Tag Archives: Joseph P. O’Brien

“Make American Loitering Great Again” – A Conversation with Leland Cheuk

Leland Cheuk is a big part of the Flapperhouse family: he has performed at three of our readings, and contributed three excellent flash fictions to our Summer 2017 issue (including “Vote For Arnie,” which we posted last week). He has also contributed work to fine publications like Salon, Catapult, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner, and has written wonderful books like LETTERS FROM DINOSAURS and THE MISADVENTURES OF SULLIVER PONG. Leland recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about his writing, as well as generation gaps, the universal appeal of Haruki Murakami, and the potential economic necessity of polyamory.

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JO’B: You’ve said that the flash fictions you contributed to our latest issue are part of a “concept album” you’re working on…what can you tell us about the concept of this work-in-progress?

LC: I’m trying to write a novel in mostly flash fictions that features an ensemble of feral characters in a feral, near-future America. I’m becoming more interested in absurdity and surreality and I think shorter fiction is generally a better way to explore these aesthetics. It’s an effort on my part to shed some of the things that we writers learn in MFA programs—like the worship of naturalism, social realism, and character development/epiphanies. I just want to be doing something totally new with each book. 

JO’B: Your flash fiction “Vote for Arnie” suggests a world in which people can go back in time and correct history’s biggest mistakes. If you had one such opportunity, what would you want to fix? What positive results would you hope to achieve, and what negative repercussions would you fear might occur? 

LC: Great question! I’d come back to kill John Connor. No, I think I’d go back and advise the President to devise a more equanimous response to 9/11. That’s really been the biggest game-changing choice is my adult life. Think of all the lives saved, the military spending that could have been repurposed if we hadn’t gone into the Middle East. Maybe there’s no ISIS. Of course, we’d probably have found another war to get into. Fifteen years is a long time for America to be without war—we’re addicts.

JO’B: If you were to run for President in 2020 (in a world without time-travel, of course), what would be your platform? If you won, what would be your first executive order, and your first official tweet in office?

LC: I’d probably run on a similar platform as Jon Gnarr, that comic that became mayor of Reykjavik. I’d want to Make American Loitering Great Again #malga and make Dazed and Confused required grade-school viewing. I’d commission Oliver Stone to make a sequel to Wall Street named Main Street, in which I would make the Gordon Gekko speech, except the word “greed” would be replaced by “dumb.” Dumb is good, dumb is right, dumb works. Continue reading “Make American Loitering Great Again” – A Conversation with Leland Cheuk

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“The Human Part is Now.” – A Conversation with Mila Jaroniec

Mila Jaroniec has been part of the Flapperhouse family since way way back: her poem “Window Glass” appeared in our very first issue, and she was the very first reader to perform at our very first reading.

Mila’s work has also been published at Hobart, Teen Vogue, and LENNY, among many others. She’s an editor for the wonderful team at drDOCTOR, and her excellent novel Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover was published last November by Split Lip Press. (Check out an excerpt over at Joyland.) She recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about her new book, as well as the afterlife, airport novels, hilarious Polish proverbs, and much more…

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JO’B: You’ve aptly described Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover as a “road novel with no road,” and it also struck me as a novel about living in limbo. It resonated especially strongly with me, and reminded me of whatever I can still remember from my own early/mid-twenties. There’s plenty of excitement in the sex & drinks & drugs & uncertainty, yet that same uncertainty also creates this restless, stuck-in-a-rut, waiting-at-the-airport sensation, constantly anxious for something to “HAPPEN.” And while that feeling of limbo has certainly ebbed for me as I’ve progressed through my late-twenties & into my thirties, I still find myself there on occasion. With this book, did you intend to create an atmosphere highly specific to that particular stage of late adolescence/early adulthood, or was it meant to be even more universal & accessible than that?  

MJ: It wasn’t planned that way at all. I mean, I didn’t think about stages or accessibility. I just wanted to do a portrait of a person. A young messed up person, in this case, but there are many, many older adults who are stuck in this eternal adolescence. Drug addicts especially.

JO’B: At one point in the book, your narrator (aka “La Maga”) and her friend discuss whether an after-life of non-existence is closer to heaven or hell. Do you side with one character more than the other in that debate? Do you have any unique theories on human existence post-death, or do you think we just cut to black?

MJ: I wanted to think we just cut to black for so long – it’s so easy – but I can’t make myself believe that. It’s just a comforting thought when I feel afraid of dying. Blackout is a comfort. But, you know, I don’t necessarily believe we retain our consciousness as it is now. It changes form. We are souls being carried around in bodies, for now, and then we are set free to do something else. There’s no human existence post-death. The human part is now.

JO’B: PVBS is kind of an “airport novel,” in that much of it takes place in an airport, even though [SPOILER] La Maga never really gets where she’s going. The book’s also overtly inspired by Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch, which La Maga refers to as “the perfect airport book.” Of course, when most people think of an “airport novel” they probably think of fast-paced, plot-heavy thrillers by Dan Brown or James Patterson. So if a publisher offered you a lifetime of financial security to write a more typical airport novel, what would the title & plot summary be? (And your pen name as well, if you prefer to keep your literary & genre work separate?)

MJ: A lifetime of financial security to write one fast-paced thriller? I’m not above that. So maybe it could be about this housewife with humble beginnings, maybe an immigrant, married to this very high-profile multi-millionaire, and she has everything she wants and an extremely lavish lifestyle, but then she starts to suspect he’s killing and dismembering women, something like that. Which he is. And hiding them in the house. There’s a whole torture chamber in the mansion. So what does she do with this information, and does she make it out alive? He treats her completely normally the whole time. Until he finds out she knows…

Is this convincing? I might actually write this. Get a how-to book, like Ottessa Moshfegh did to write Eileen, and go to town. And of course I would keep my name. I’m not precious about stuff like that. Continue reading “The Human Part is Now.” – A Conversation with Mila Jaroniec

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #10, in Pictures

A thousand gabba-gabba-heys to everyone who helped make Reading #10 bop like a rock n’ roll high school: Cooper, Nancy, Adam, Ilana, Emily, Armando, Monica, and Stu for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your stellar singing & striking photography;  Pacific Standard for being as cool a venue as CBGB (but much cleaner, of course); and all you punk rockers who came out to be part of our happy family; we’ll do this again on October 26 with our 1st-ever Halloween-time scary story celebration…  

(photos by Alibi Jones)

img_4077Cooper Wilhelm takes us into the dark with some brand-new poetry

img_4085Nancy Hightower reads “Charlotte,” her twisted take on Charlotte’s Web from FLAPPERHOUSE #11  Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #10, in Pictures

“Clara Bow is In Your Face but You Can’t Grab Her” – Poetry by Joseph P. O’Brien

ClaraBowBoxFrom our Summer 2016 issue, “Clara Bow is In Your Face but You Can’t Grab Her” is Joseph P. O’Brien‘s poetic tribute to the original “It Girl.”

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YOU CAN FEEL HER, though you don’t really see her
today. (If you do, it’s probably Betty Boop anyway.)
But when we talk about “It,” we talk about Clara.
All the stars and starlets since just play a game
of tag she started. What is IT? IT’s what the French
call “I don’t know what,” but cutting out
all the bullshit in the middle.

It’s being born in a Brooklyn heat wave, the caboose in a train
of miscarriages, looking death in the face and winking.
It’s growing up with girls maligning your poor clothes,
so you hide inside sweaters and hang with the boys
(your famous right arm could lick any one of ’em)
until your womanhood makes boyhood impossible.

It’s keeping warm with your mom on cold nights
by crying in each other’s arms, until you wake to a butcher
knife at your throat– epilepsy induced psychosis,
the doctors say when dad commits mom, and eventually
it kills her. It’s calling your mourning relatives ‘hypocrites’
at mom’s funeral right before you jump into her grave.

It’s finding romance, nobility, and glamour on the silver screen,
but thinking the actors queer & stilted, not at all how you’d do it,
so you make your bedroom a one-woman circus, star
in your own mirror movies, til Hollywood can no longer ignore
your genuine spark, your divine fire, and you steal the
show as an undercover tomboy. It’s never facing a means to pretend,
no secrets from the world, it’s trusting through dangerous eyes. Continue reading “Clara Bow is In Your Face but You Can’t Grab Her” – Poetry by Joseph P. O’Brien

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #8, In Pictures

Our most effervescent gratitude to everyone who helped make Reading #8 such a non-stop highlight reel: Deirdre, Monica, Armando, Devin, Oscar, Bill, Jeanann, and Dolan for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your glamorous voice & exquisite photography; special guest Joseph SW Hasan for your wonderful music; Pacific Standard for continuing to be the best place to read in NYC; and of course, everyone who came out to be part of our gorgeous & enthusiastic audience! Let’s do this again on August 3rd

photography by Alibi Jones

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Deirdre Coyle kicks off the readings with a tale of sex demons & burn scars

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Monica Lewis reads “Letter to Your Chromosomes,” one of her prose poems forthcoming in our Fall issue Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #8, In Pictures

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #7, In Pictures

We’d like to stir a big bubbling cauldron of gratitude for everyone who helped make Reading #7 such a bewitching evening: Kailey, Mary, Shawn, Darley, Dorothy, Ilana, Ron and Luis for performing your flappy lits; Pacific Standard for continuing to be the best bar in all of New York to host a reading; Alibi Jones for your scintillating singing & lovely photography; and all you gorgeous cats & kittens who came down to get spellbound. Let’s do this again, say, around the next Solstice…

(photos by Alibi Jones)

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Kailey Tedesco reads some of her magical poetry, including “How Often We Confuse Ovens for Rabbit Holes”

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Mary Breaden keeps the witchy vibe alive with some spooky short fiction

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Shawn Frazier gets surreal performing a dreamy new tale Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #7, In Pictures

“Thus, I Kick Sylvia Plath’s Brilliant Dead Ass” – A Conversation with Misti Rainwater-Lites

 mistiMisti Rainwater-Lites is the author of numerous books, including the phenomenal Bullshit Rodeo. Her writing is fierce & vulnerable,  magical & earthy, like a glorious mixtape of punk rock & sweet slow soul & Led Zeppelin & Patsy Cline. Longtime FLAPPERHOUSE readers may remember her piece “Angels Howling in the Trees,” which appeared in our very first issue. 

Our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien recently spent a day text-messaging with Misti about her writing, as well as Deadpool, David Lee Roth, Gertrude Stein, and much much more…

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Joseph P. O’Brien: Bullshit Rodeo is called a novel, but it feels like one of the rawest, most fearlessly transparent books I’ve ever read. Can you give an idea how much of it is true to life? Or would you prefer to keep a blurry boundary between your fiction & non-fiction?

Misti Rainwater-Lites: People have mistakenly referred to Bullshit Rodeo as a memoir and creative nonfiction. It’s neither. It’s a novel the same way Tropic of Cancer and How to Save Your Own Life are novels. I took my life…the very real horror and heartache…and turned it into a novel. I’ve never had sex with a fry cook. There really was a dead butterfly.

JO’B: The first book I finished in 2016 was The Bell Jar, and you reference Sylvia Plath a few times in Bullshit Rodeo, so that was fresh in my mind while reading your book. I’d keep wondering if Plath’s character might have ended up a lot like your character if she’d been born 40 years later in Texas instead of Boston. Was The Bell Jar a conscious inspiration for you?

MR-L: No, I wasn’t thinking of The Bell Jar when I wrote Bullshit Rodeo. Here’s some background. I was revising a horror novel entitled Mordiscado in 2009. I was talking to a good friend and fellow writer on the phone and he told me I needed to write what I knew. I needed to write Texas. I said, “Shit. It’s hard enough LIVING Texas. I can’t write it!” He brought up a favorite writer of mine, fellow native Texan Larry McMurtry.  The Last Picture Show is one of my favorite novels of all time. Larry took pieces of his life or life he was on the periphery of in Archer City, which isn’t too far from Bridgeport (my birthplace) and Seymour, which is where my parents and maternal grandparents grew up and fell in love, and made it into a novel which later became a damn fine film.

I admire Sylvia Plath, of course, but I can only relate to her on a limited level. She was born to educated upper class parents in New England. She led a charmed, accomplished life…which was rendered null and void due to her severe mental illness. Maybe if Sylvia Plath had been born in Texas to working class teenagers in 1973 she would be alive now in donut pajamas, set to finally receive a BFA at the age of 43. But Plath was genetically blessed. I’m genetically fucked. Or maybe we should flip that. She was brilliant but died too soon in a horrific way. I possess average intelligence and I’m alive in the glorious 21st century where we have billions of options, none of them terribly appealing. But there’s always karaoke and vibrators and Valero coffee. I took my son to see Deadpool last Saturday and made him chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day. Thus, I kick Sylvia Plath’s brilliant dead ass. Continue reading “Thus, I Kick Sylvia Plath’s Brilliant Dead Ass” – A Conversation with Misti Rainwater-Lites