Category Archives: Literature
Another great author who will knock us OUT with her skill today is none other than the famous, the fabulous, the forthcoming-bookish Trista Hurley-Waxali!
Trista Hurley-Waxali is the author of the poetry chapbook Dried Up. Her work has appeared in the journals FORTH, Enclave, and Street Line Critics, well as in the Procyon Short Story Anthology 2014 (Tayen Lane Publishing, 2015). She has performed at the O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and in a Helsinki Poetry Connection Poetry Jam TransLate Night Show.
Seriously, kids, you do NOT want to miss this. This is a poet/author who can both write ’em AND read ’em! And don’t you DARE think that the rainy day today will stop her powers! Just look at how amazing she was in the realm of perennial rain, Ireland (courtesy of the O’Bheal Poetry Series):
Trista lives in West Hollywood, where she is working on her first novel, At This Juncture. Come see Trista, and all the below stars, at 2 p.m. SHARP at Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park!
… plus surprise guests that will AMAZE and TERRIFY you!
We meet in the back, and to encourage those in Los Angeles who dislike what the describe as “weather,” we’ll give free popsicles to the first 40 attendees! (See? Who said serious fiction and ridiculous amounts of corn syrup couldn’t go literally hand in hand?)
JEKYLL AND HYDE: A RROSE IN A PROSE LITERARY SALON
OCT. 18, 2 P.M.
HOSTED BY ART CURRIM AND D. M. COLLINS
@ STORIES BOOKS
1716 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90026
Today at 2 p.m. we have so many good writers! And we’re even bringing on features you’ve need seen with us before–including the highly young but highly acclaimed poet and writer Emily Hunt!
Emily Hunt is a writer, editor, and translator living in Los Angeles. Emily’s work can be found in Artillery Magazine, YAY LA, Robb Report, Los Angeles Review of Books, DoLA, San Francisco Bay Guardian, World Literary Today, and others. She was a selected participant in the Ashbury Home School poetry conference held by the former poet laureate in Hudson, New York. She is currently at work on her first collection of short fiction, Lake Wallenpaupack. She spends her free time cooking vegan food, drinking, and having awkward-to-tragic encounters with her neighbors. She cries at any and every Robert DeNiro film and she doesn’t think your bacon jokes are cute.
- Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations, and loud love!)
- Matt Sedillo (Grand Slam champion and socialist scholar)
- Emily Hunt (ARiaP newbie who may just outshine us all!)
- Laura Avila (young spoken word secret weapon!)
- Stephen Kalinich (Beach Boys lyricist and peace activist)
- F Douglas Brown (prized teacher/poet and DJ of words)
- Legs McNeil (Punk Magazine co-founder and VICE consigliere)
- Gillian McCain (Please Kill Me poet and voice of reason)
… and don’t forget hosts DM Collins and Art Currim, who will be organizing the entire afternoon along with great helpers from ZZyZx, soon to be announced!
I first became aware of Mary Gaitskill in the mid-late 90s (I believe my professor, T.C. Boyle, made it assigned reading), and I fell in love with her fiction immediately; in particular, I loved the story “Secretary” from Bad Behavior. It’s a grim a-morality play which shows us, almost as if overhead, from a place of horror, the degradation of a little lost girl whose creepy lawyer boss sees in her someone he can manipulate, degrade, and engage in a form of “consensual” dominance/submission that her depression and self-loathing perhaps give her no other choice but to endure.
The following week, when I made a typing mistake, he didn’t spank me. Instead, he told me to bend over his desk, look at the typing mistake and repeat “I am stupid” for several minutes.
It’s a far cry from the movie Secretary, the adaptation of the story that came out in 2002 starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, which is a helluva lot sunnier. In it, Gyllenhaal plays the little lost girl, and Spader as her boss somehow uses S&M to make her blossom as a person.
As a perv, I do like that Secretary was a great PR piece for my people. It helped to normalize kink for the squares, even going so far as to endorse it as a potentially healthy avenue for sexual release, one that most of us in at least subtle ways already participate in through our daily lives (I see Mad Men as also being very kink-positive about dominance games, too, though I think many critics miss that point).
And I am soundly in the James Whale’s Frankenstein camp, (no pun intended), and hold similar opinions about movie adaptations of books as I do about cover versions of great songs–you’ll never be able to capture the same magic in a new format, so please, do change things from the book! Give us an excuse to love those characters all over again in new contexts and with even new tones and lessons than the original piece may have intended. This is why I don’t mind Stanley Kubrick not including Anthony Burgess’ last chapter in his adaptation of A Clockwork Orange: Burgess ended his novel with a lesson on the power of maturity and old age to cure the savagery of youth, but while that’s an inspiring idea, doesn’t the ever-maddening Alex of Kubrick’s version ring equally plausible?
But though I love movies that rework fiction, something seemed a little false, a little too naive, about Secretary. It seemed to be missing some important point. And I don’t think I realized what that nugget of truth was until reading Charlie Latan’s essay about 50 Shades of Grey in Flaunt.
No one seems to be talking about Secretary when reviewing the recent film version of 50 Shades of Grey (just kidding, the smart people are), though clearly Secretary was an influence not only on the film, but likely also to the book that it’s based on. There are so many similarities that Buzzfeed made a list, and Hollywood Reporter tried to top that with a trailer mashup. I haven’t seen the film, but according to Latan, 50 Shades of Grey stops just short of actually giving its characters the believable back stories, emotions, or chemistry of Secretary, but at its base is the same idea: a young, impressionable girl meets a richer, more established boss, and soon an inappropriate S&M relationship blooms in which the controller/”sadist” is the rich successful dude, and the submissive/”masochist” is the poor little lost girl.
And therein lies the rub.
If you have ever been in a good ol’ jolly S&M experience, or full-on master/slave relationship, the fun part is that it’s all play, and that its core, no one is emotionally abusive or truly forcing themselves on another. Whether you engage in S&M with a life partner, a third-party, or even pay for it at a dungeon, at the end of the day everyone is meeting on more or less equal footing.
You can spank your wife all you want in the bedroom, but only because she wants it too (or enthusiastically wants you to do something to her she “doesn’t want” which is still enthusiastic consent); and afterwards, you still have to take out the trash and be a good husband.
And yeah, sometimes there seems to be a gender component, e.g. I as a male seem to get “roped” into being the one who does most of the tying up and spanking in my relationships. But even that is not me truly dominating–I might actually prefer to be the one on the receiving end of this stuff, but I play the role my partner wants me to, at least half of the time. Maybe we’re acting out gender roles in the bedroom almost as a way to exorcise them fully from real life, or maybe I’m just better at tying knots because I was an Eagle Scout. But whatever the case, it’s always me and another person who I care about and who cares about me and who is truly free to leave whenever she/he wants.
(AN ASIDE: Yes, this isn’t always so cheerful. I was even once in a relationship where my partner wanted me to punch her, choke her, say horrible shit to her, and “rape” her as part of sexual intimacy. These are not my preferences, and at times, her predilection was the farthest thing from a turn on I have ever experienced (I actually cried over it once). And yet, for psychological reasons driven by cruelties committed upon her in her past, this dark sex play seemed to really help her to work this shit out in the bedroom. She needed it, and it was not her fault that she needed it. And so on occasion, I would oblige. But this was not my being abusive–this was me trying to help my girlfriend cope, and to get off sexually. The rape was never really rape, because she enthusiastically consented to it, and the “abuse” never went past what she could take, or what I could take. And it started and ended in that space of play, and did not bleed into our “real” lives, or my treatment of her when it came time to figure out what Thai food restaurant to go to or whose friend’s party we’d attend. We were equals. I had no true power over her except our affection, and even that was shared.)
Secretary might have been about a shared affection, but its main characters were not equals: one was a successful boss, one an emotionally battered secretary. Though the bazillionaire dom in 50 Shades of Grey may be almost a Tony Stark cartoon compared to Spader’s lawyer, there is a reason that sexual harassment laws exist. And it’s no different in a law firm than with a high-powered CEO: the relationship between employer and employee is never equal.
Writ large, the relationship between our upper class and those who are financially struggling, those in the dwindling, ever more desperate middle class, is not equal. This is why I struggle with my views on prostitution: on the one hand, I think a person should be able to do whatever they want with their sexuality, including selling it, or offering money to someone who will help them get more experience with it. Yet I worry that women who are not “forced” into prostitution as literal slaves are often doing so because there is a dire economic need that is not their fault. It is their last resort, not their enthusiastic choice.
And as sugary as a fairy tale princess story might seem, are they much different? All damsels are helpless to stop the forces that shape their lives, be they witches, evil step-sisters, or… the heroic princes themselves, whose love is mandatory if the princess is to survive. Sound like Pretty Woman much? This is not the consent of equals. And any story that cranks up a boss/employee power relationship into one of love and consent is masking, rather than revealing, the dark nature of economic sadism that our society’s 0.1% power players commit upon us on an ever-increasing basis, a sadism that is making the middle class vanish. Charlie Latan gets it just right:
Anastasia Steele is the perfect stand in for such a vanishing class … As anyone working a salaried jobs knows, options are scarce. Bend over, and forego your identity to the cruel calculations and staggering organizations of an interested corporation. They’ll whip you, and buy you a nice lunch, fly you across the country for a meeting. Sounds strangely familiar to Ana’s tutelage with Grey. In the process, one develops a social identity that is left behind if one leaves the arrangement (sexual or professional). Essentially, if you take a hike, you are like the fictional Ana, you cease to move the narrative forward.
While I applaud Secretary for being a fun film that attempts to speak well of kink, by placing its relationship in the context of employer and employee, it misses this more important point, one that Gaitskill’s original “Secretary” doesn’t. If in Orwell’s 1984, the future is “a boot stamping on a human face—for ever,” our present is one in which our bosses make us lick their boots, and then trick us into thinking a few dirty coins make this a good thing. We shouldn’t be using James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhall to make this relationship of power inequality look, even in a minor way, like that’s something that can be reworked into a positive. No wonder Gaitskill called the film adaptation of her work “the Pretty Woman version, heavy on the charm (and a little too nice).”
-D. M Collins
P.S. You may have noticed that I didn’t bother mentioning the names of the directors of 50 Shades of Grey or Secretary, nor the author of 50 Shades of Grey. I probably should have, but A) personalizing this might dilute my thesis into ad hominem attacks, and B) it was hard enough spelling “Gyllenhall” half a dozen times, and I want to quit naming people while I’m ahead.
Inspired by Kronos Quartet and our own teenaged selves, this month our theme is “Early Works.” It’s going to be fast-paced, and it’s going to mean everything from old diaries and high school zines to epic forms of poetry, old school rap, and maybe, just maybe, some very young people whose early works are happening right now!
Our author list shall include, but not be limited to:
- Erin West (the Hedgehog)
- Jordan Schwartz (We Got Power!)
- Adam Shenkman (the The Breakfast Show with Adam-O)
- Scott Schultz
- Mark Olivas (Touching Game)
- Don Bolles (Vox Pop, Celebrity Skin, L.A. Guns–kinda!)
- Lindsay Parker (secret weapon!)
You’ll want to be “early” for this one: your host, D. M. Collins, in turn promises to embarrass himself even more than normal.
Oh, and there will be mixtapes and mix CDs. There, we said it, so now we have to do it. Bring the earliest mixtape or CD or Podcast you’ve ever made that you can still find in your closet, then bring like 20 copies to the event to share. It’s time to love each other’s lameness!
This month’s Rrose in a Prose is coming up! Once again, it’s at the Hedgehog Coffee Shop in Echo Park, so you can wash the whole thing down with coffee and one helluva sandwich.
The line-up this time has some really great authors and poets, including a return visit from the wonderful Jessica Ceballos, who wowed us a few short months ago. But it also has my old band mate, Asa Ferry, one of the best songwriters I’ve ever worked with and a man who really captures reality in a way not all of us catch or perceive–even if he just reads a sentence, it’ll make you float away later, looking at cumulus clouds and wondering why you’ve never seen the little shimmers that cascade from puff-pocket to puff-pocket before.
We also have Ryan Fuller from Fort King, and … goddam, there are too many people to talk about! Just read the list and kick yourself if you’re unable to attend:
Jessica Ceballos (Bluebird Readings)
Roy Rogers Oldencamp (Bluefat)
Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations)
Daniel Austin Warren (Black Hand)
Asa Ferry (Kind Hearts & Coronets)
Ryan Fuller (Fort King)
As always, this event is “hosted” by the not-ready-for-print-time player, L.A. RECORD’s D. M. Collins. That’s me!
A Rrose in a Prose
2201 W. Sunset Blvd
(same side o’ the street as Mohawk Bend)
in Echo Park
April 28th @ 3 p.m.
I first learned about Stephen Kalinich from a bootleg Brian Wilson CD that Bobb Bruno loaned to me years ago. I never imagined that the unknown man behind this strange, disembodied, beautiful voice would someday be a friend. This is a guy who writes poetry that feels like warm sunshine coming into your kitchen window in the morning. As a poet, he’s graced the steps of our nation’s capitol and the grooves of my favorite Beach Boys albums. I’m so happy that he’s now graced our presence twice at A Rrose in a Prose.
This time, he could only stay briefly: he was on his way from a recording studio and on his way to another reading, or vice versa, or something–I can’t keep up with the guy! I hope once I’ve lived as long and as thoughtful a life as Stevie has that I’ll still have this kind of enthusiasm and joy in sharing my work with others.
This clip is Rickie Wang in a nutshell–she’s smart and observant and a bit quiet, but well worth tuning in for to hear what she has to say. Thanks again to Jean-Paul Garnier for putting these clips together! As a host, even though I may look like a very attractive Keebler elf over in the corner there, I often get nervous and weird and have a hard time really absorbing some of the new works going on right in front of me–I’m glad to get a second chance with this one.
It reminds me quite a bit of the work of another old friend, Dave Roche, whose book On Subbing should be required reading for anyone who’s ever considered making fun of a substitute teacher.
This month’s A Rrose in a Prose event was so well attended, and it had such amazing readers! If you were in either category today, I feel honored. I’ll post more photos as they come in. Here’s me, Lina, Nocando, and Jean-Paul:
Thanks to Lainna Fader for being first to chronicle the moment!
… and a new name!
Someone (not our group, that’s for sure) put some posters on some light poles downtown a couple months ago–at least FOUR of them! That’s completely illegal, and I say that anyone who does it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, far more than a mere $312.
Yet the name in the city officials’ misspelled documents was so wonderful, I had to steal it. Serves those vandals right!
So, compelled by the spirit of Dadaism, our literature/poetry/memoir/erotica/essay/rant event is now called:
The next one is September 23. Please come.
It’s going to be Ogden Nash’s birthday, and you know what that means: wacky witticisms will abound, like poached eggs nicely brown’d.
And this time, we have a headliner: Stephen Kalinich, who recorded a fantastic album of poetry in 1968 with Brian Wilson, and also contributed many wonderful songs to the Beach Boys. Most of them have an almost child-like innocence, or rather maybe a defiant, radical optimism and sense of hope. But this one, co-written with Dennis Wilson, is anything but innocent; do you know how hard it must be to make Mike Love sound sexy?
Anyway, come out August 19th to the Hedgehog and see all these amazing writers, poets, memoirists, etc… Martin Matamoros, Paloma Alexandra Parfrey, Earnest Pettie, Marianne Stewart, Gabriel Hart, Erin West, Susan Burke, Katie something-or-other, and myself.