A short story of mine, published in Southwest Review in 2005, edited (and nominated for the Pushcart Prize) by Ben Fountain.
“Give that child something to run for and look at her go,” says one.
For the girl is gone in the road brush, spiky blond pigtails flying up into the rhododendron which grows out untamed and untended to, even in the absence of rainshower. Chameleon caterpillars walk its stems and snack on its leathery leaves. In the middle of this snarl of pink and dying green she is flying down the hill in her boys’ blue-jean cutoffs, a small rectangle-shaped box placed in the sleeve of her T-shirt to seem like a pack of cigarettes, little bursts of thighs revealed in the denim’s unraveling. Legs scabbed and scratched like poorly peeled potatoes, spinning up whorls of red dust in the road.
The mother and the uncle and aunts sit in the shade of the porch, glancing down, occasionally, at the girl in the road.
“See how she goes.”
Past five rusted car bodies of various years that lie in the sun like drying fruit. Gravel has been hauled and poured over the road and displaced again by tractors and souped-up cars and packs of spit-dripping dogs and rainstorms that make for a distant memory now.
The girl feels important, keeping watch. She is twelve and old for her age…. continued.
Photo by Shawn Brackbill for Vogue.com
Blown away and inspired last year by my first Kyle Abraham show— Live! The Realest MC — I’ve been dying to write about him and his work ever since. For Vogue.com:
On Wednesday afternoon, choreographer Kyle Abraham, finalizing his look for a curtain call, rips out the price tags from the wide-leg tuxedo pants and the white shirt emblazoned with a large blurred yellow flower he’s chosen from Comme des Garçons. “I wanted to look like a Japanese artist,” says Abraham, flashing a handsome smile—he’s been known to perform bare-chested in a long pink tutu in his 2006 breakout work, Inventing Pookie Jenkins, and in plaid flannel and sneakers in this year’s Pavement. (He’s saving his Nike high-tops for later because after that evening’s world premiere of his work Another Night for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, “I don’t know where the night will take me.”)
Rei Kawakubo isn’t the only avant reference Abraham lets creep into the City Center. Later that evening, duos and trios of dancers, clad in a Merce Cunningham–like rainbow of color—green, orange, red, blue—flash out across the stage, a duo here, a trio here, taking flight, in lightning-fast movements punctuated by layers of thunderous drumming, Art Blakey’s hard-bop improv rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia”. . . .
Read on for the full story.
Kim Gordon and Alec Soth both chose The Lonely Doll and others from the thoroughly weird Dare Wright canon. George Saunders picked Babel. Wells Tower, Charles Portis’s Gringos. And everyone, naturally, went for Flannery O’Connor. For Vogue, my post on Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force’s very cool new illustrated title My Ideal Bookshelf.
Kim Gordon’s Ideal Bookshelf, painted by Jane Mount.
And it’s a knockout. I’m so thrilled to be a part of the first issue of Transgressor, which is, start to finish, a stunning magazine, under the direction of Diana Welch, Morgan Coy, and Monofonus Press. “A celebration of outsider philosphies and cultural trespassers.” Alison Fensterstock and Aubrey Edwards going deep and down into the New Orleans Bounce scene. Ana Klausmann reimagining the films of Kathryn Bigelow. An interactive guide to entertainment. Zach Saunders’s hypnotic tale of the Crystal Skull. Enigmatic scenes captured by Justine Kurland on her lonely wanderings. And me, seeking out sailors and Boggsville Boatel visionary Connie Hockaday, navigating the water frontier of New York. Its title is so long it breaks up across the margins of this website. But you don’t care about that, do you? You can see it all right here.
The back story, if you haven’t heard it before or seen it in HBO’s Paradise Lost documentaries: Damien Echols is the most famous member of the West Memphis Three, who, as teenage boys, were put on trial and charged with the brutal 1993 murders and mutilations of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas despite an astounding lack of evidence. The only thing directly linking Echols and his co-defendants Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley to the murder was a forced and questionable confession by the mentally low-functioning Misskelley. The crime was characterized as “Satanic,” and Echols, with his long, naturally black hair and long black trench coat, along with his love of Metallica and horror movies, presented an obvious fit for the part of lead killer. Eighteen years later, and another since he was finally freed, comes Echols’s raw and riveting memoir, drawn from his prison journals, told in chapters that alternate between his childhood, growing up so poor that a trailer, with running water, was a move up in the world; and his more recent past — moving into a cell decorated with the outline the previous inmate had traced of his own body, sleeping in that dead man’s bed.
When I first called Echols, I could barely understand him. “We’ve been homeless for a month,” was all I could make out. He sounded exhausted. Minutes later, his wife, Lorri Davis (a landscape architect who spearheaded the legal fight to free the West Memphis Three), called back. “I’m literally hanging out a window to get cell reception,” she said. Both of them had been up since four in the morning, moving into their new house in Salem, Massachusetts, finally realizing a dream that Echols mentions in his book. When we spoke a day later, about the writing of the book and his first year out of prison, Echols was open, friendly, his accent bearing all the traces of his West Memphis upbringing. Read the full interview here.
So there I was in Florida a few years back, one of my best friends and I killing time during a sudden, massive deluge flash-flooding the town that saw Gram Parsons through high school, spawned a trio of Southern bar rockers (Lynrd Skynrd, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special), and now keeps vigil over the once-vandalized graves of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. All that in mind, while trapped in the car we hoped to hear “Sin City” on the radio or maybe “Tuesday’s Gone”—being doomed to replays of “Free Bird” was pretty much inevitable, we figured. What we didn’t expect was to get sucked into the Big Lots of the airwaves. From the Oxford American’s Best of the South issue, on newsstands now, which also has essays on Lewis Nordan, William Gay, Harry Crews, work by Michael Parker and more. You can download a pdf of my little story here.
I made a photo zine for Monofonus Press’s latest release of small and strange books: Photographs from around the states and beyond by Justine Kurland, Cameron Stallones (Sun Araw), Joanna Cowan, Ramona Flume, Elliott Hostetter, and yours truly. Writing, poetry, and life advice from Drunk Dial, William Z. Saunders, Caroline McCloskey, Chrissy Paszalek, Joshua Saunders, Andy Rihn. And comics by Grant Cross, Karen Davidson, Morgan Coy, Chris Chalik, and Simon Parsons. All of those (and more from zine seasons past) are sitting on a digital Issuu shelf; check them out here.