The Folly of Loving Life (Stories)

New work!

Big thanks to Future Tense publishing and Kevin Sampsell for taking on my short stories. I am so happy to see this one make it’s way out into the world.

 

Future Tense site says:

Following her acclaimed novels Clown Girl and The Stud Book, Monica Drake presents her long-awaited first collection of stories. The Folly of Loving Life features linked stories examining an array of characters at their most vulnerable and human, often escaping to somewhere or trying to find stability in their own place. These stories display the best of what we love about Monica’s writing–the sly laugh-out-loud humor, the sharp observations, the flawed but strong characters, and the shadowy Van Sant-ish Portland settings.

210 pages, paperback ISBN 978-1-892061-77-5

$15.00 & $3.00 shipping.

I can only ship in the U.S., but if you’re in England, Amazon UK carries it! Huge thanks. M

 

unnamed

Considering

I aspire to be the stoner

in the room.

To be the guy with the ripped jeans and the Morrison

hair. Who nods and says, “Cool.”

Who says, “Works for me.”

Who says, “Sure, dude.”

And it might be 1977 or

could be 2050 but he has his eye

on some hot bod somewhere else and

he’s flashing a peace sign

and he’s leaving the building

and he’s making like water, like vapor

He says, “Catch you later,” and

“American cigarettes taste like Florida.”

The world can smoke neurosis now,

smoke your striving.

Like a doctor, his first vow

is 
the Hippocratic oath because this dude,

he will do no harm.923191_10151593913265829_1155839775_n

The Stud Book is set in part at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland, epicenter of Asian elephant sperm, which is seriously shipped around in the world in an effort to keep Asian elephants reproducing in captivity. While the elephant population dwindles and the human population doubles, a pack of lifelong friends navigate the shifting terrain of their own unsteady lives.

Hope you might read it, and love it! That’s my dream. Now out in Spain, from the indie press Blackie Books.

Thank you for taking a look!

Shakespeare and Didion

My mother, daughter and I went to see a production of Othello. My daughter is young, but she’s seen at least three Shakespeare plays so far–Falstaff (fat shaming), Othello (domestic violence) and then Romeo and Juliet in a few different forms.

In the middle of Othello, my mom whispered, “Why is Iago evil? Do we know?”

Some people ask, I think. I never ask.

It’s a quote from Play it as it Lays, by Joan Didion: “What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.”

 

I tell my mom, “We don’t know.”

 

What art does…

“What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has moral force. Ruskin was right, though for the wrong reasons, when he talked about art as a moral force. Art is not about good behaviour, when did you last see a miracle behave well? Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory—which is quite different [from] history. Art asks that we remember who we are, and usually that asking has to come as provocation—which is why art breaks the rules and the taboos, and at the same time is a moral force.”

—Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson & me, AWP.

Jeanette Winterson & me, AWP.

Kind words from Zia McCabe, of the Dandy Warhols & Brush Prairie xoxo

ziaWhen pregnant Monica moved in across the street from me, pregnant Zia, I saw a potential companion in a black neighborhood we were both gonna be blamed for gentrifying–artists who risked turbulence in exchange for cultural diversity and an affordable mortgage. When she brought me her book, Clown Girl, and I gave her 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia, it represented the new version of the old 1950’s home baked goods, a welcome to the neighborhood by trading gluten free art. Clown Girl made me laugh out loud. Thank god it was pre lol, because I had no intention of abbreviating my experience. Years later I’m honored to receive the neighbor/fellow artist copy of The Stud Book. I feel no pressure to reciprocate or critique. I’m just a privileged neighbor. This time I’m part of the landscape, the fabric this tale is woven with. The geography, the culture, the characters are even more familiar than before. Monica’s track record is good with me. She’s edgy, honest, absurd…She puts blood ‘n guts on a domestic plane. No zombies, no spies, nothing out of a fifteen block radius. As a vintage sci-fi enthusiast,  I’m used to far out things happening far way. This time a lot of the fun was envisioning it all happen in my neighborhood with characters I could give real names to having problems me and mine have all had.  Life in the Portland micro. I love it.zia2

Photos from Zia’s Facebook page–because they’re amazing.

Hillbilly Bread Factory

In the 1970’s we took a field trip to the Hillbilly Bread factory, a place where everyone had a job and the world smelled like fresh baked bread, a warm place in the middle of a blizzard-marked winter. I was in grade school in Michigan. Serious women in wispy hair nets ran the machines, everybody dressed in shades of blue in my memory. After showing us the factory, a representative gave each child a fresh loaf of Hillbilly bread to “take home.”

None of those loaves made it home.

We opened our bread bags on the bus back to school, smashed gummy white bread between our grubby palms until it was half the size, or tore light, fresh pieces into small strips. We handled that white bread until it was dirty and we ate until it filled our stomachs, bloated against our eight year old ribs. It was the best. Each one of us ate an entire loaf.

Mmm…

Now I see Hillbilly Bread seems to be a subsidiary of Aunt Millies with the slogan, “At Aunt Millie’s, we bake more than bread–we bake memories.” So true! I remember that as one of the best field trips ever, even if we all overindulged, ate bread until our stomachs turned to knots, ate light and lovely bread until it was heavy in our guts.

These days everyone I know is swearing off gluten. We have gluten-free crackers, gluten free pizza, and it’s kind of crazy. What’s gone wrong with gluten?

We were once gluten gluttons, I know, I know.

Today my daughter and I swung by a bakery–she’s the age I was, in the days of Hillbilly Bread–and bought a loaf of homemade Italian. She told me it was good, swore I’d like it. She offered me a sample at the bakery and I waved it away, though bought the bread for her anyway. It was for her, for this skinny kid.

At home, I broke my gluten-free binge. This Italian bread is chewy and light, marked with bubbles, and springy. It welcomes a slather of butter.

It’s time to pull out the cookbooks, the old James Beard, Beard on Bread, the book my mother gave me back when she moved out, when I was a junior in high school, the year I learned the drive a car, the year I was freezing, the year I had to drop out–the year I baked bread so many nights, to stay warm in a cold house, when the snow piled against the windows and the furnace had no oil.

My daughter and I? We’ve eaten half the loaf, this evening. We’re overindulging, watching movies, ready for the first day of a new school year tomorrow, third grade looming large. I remember that day of Hillbilly Bread, how young I was.

Inside that cookbook my mother left me with, she wrote, “For we hope that your life will be full of many things as good and pleasurable as homemade bread. Love, Mom.” That was Christmas. Then she packed the car, collected together my sister and brother, and together they drove away, west, before New Years.

Bread is still good, and yes, somebody is baking memories. xoxo