About a month ago, Sophia Katz told me she was raped by a former friend and roommate of mine when she visited New York this past May. Yesterday, she published a piece chronicling the sexual abuse she experienced that week, using a pseudonym for her rapist. I shared the piece on multiple platforms and commended her bravery. I said, “This is very important, everyone should read this.” I said “We need to protect and support rape victims, defend young girls in the indie lit community against predatory, privileged men.” Other people liked the post, shared it, added more supportive comments. But by the end of the day, there was no further discussion about it. No one asked who he is, even though he is an editor within a community we all participate in.
And then I realized, I hadn’t either.
I had felt afraid of ‘starting that war’ against him. I realized that maybe people were afraid to ask who he was because they already knew. Maybe he was someone they considered a friend. Maybe identifying him as a rapist made them uncomfortable and sad. Maybe they didn’t believe it.
I lived with this person for a year. I listened to the way he spoke about his exgirlfriend after she broke up with him. I listened when he told me he “didn’t see the point of hanging out with any of his female friends” because at the end of the day he doesn’t get to fuck them. I pulled my piece from his magazine that he had solicited me for because I no longer wanted to support the career of a casual misogynist.
We shouldn’t be afraid to discuss this publicly when Sophia has been brave enough to call out her abuser in a community where he has immense support and friendship. Stephen Tully Dierks should not be shielded because he is or was our friend. We should hold our friends as accountable as we hold everyone else, if not more.
Thank you everyone for everything ever. Seriously. Thank you. Thank you for even reading this. It’s so easy to forget to be grateful. So Thank you.
That “10 Books That Have Stayed With You” deal from Facebook
I chose these books within 6 minutes, walking around my house and looking at bookshelves, making notes in my iPhone ‘notes’ app.
[Forgive the quotation marks, FB doesn’t allow for italics. - ds]
- “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli
A few months ago I decided that I would start answering the question “What is your favorite movie?” with this answer: “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” Mostly because I don’t know if I really have an overarching ‘favorite’ movie; I did when I was younger, of course—it was “Donnie Darko” in high school and then “I Heart Huckabees” and then Noah Baumbach’s “Kicking and Screaming” and if you put a gun to my head I’d probably say Cassavetes’ “Faces,” but most of the time people asking this question can’t really respond to any of those answers and the conversation just fades into this awkward pallor. Which is to say maybe, if you pressed me, I’d say “Maniac Magee” is my favorite novel of all time, because ever since I first read it, probably in elementary school, it stuck with me, and still resounds. I probably re-read it every eight months or so and it takes me two hours. A bad knot always makes me wish I knew a Maniac; pizza allergies make me think of Maniac, and every time I’ve tried to run on a railroad track (which has been many) I’ve wished I was Maniac.
- “Self-Help” by Lorrie Moore
One of the first short stories we read when I took a short fiction writing workshop at Fresno State was Moore’s ‘How To Become a Writer,’ and it slayed me. I think about the opening line often: “First, try to be something, anything, else.” That immediate subversion. Moore was a pivotal female voice for me when I really needed to be reading female work.
- “The Rules of Attraction” by Bret Easton Ellis
I think last winter was the first in a long while where I didn’t self-induce seasonal depression by reading a BEE tome. I’d done it multiple winters previous; especially once the fog started to roll into the valley, I’d pick up my copy of “Less Than Zero” and, a few dozen pages in, would start to phrase my day-to-day interior monologues with the tone and syntax of Ellis: sharp, short, emotionless, critical, bored. RoA isn’t even the most visceral of Ellis’ work to me; “Zero” has a passage that, still, makes me physically sick to my stomach, and “Lunar Park” is maybe the only novel I’ve ever read that made me as creeped out and unsettled as a good horror film. But “Rules” has always been my favorite of his. I think I’ll reread “Glamorama” this winter.
- “Eating the Dinosaur” by Chuck Klosterman
I think Klosterman is one of our most important cultural critics. Specifically, “Eating” made me re-assess my feelings on three major topics of common culture: American football (the game, not the band), Weezer, and ABBA (with reservations, I’m pro- all of those things). It also makes me think about Garth Brooks often, and I’ve found that doesn’t bother me in reality as much as it does when I type it out.
- “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl
Of all the books I read after my father’s passing* in 2006, fiction or non, this novel hashed out something in me that I hadn’t really grappled with until I completed it: what does it mean when you love someone completely and then discover all of these things about them that they hid from you your entire life? I don’t even think I really like this novel; the ending felt weird and rushed, but the voice and perspective of the lead character Blue van Meer inspired a series of musical output from me that I didn’t realize I needed to create.
(*just a list of books that made me cry w/r/t parent/child dynamics, written by David Crowder, Donald Miller, John Green, Jonathan Lethem, David Foster Wallace… all of which I’m realizing were written by dudes but didn’t inspire me to create work about/inspired by them.)
- “Fortress of Solitude” by Jonathan Lethem
Lethem, like Ellis, has a prosaic style that becomes the way in which I craft my thoughts after a select number of paragraphs. I’m kinda in love with the “New York City” novel that Lethem basically always writes, maybe because I still have as of yet to visit NYC and it exists in this fog of mystery and fantasy in my head. I think this work also, subversively, made me realize it was okay for me to enjoy comic books again, a realization I’ve never articulated until this very moment.
- “Complete Plays” by Sarah Kane
William Richards, my 12th grade AP English teacher, fucked with my head for an entire year. My hard-wired, Conservatively Christian-bred, absolute truth mindset was pummeled by a meat cleaver in his classroom, and to him I owe a debt I will never be able to fully repay. (Aside: my favorite Jars of Clay song in high school was “Fade To Grey,” and the irony is not lost on me.) I fell in love with poetry and plays for real in his class, due in no small part to Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” Beckett’s “Endgame,” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” I had fully visceral, emotional reactions to these works. They broke and stirred in me.
I never discovered anything quite like that again until years later at Fresno State, reading an article in the NY Times about how a small theater group was producing Kane’s play “Blasted” and used this line:
“That “Blasted” still shocks isn’t because it traffics in visuals commonly associated with films like “Saw” and “Hostel.” It’s because those horrors are created by characters who are not, finally, so unlike us.”
So I went to the library, and I found “Complete Plays,” and I remember the exact moment and place on campus I was sitting when I finished reading “Blasted” (across the faculty parking lot from the east (?) side of the Connolly Art building), and this feeling that I had shared something so very private and explicit with someone who had taken their own life nearly ten years prior, and this gorgeous overwhelming sense of awe and disgust and peace and unsettled abandon started to swallow me, and I was broken and stirred once again.
- “Columbine” by Dave Cullen
Having lived in the shadows of personally experienced tragedies and trials for over a decade, my ability to feel genuine personal empathy in the wake of foreign or distant tragedy has always been stunted. My inability to discern fact from fiction as a child and adolescent eventually evolved into a protective armor of cynicism and critical deconstruction that, I fear, can often make me seem pitiless and cold in the face of real awful shit.
The Columbine shooting occurred when I was in junior high, and I can still see in my head television news footage that aired from that story, like scenes from a movie that was broadcast into our homes for months. It feels surreal.
Cullen’s book made the event real, tangible to me. It made me re-evaluate my entire high school experience, my prejudices and actions. It corrected so many falsified narratives and stories I had heard told about the event in the years after. And I don’t think I’ve ever received more concerned stares while reading a book before in my life.
- “Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That Is Organic / Networked / Decentralized / Bottom-Up / Communal / Flexible / Always Evolving” by Kester Brewin
I read this book. Soon after, I left the Christian church. It’s not solely responsible, obviously, but I hold this volume as a textbook. I’m still looking for this vision, realized. Most often (read: always), I find it in other people.
- “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
This was the last book I noted in my iPhone list, because I wasn’t sure if I meant it. I keep it here, now, as both a middle finger and a confession.
When I first moved to Fresno, I made friends that made me realize that I was severely under-listened in music, and even more severely under-read in just about everything. I could fake the booksmarts, but I truly felt like an idiot in conversation with just about anyone.
A few of these friends shoved books in my hands almost immediately; “Catcher in the Rye” (which I still mostly loathe), “Hairstyles of the Damned” (which I fucking hated ten pages in because of its shit syntax), and “Less Than Zero” (see above). From that group I was given “Heartbreaking Work,” and told it took at least one of those people four years to get thru an entire first reading of it.
I read it in less than a month. I devoured the Real World section (which, for most, seemed to derail them completely) in a single sitting. I loved it. I loved the extended intro, the graphs, the stapler, the absurdity. It was heartbreaking. It was hilarious. It was pretentious. It KNEW it was pretentious. It felt, to me, honest enough to tell you it knew it was pretentious. It made me fall in love with San Francisco some, I think.
I haven’t re-read it in years, but I’m still an Eggers-apologist. McSweeney’s is a punch-line now (see: “500 Days of Summer,” Single Mothers’ latest single “Marbles”) and I like it as that and I get the joke and guess what I STILL LOVE IT. I’m gonna be in SF in a few days and you can check my Instagram soon for a shot of me in 826 Valenica checking out all the pirate supplies because I think that place is important as fuck.
I have no desire to ever change anyone’s mind about this “Work.” I have friends who hate Eggers like he ran over their cat on his fixie and didn’t even stop to apologize. Whatever. This book made me fall in love with memoirs, and I’ll forever give it that credit.
VISUAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR UPDATING THE NAME ON YOUR COPY OF WOLF DOCTORS
can i bring you my copy so you can do this for me?
i’ll make you breakfast. <3