Rob Keefe, fiction writer, DJ and miscellany-person with Heather Fisch, who’s a documentary filmmaker.
A lot of writers I know have been featured in, or would donate an organ to be in, the Michiganian literary outfit PANK. I like PANK a lot: their website and magazine are pretty, there’s a monthly digital issue–where you can listen to the stories– but mostly I love the content. Not quite as metal as UNSAID or NOON and definitely not as familiar as many [University + Review] journals can be, the one-word adjective for PANK’s aesthetic is “brave.” Mom always said I was brave, so I legged it to Greenpoint’s WORD for the PANK Invasion, sponsored by Vol. 1 Brooklyn. There were celebrity holograms, anorexia, two boxes of wine, and a mess of a good time.
1. Managing Editor Tobias Carroll starting off the night. 2. Sean H. Doyle on 100 forthcoming celebrity holograms you may see trolling the neighborhood. 3. Jennifer Pashley, right before she read the best worst pick up line I’ve ever heard.
Last time I saw Sean H. Doylewas at Vol. 1 Brooklyn’s “3-Minute Stories” series. He told us about a time when he was living in Arizona and the singer from a band called Mighty Sphincter saved him from a skinhead. This time, Doyle read some expanded versions of riffs recently seen on his Twitter feed, in a piece titled “Hologram Tupac Gets Shot.” Read these with the inflated intensity of a Post headline: “Hologram Bin Laden serving chicken kiev at Walmart. Hologram Steinbeck feeding grapes to your aunt. Nude. Hologram Dick Clark showing up on the display during your colonoscopy. Hologram Hemingway reading The Hunger Games on a flight to Barcelona, giggling. Hologram James Brown leaving troll comments on every Thought Catalog article, snickering with glee.”Managing Editor Tobias Carroll revealed from the night’s next reader, Jennifer Pashley, that she was raised by an accordion virtuoso and a casket maker. Pashley “[didn’t] know” how to do either of those things, but she can write a damn fine story. “Magic” followed the wife of a soldier away on duty, and the tangible absence it provides. Though he wasn’t dead, our wife certainly felt like he was. At a bar: “‘I’d like to decorate your interior,’ he says. You fuck in the parking lot.” I like how 2-S narrators can immediately place you in responsibility of a character, and when they do something outrageous, you feel equally outrageous. “If you go back to that bar, you’ll be someone else … and if you see that tall unhandsome man, you’ll say it was someone else.”
Robb Todd was next with two short pieces. The first one wasn’t so much story as it was machine-gun fire vignette. Told as the airport terminal boarding announcer, Todd literally ran through every aggravation one encounters while “pre-boarding.” The dude who tries to jam his carry-on into the overhead, for example, boards last and holds up the line. Todd’s predilection for obsessive voices carried over to his proper story, “Razorwire.” I think this involved some sort of addict, or schizophrenic, on the way to somewhere, who gets distracted by his own mind. “Everyone was looking at everyone was looking at everyone … I made myself stare at the woman, afraid of what I would feel.” After that, poet MG Martin, who has not karate-chopped Billy Collins in the neck, began with a haiku dedicated to fellow reader and PANK editor, Roxane Gay. “Her name is not spelled / With two X’s or two N’s / Just one of each please.” The rest of his set was backed by this little device, which may be foreign to attendees of lit events, but their natural habitat is this. Martin looped his voice thrice in various pitches for background harmony, which this line was read over: “Do you remember feeding me spam in the bath?” Carroll was equally surprised to see a delay pedal at a reading. We both agree it was pretty awesome.
1. Tess Napolatano, serial killers, and what they buy at Pathmark. 2. Roxane Gay, who made good on her Twitter promise of wearing an argyle sweater, and an anorexic/bulimic Vivian. 3. Mensah Demerry, reading about an unfortunate side effect of depression: Assholism.
Tess Patalano followed with several pieces, but my favorites were her “Serial Killer Grocery Lists.” They start out with a preface: “Greg collects hearts. That’s how he loves. He doesn’t want to hurt his victims, just kill them.” And then, yes, what they eat: “Two bags almonds. Four pounds New York strip steaks.” Patalano closed out with a flash piece titled “Down Here.” “The sky and I are getting friendship tattoos. It is her first time leaving the atmosphere. Without her there it looks blank.”
I was really excited to finally see Roxane Gay, who is a mover and shaker in the indie lit scene. You probably follow her entertaining Twitter feed, read her essays on The Rumpus, her excellent fictions that have appeared in NOON and Hobart (her story “North Country,” which appeared in Hobart #12, is forthcoming in Best American Short Stories 2012. Bitchin’), or her book Ayiti. Whew. The woman makes moves, people. She read her story “Girls with Eating Disorders,” which appears in fwriction:review. I read this story with heartbreak tinged with retrospective humor, but Gay read it in more of a fairytale voice, which made the story a kajillion times more heartbreaking and funny. “Peter was a therapist. While Vivian spent her days making food babies, he spent his days helping girls like Vivian overcome their emotional issues.” As all of us thought the night was coming to a close, Mensah Demary, founder of Specter Magazine, finished out the night. Demary was stuck on the Turnpike, and delivered a donkey-punch of an essay about how depression turns people into assholes. “I am my favorite subject. I am the mystery and fear to me.” I welcome any new perspective on subjects that have regressed into stereotype, especially if they rub uncomfortably up the skin. Demary did just that, and it was brave indeed.
Afterwards we milled about and I dusted the box of white wine. You can buy PANK online, at WORD, or any of BK’s lovely literary outlets. Party.