The Oscars and the Nervous Twitch that isn’t Laughter

Roxane Gay: How a Wound Heals

I linked to Roxane Gay’s post because she says it in ways I can’t, because her perspective is direct and from a more acute angle, while mine is second or third hand, filtered through empathy.

The Oscars were pretty terrible. I often like Seth MacFarlane, but he looked scared shitless and played it incredibly safe, using jokes that would have been shocking when Dice Clay used them, but today just make us uncomfortable. Not in the way Louis C.K.’s humor makes us uncomfortable, with a hidden truth, but with a self-perpetuated falsehood, that it is okay to say these things, because they garner little nervous snickers. “Did he just say that?” Which is the same flush we get when we think, “Did our friend just say a doody word in front of his MOMMY?”

Seth wasted half the show on self-deprecation meant to let Hollywood know that he’s just as messed up inside as they are. He was great when he embraced what he loved: song and dance numbers and weird cultural references. I thought this show was better than the Franco/Hathaway one, and his jokes weren’t as bad as some of Billy Crystal’s, but Chris Rock and John Stewart managed to pull it off better, in my opinion.

quvenzhane wallis

What was worse was that The Onion thought it was funny to call a 9 year old girl a cunt on the biggest day of her life. There was plenty to satirize at the show. The Oscars are almost painful to watch in best of times, because most actors are the pinnacle of validation-hungry self-absorbed performers, something I sympathize with as a writer. Many of them become grotesque avatars of this need for attention, fame and applause. There are plenty of targets, but The Onion had to attack a young girl whose only crime was not acting how we expected, like Honey Boo Boo or some precocious little robot. Idiot reporters called her “Little Q” or “Annie” to her face because learning to pronounce her name was too difficult. They an say “WA KEEN” Phoenix just fine, I noticed.

(Admittedly I called him Joe Quinn Phoenix until he played Johnny Cash and heard his name all the time). Can she just have one night before they try to turn her into the next Honey Boo Boo? Or is that what they truly hated in her, that she seemed unaffected by it all. Flexing her arms like her character did, telling reporters that little kids see things adults can’t sometimes, because they’re not so busy. Not acting like a tiny adult crammed with needs and neuroses, not a barely functional automaton that runs on cocaine and applause?

Not all actors are like that. Ever since Garbo they’ve mocked performers who act like human beings instead of need machines. We want the magic, we desire the spectacle. And we’ll tear you apart with our teeth if you don’t play along.

That said, I’m glad Life of Pi won a handful. It was a beautiful film in a sea of reboots, remakes and safe bets. Argo, despite its veracity problems, was well made and a good story. I wish The Invisible War, about rape in the military, had won best Doc. But like Errol Morris’s excellent Standard Operating Procedure, about our use of torture, it was a truth too painful to bear.

I hope after the Oscars, the Onion tweeter and Seth went over to Octavia Spencer’s house for cake.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT is out!

The anthology I’ve been working on since January, to benefit PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children, is now available.

PROTECTORS includes a foreword by rock critic Dave Marsh, and fiction by Patti Abbott, Ian Ayris, Ray Banks, Nigel Bird, Michael A. Black, Tony Black, R. Thomas Brown, Ken Bruen, Bill Cameron, Jen Conley, Charles de Lint, Wayne D. Dundee, Chad Eagleton, Les Edgerton, Andrew Fader, Matthew C. Funk, Roxane Gay, Edward A. Grainger, Glenn G. Gray, Jane Hammons, Amber Keller, Joe R. Lansdale, Frank Larnerd, Gary Lovisi, Mike Miner, Zak Mucha, Dan O’Shea, George Pelecanos, Thomas Pluck, Richard Prosch, Keith Rawson, James Reasoner, Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, Gerald So, Josh Stallings, Charlie Stella, Andrew Vachss, Steve Weddle, Dave White, and Chet Williamson.

The book is now available for Kindle, and the pages at Barnes & Noble and Kobo will be live soon.

For updated order information, including how to order it directly through Paypal (generating the largest donation; you can upload the Kindle or ePub file to your reader, or read it on your PC) go to the PROTECTORS Official Web Page.

The book will also be available for the Apple iPad and on Smashwords. Our designer is working on the print edition, which will be available at Amazon and in bookstores.

The wait is over… go be a Protector!

The Protectors Anthology is coming…

For a year, I’ve been working on a follow-up anthology to Lost Children, the charity anthology inspired by Fiona Johnson‘s flash fiction challenge, hosted at Ron Earl PhillipsFlash Fiction Friday. It is nearly complete, and will be available September 1st. Here is the full list of contributors. 100% of proceeds will go to PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children – the army fighting what Andrew Vachss calls “the only holy war worthy of the name,” the protection of children.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Stories by:

Patti Abbott
Ian Ayris
Ray Banks
Nigel Bird
Michael A. Black

Tony Black
R. Thomas Brown
Ken Bruen
Bill Cameron
Jen Conley

Charles de Lint
Wayne D. Dundee
Chad Eagleton
Les Edgerton
Andrew Fader

Matthew C. Funk
Roxane Gay
Glenn G. Gray
Jane Hammons
Amber Keller

Joe R. Lansdale
Frank Larnerd
Gary Lovisi
Mike Miner
Zak Mucha

Dan O’Shea
George Pelecanos
Thomas Pluck
Richard Prosch
Keith Rawson

James Reasoner
Todd Robinson
Johnny Shaw
Gerald So
Josh Stallings

Charlie Stella
Andrew Vachss
Steve Weddle
Dave White
Chet Williamson

40 stories. One cause: PROTECT

In a few weeks, the e-book will be available across all formats. The print edition will follow.

Cover art by Kim Parkhurst. Interior design by Jaye Manus. Cover design by Sarah Bennett Pluck. Print design by Suzanne Dell’Orto. Edited by Thomas Pluck.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories for the collection, and everyone who assisted me with this project, and everyone at PROTECT.


My short story “We’re All Guys Here” appears in this month’s issue of [PANK] Magazine. What does PANK mean? No one knows. It could mean to lightly spank, or to tamp down.

Edited by Roxane Gay, M. Bartley Siegel, and Brad Green, it surely stands for good poetry and fiction, and I’m proud to join the illustrious legions of the panked. I needed a good panking… go get yours.

Review: Ayiti

Ayiti by Roxane Gay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I received this book, I did not know what Ayiti meant. It is the Haitian Creole pronunciation of Haiti, of course, but Americans have a preconception of the country. Our media tells us what to think of Haiti. It is a hopeless place. Dictators. Tragedy. They can’t govern themselves, we need our soldiers there, to treat them like little children. After reading Roxane Gay’s short stories, I have a better idea of the place and the people. I wouldn’t profess to know it, but her raw and emotional tales of love and loss, hate and pride, the defensiveness and criticism of a country that only someone who has lived there and left and returned can give, they paint a picture that will forever remain in your mind. Some stories are a mere page long, flash fiction, short sharp cuts that sting long after the page is turned. Longer works are dreamlike and engrossing, immigrant tales, survival tales, as dark and brutal as hardboiled crime fiction with their relentless truth and emotional power.
“Things I Know About Fairy Tales” is a story of a kidnapping that hangs over my shoulder like a ghost with fetid breath, days after reading it. [A Love Story], a zombi tale, chilled me to the bone. A ledger book of expenses required to escape on a boat to Miami made me want to curl up and eat my own heart. But there is also joy and playfulness, as a Haitian girl confronts the ignorance of her college friends, and a news article that Nicaragua is now the poorest country in the Western hemisphere is rife with her darkly cynical humor.
I was surprised and impressed, and I’ll be lending this book to readers and writers alike. A slim 120 pages, it can be read in an afternoon. I’ll warn you, it packs emotional power that belies its size, and you’d do best to savor one story at a time.

View all my reviews