Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Hollow Cube is a Lonley Space by S. D. Foster - Party Wolves Book Club

(The following is a transcript from the second Party Wolf Book Club meetup at the home of Michael Allen Rose in Chicago, IL - Saturday January 28th.)

Michael: Welcome back, gang. This week, we're discussing S.D. Foster's book A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space. Since this one is a collection, I thought maybe we could start by talking about our favorite stories. Does that sound... Smitty...? What are you eating?

Smitty: It's a sandwich.

Michael: What's... in it?

Cooter: Man, he's got cheese in there, some sausages, a cantaloupe... smells like a pig hoof or two... maybe some coffee grounds?

Michael: Oh, I get it! Like in S. D. Foster's story Matilda Goes Shopping, right? It's an homage.

Smitty: Matilda goes what?

Cooter: I remember that one, that was a great story. It made my fur stand on end. And I guess it made Smitty hungry.

Sophie: It took a sort of typical domestic story and twisted it into something horrific and amazing. Incest, gluttony, violence, but all with a strong literary voice keeping it all in line. That's something I noticed about all these stories. S. D. Foster has a razor-sharp literary wit and his imagination is boundless. He'll take a typical story structure and dismantle it, deconstruct it, until it goes up in smoke.

Herb "The Herb": Smoke. (Giggles)

Michael: Rex? You seem quiet today. You okay?

Sophie: He's kind of sad. I don't think he expected such moving stories from a new bizarro author.

Rex: I'm not sad, okay? I'm mad! Only with crying instead of rage. I could still eat a baby. You want to see me do it? Someone get me a baby! I'll do it right now!

Sophie: Some of these stories really affected him. It was sweet, you guys should have seen it. He got all cuddly. Unbreakable, for example. It was so beautifully sad and played with warmth of spirit for awhile before dropping some very cold prose.


Michael: I noticed that S. D. Foster has a really unique gift for taking very dark and serious themes and talking about them from a completely new perspective. Unbreakable is like the bizarro universe A Toy Story in flash fiction form. And what about The Lingering Death of Christmas? A winter themed story that really tears down your walls of protection as a reader. He writes you back to childhood and then burns you. Foster's prose is so juicy and such a joy to read that you can't put his book down even when it's tearing your heart out.

Sophie: Speaking of toys and poignancy, I thought the most touchingly painful one was The Trials of Ted.


Herb "The Herb": Made me feel bad for my discarded bongs. Party.

Sophie: Foster's descriptions of things are so vivid, and his prose reads like the best poetry, with alliteration and clever wordplay, and then he just stabs you right in the heart with--


(Rex sobs uncontrollably, punching the couch over and over again. After a few moments of this, Rex, realizing the rest of us are staring at him, goes wide-eyed, stops crying and punches Smitty for no good reason. Rex then knocks over my coffee table and sulks.)

Cooter: Rex?

Rex: Just saying I liked it is all.

Cooter: I really felt a cosmic connection with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Chimp. Didn't you guys?

Sophie: Of course. The whole theme of animals trying to fit into a human world really resonated with me.

Herb "The Herb": Resin. Nated. (Takes an enormous bong hit) Ha.

Cooter: I used to read a lot of James Joyce when I was into the psychedelics and I thought it was some pretty sweet satire too. Like, Foster aped Joyce but like, smashed it together with Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp.

Smitty: I liked Mr. Rat. Like, a lot. First of all, 'cause it reminded me of how everyone's always like "You should get a job, Smitty, and like, do stuff." Screw that. Also, his favorite snack, "aborted baby spread thick with bacon grease" is freaking delicious. That rat has good taste. And I thought most of S. D.'s stories were really funny. But like, in the way that my showing my junk to cars on the highway is funny?

Sophie: Dark humor, Smitty.

Smitty: Yeah, that.

Herb "The Herb": So many of Fosters stories resonate so strongly because at their core, they are about fitting in, and the alienation that comes from the condition of being labelled as other. His characters find themselves unable to integrate into society. Even in ostensibly lighthearted fare like the lead story The Course of Clementine, Foster reveals a fruit who has all the qualities we most fear in ourselves: The ambiguous search for purpose and meaning, the fear of being unsatisfactory, the terror of becoming useless. The pain that these stories evokes is expertly shaped and wielded like a weapon by Foster, fueled by the turmoil that we have all felt at one time or another - the sadness of disconnectedness from our fellow travelers.

(There is general silence for a moment)

Michael: It's still eerie as hell when he does that. Okay, final thoughts?

Smitty: The (Not Quite) Corpse and the Stork also made me hungry! For human brains! This book is awesome!

Cooter: Really solid writing and a super fun book.

Herb "The Herb": Party party party.

Michael: What the hell...?

Sophie: A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space is full of gems. This is an easy recommendation for anyone who loves short stories, and I can't wait to read more of Foster's work. This guy is amazing.


(Smitty begins laughing loudly at Rex. Rex notices, and still sobbing uncontrollably, starts to beat the hell out of Smitty, who scurries to the bathroom and locks the door.)

Michael: Okay, well, with that. This was an absolutely fantastic collection! I think we all agree that you definitely won't be disappointed with any of these stories, as there's not a weak link in the whole bunch. An excellent book and one hell of a debut. Check out S. D. Foster's A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space and see what a great wordsmith can do with a short story! Another book from the New Bizarro Author Series next weekend, so stay tuned!

(The Party Wolves Book Club meets once a week or so to discuss books in Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series. The Party Wolves are featured in the book Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trashland A-Go-Go by Constance Ann Fitzgerald - Party Wolves Book Club

(The following is a transcript from the first Party Wolf Book Club meetup at the home of Michael Allen Rose in Chicago, IL - Saturday January 21st.)

Michael: Okay everyone, today we're discussing Constance Ann Fitzgerald's book Trashland A-Go-Go. Sophie? I know you really liked this one, you want to start us off?

Sophie: I like the character of Coco. It's nice to see a strong female, and I love that she changes throughout the book going from passive to an agent of action.

Smitty: I like that she's a stripper.

(General agreement, muttering)

Sophie: But she's more than that. She goes on an adventure, like Alice through the looking-glass. And she comes out stronger on the other side. It's interesting to watch her transform, and I won't ruin the ending of course, but wow, to look at Coco at the beginning and at the end are two very different things.

Rex: I liked the meat.

Cooter: Did you even read it?

Rex: Shut up, dick. Sophie read it to me. And I liked the meat. Where the lady was reading the meat?

Michael: You're talking about the oracle, who reads Coco's fortune?

Cooter: That part was a trip!

Herb "The Herb": (Snickering): Trip.

Smitty: Totally. She was all like "Oh no, I don't want to touch the nasty meat!" I'd let Coco touch my nasty meat any time. Yeah!

(At this point, Smitty begins doing pelvic thrusts, knocking over Rex's beer. The ensuing chase breaks a lamp in my living room. After several minutes of me screaming, and Herb "The Herb" laughing uncontrollably, Sophie manages to calm Rex down and Cooter has restrained Smitty with a roll of duct tape.)

Michael: Okay, all right... can we get back to the book now?

Sophie: I also liked the character of Rudy, the fly. He was a great sidekick, and I like the way he ended up being useful and integral to the plot.

Rex: Flies eat garbage.

Sophie: Yes, honey, they do.

Cooter: All the characters were pretty cool. I love how Victor, the DJ at the club, is so hard to pin down, man. You like, think he's a villain, then you think he's a hero, then you think he's a schmuck, and you never quite know what to do with him, until the end of the book. The way he plays his part helping wrap everything up, and how his relationship with Coco changes is awesome.

Rex: The violent parts were awesome too. Especially the crazy weapons! Who would have thought you could make a gun that fires--

Sophie: Sweetie, don't ruin things. People might read this on the interweb, and we want to entice them to buy it. No spoilers.

Rex: Okay. Well, I also liked when that asshole Arnie threw her in the trash. I mean, I would have kicked his ass for Coco, if I was there, but you know... it was a cool way to get things going.

Smitty: The dumpster part was awesome! I mean the part where the DJ crawls in after her. Smokin' hot!

Herb "The Herb": Smokin. (Takes gigantic hit from his joint) Hot.

Michael: You mean the part where Victor goes after Coco to--? You are a sick little monkey.

Cooter: You should see his porn collection. Ninety percent trash-related.

Smitty: I loved this book! Can you hook me up with Constance Ann Fitzgerald? Tell her I have a big--

Michael: No. What else?

Cooter: I thought the setting was cool, man. Like, all the descriptions and shit. The strip club sounded suitably nasty, and the trashland itself was super fun to read about. Like, Constance knows how to describe things in a way that makes you see them.

Herb "The Herb": (Snickering) Hallucinations.

Cooter: It does kind of read like a hallucination!

Sophie: I think Constance took the adventure story and made it her own, in a really readable and fun way.

Herb "The Herb": She utilized the formula of the "Hero's Journey" as illustrated in the classic text "Hero With A Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell, and created something wholly other by introducing elements of the absurd and grotesque. All the elements are there: The hero's call to action, refusal of the call, and of course that is quickly overridden by the actions of Arnie and Victor, respectively the Foil and the love interest. The consultation with the wise woman, the obstacle, the symbolic "death of the hero" only to be resurrected, all these elements are present. I would imagine Constance is well-versed in both pop-culture and literature, as these formulas layed out by Campbell are used in some of the greatest and most popular stories throughout all of human history, to which we can now add Trashland A-Go-Go. Much like American McGee's retelling of the Alice tale, Fitzgerald subverts the usual niceties that these kinds of stories tend to contain and wallows in a dystopian trash-heap of literature. The sheer glee with which she does so is infectious.

(There is general silence for a full minute, as we all stare at Herb "The Herb.")

Michael: I--

Herb "The Herb": Party. (Takes a large hit from his joint.)

Michael: Okay, let's talk themes, what did you get out of reading Trashland A-Go-Go?

Sophie: Love conquers all, but sacrifice is necessary.

Rex: Strip club owners are dicks and should be eaten.

Cooter: Adventure awaits those who are willing to take the reins, even if they don't choose it sometimes.

Smitty: Sexy strippers rule! I liked it when Constance described her silver g-string! Wasn't there a part where her titty almost popped out?

Sophie: This was a great book. Super fun to read. I couldn't put it down.

Michael: I couldn't agree more, Sophie. This is a really great read, and I would highly recommend it to any reader of weird fiction or fun adventure stories. It's also a great way to test how strong your constitution is, when she gets particularly descriptive. Buy it! Okay, well, from me and the Party Wolves, that's all for now. Read Trashland A-Go-Go by Constance Ann Fitzgerald and enjoy a crazy trip through a land of trash and some super memorable bizarro fiction! We have a bunch more books to go in the New Bizarro Author Series, so stay tuned!

(The Party Wolves Book Club meets once a week or so to discuss books in Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series. The Party Wolves are featured in the book Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose)