hard to find, a good poet is harder to find, a good group of literary types amassed in a single room is harder yet, while a good massage at 3am in downtown San Diego is a near-impossibility.



Dear Dust

You seemed nervous on stage. I thought you were a famous author. You looked the part, but your piece stumbled and you read too fast, and I didn’t understand a lot of it. What’s the deal with that?



Dear Darrell

Thank you for the generous assessment. You know, I have often wondered why it is that authors–who by definition spend most of their time alone engaged in a solitary and decidedly anti-social pursuit–are simultaneously expected to be public entertainers and smooth operators, leaving those in their folded chairs abjectly disappointed if their favorite sentence-arranger fails to step on stage and instantly light up the room like Carmen Miranda with a sinus full of Kentucky crank. It is essentially the equivalent of expecting newly-rich professional athletes to always be kind and humble on camera, and to never say anything provincial or ignorant, even while the central goal of athletics is to remain willfully ignorant of the world around them so as to focus on the mindless and repetitive training required for jumping further, running faster, or throwing with greater velocity than a vast percentage of the rest of humanity. Is it not so with authors of rarefied verse as well?

In other words, Darrell, the deal with that is that I am not an animal. Such “performing” as I do lies entirely outside of the prosaic world in which I otherwise function–and whether or not I successfully juggle shiny red balls with my flippers to the peanut gallery’s screaming satisfaction–is of zero concern to me.



Dear Dust

I never doubted it for a second.



Dear John

Save it for Fabian. But you’re a good man for saying so.






Most sincerely,


The Dust



Ask Me Anything.

Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.

Go ahead, I know it hurts.

[email protected]


All contact info is entirely confidential.


Love Dust on Facebook.

Vogue with Fabian on Facebook!

Follow Dust on Twitter.

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J. ANGELUS DUST is not much interested in biography. J. Angelus Dust wants to know where it hurts.

26 responses to “Ask The Dust – Vol. 39”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    So, in reality, the coming out wasn’t much of a coming out, since–still–no one knows who you are, just what you look like.

    Unless everyone is assumed to know who you are from what you look like, and I’m the only failed literary groupie here.

    So far, here’s what I’ve got: You’re a middle-middle to late-middle aged male person with a tendency to overdress.

    The former you already told us and the latter I could have guessed.


  2. dwoz says:

    Real authors ALWAYS read their own stuff too fast.

  3. Joe Daly says:

    Letter 1: Agree

    I was skeptical at first, but having a brief moment to talk to Dust and more importantly, observing him with others, there’s no way that was anyone but. Mainly because I overheard him talking to Brad over by the bar and Brad had just said something about the site changing, and that the interface for the authors would be different. Dust said something along the lines of “I didn’t think the old one was all that bad,” which surprised me, because I assumed Fabian did all the typing. Anyway, I had no doubt after that.

    Letter 2: Abstain

    I take the fall/credit for the Pynchon rumor. When San Diego’s CityBeat called to interview me, the reporter asked about Dust and I said something along the lines of, “we have no idea- he could be a ten year-old boy or he could be Thomas Pynchon.” I never in a million years thought Dust was my man TP, whose works I adore. Nor did I think there was any way that Dust was a ten year-old boy, but I had just seen a picture of Lara Flynn Boyle, so that’s where that must have originated.

    Letter 3: Disagree

    Why Dust would ever surf San Elijo is beyond me. I would have figured Dust for a Swami’s guy, where all the rough and tumble locals congregate, talk shit, and let the air out of the tires of anyone with an out of state license plate.

    Letter 4: Disagree

    I’m not in dire need of a haircut. Having spent nearly 20 of my adult years in the professional world, where judiciously-coiffed hair is a requirement, I am now celebrating my literary career by growing my hair however the fuck I want. I’ve got a job, a chick, a couple of guitars to play, and two supremely joyous dogs. Cutting my hair would not enhance my life in the most miniscule way. Squares like Dust can keep their short hair and neckties, but this stallion’s running free, baby.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that Matt was the only one who didn’t touch the suit. I have a hard time picturing Duke Haney rubbing his hand across Dust’s jacket for any reason, in any setting.

    Letter 5: Agree

    I thought the reading was fine. Admittedly I was jarred by the way Dust began, but then I realized that the voice he used to begin the piece was not his but the voice of the author of the letter he read. After that, I agree that there were a couple times that I thought Dust was going a bit briskly, but it didn’t really affect the reading for me either way.

    Letter 6: Abstain

    No idea.

  4. Dana says:

    What just happened?

  5. dwoz says:

    existentialism was neither confirmed nor denied.

  6. Gloria Harrison says:

    My ideal bar fight posse: Duke Haney, Becky Palapala, and Rich Ferguson.

    I don’t think that’s you in the picture. Also, I think you and Fabian are the same person. Also, I think Listi might be you, too. Finally, I think all three of you are actually Dave Eggers.

    Nonetheless, I’m still bummed out that I couldn’t be there.

  7. Gloria Harrison says:

    Do you actually call her your “chick” to her face, Joe Daly? I suspect no. 🙂 <—- I, by the way, am sticking to this variation of the emoticon. I refuse to jump on the "turn it backwards" bandwagon!

  8. Dana says:

    See what’s freaking me out is, I SWEAR one Mr. Olear indicated that The Dust was indeed Thomas Pynchon. That seems reasonable because I’ve been reading his big old vocabulary, snotty attitude and smartypants stuff for months on end. Seems Pynchonian enough. Then I do a little remedial sleuthing (okay, I googled) and found that Candida appears to be the name of wife/agent. If someone isn’t trying to lead us to that conclusion, I’d be surprised.

    I don’t think the man in the photo looks to be in his mid-70s.

    I do think I’ve SEEN the man in the photo somewhere before.

    I also think he looks a bit like Listi. Super confused.

    Fabian? Do you think The Dust would hold me?

  9. Dana says:

    He calls me something that starts with a c without any hesitation.

  10. Dana says:

    That didn’t NEST properly! (I was replying to Gloria, doh.)

  11. Gloria Harrison says:

    Wait… Dana…you’re not his chick, are you? His babe, perhaps?

  12. Becky Palapala says:

    He does indeed look a bit like Listi.

    You aren’t the only one to note this.

  13. Dana says:

    No, no. Joe and I are friends. We feel free to call each other cunts.
    His girl is beautiful and although I haven’t met her yet, I can totally see him calling her his chick. Somehow it doesn’t seem offensive when it comes out of his mouth.

  14. Dana says:

    hmmm, so Uncle Ernie Listi?

  15. Becky Palapala says:

    Dana, A relative hired to play The Dust?

    Would explain why he’s “shy”.

    I wouldn’t talk much either if I weren’t really a writer but rather a CPA from Indiana hired to wear Listi’s too-big suit and act aloof.

    Purely speculation, of course. I have no fucking clue who the guy is.

    (That’s right. Whether it’s Listi’s or not, the suit’s too big, Dust. It’s all saggy and bunchy in the torso and the sleeves look too long. There. I said it.)

  16. Greg Olear says:


    I posted the photo of Dust and wrote “file this under ‘Pynchon'” or some such thing, alluding to Dust’s enigmatic persona. Not to suggest Dust and “The Pinch” are one and the same.


    If that’s really TP narrating his book trailer, he sounds like The Dude, which, I’m told, Dust did not.

  17. Zara Potts says:

    Never cut your hair. Never.

  18. Dana says:

    Thanks Greg! Wow. I may be the worst sleuth EVER. Ha!

    I saw your photo comment, THEN I read the blurb from Joe in the San Diego arts paper AND I’d received this very far away picture of him sent to my cell phone from a 213 area code (still don’t know who did that). I added that up and came up with 5 aka TP. Sorry for an misinformation I may have contributed.

    Whatever. We are getting some sort of podcast from the event, correct?

  19. Jeffro says:

    Well, my guess that the Dust was secretly Greg Olear was wrong. And he’s too young to be Thomas Pynchon but if he opened his mouth to expose his two front teeth, we’d know for sure. Pynchon has some crazy big, bucked, chiclet front teeth. I think he’s Brad’s dad. Or uncle. They even appear to have a similar gait in that third picture.

    And it’s not Denis Johnson because he smiles.

    Or Raymond Carver because he’s dead.

  20. Greg Olear says:

    I’m flattered, Jeffro.

    See the front page for TP’s toofers.

    • Jeffro says:

      Ha. I see that. Pynchon could give a squirrel a run for his money. If he bit into your arm, he’d take out a chunk three inches deep and two inches wide.

      As for who the Dust is, part of me thinks this is a grand TNB conspiracy and that it’s still you and that Brad just paid some guy off the street to read your lines if Brad bought him a new suit and a hot meal.

  21. pixy says:

    213 = meggyz.

    ps – this whole thread makes me feel like this <3

  22. pixy says:

    that was for dana. 🙂

  23. Fabian says:

    Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Becky Palapala! Mr. Dust says:

    “Well, don’t despair. You will undoubtedly fail at something more important than literary groupie-dom before the final dust jacket autographs are tallied. At any rate, I hear the Palahniuk camp is accepting new acolytes. Might be wise to re-thumb through your copy of Snuff and bone up on some Chuck-pleasing quotes.

  24. Fabian says:

    Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query dwoz! Mr. Dust says:

    “Unfortunately, it is very true.”

  25. Good Grief says:

    The Helmsman does have a famous uncle.
    And the gentleman in the photo is not his dad.

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