I have few regrets from my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, but atop the list was my inability to make it to the new location of the long-running indie bookstore Reading Frenzy. I was happy to hear of their successful fundraising campaign (to which I contributed, leading to a print with illustrations of a number of zines that now hangs in my living room), and hoped to make it up to their new space. An abbreviated stay, though, impeded my ability to make it up there; hopefully, my next visit there will allow for more time to check it out.
From Portland, let’s move to areas more local. Thanks to good folks, I was able to snag a copy of Bound by Chance, the chapbook produced by WORD and Ace Hotel, despite being unable to attend the event at which it was created last weekend. Assembled via a series of rolls of a die, the concept is one of travel, of a series of rooms in which the style and setting are vastly different. Rolling the same number multiple times yields an additional copy of the same story, or, as the introduction puts it, “[a] return to a previously-visited room of the labyrinth. Possibly, one remains stuck in the same room forever.”
The version I ended up with featured stories by Danniel Schoonenbeeck, Bill Cheng, Dolan Morgan, Roxane Gay, Emma Straub, and Sarah McCarry–not a bad lineup of writers at all. Each of these was written in the second person, and the disorientation that that can bring is deeply present here. Cheng’s story riffs on the Stanford Prison Experiment, while Gay’s takes a seemingly familiar domestic scene and transforms it into something unsettling, removing certain boundaries and describing other activities in menacing turns. McCarry and Straub’s contributions take on qualities of folk tales or myths, while Schoonenbeeck’s opts for more kitchen-sink realism. And Morgan’s takes an even more surreal turn, taking the notion of rooms and transit and making it into something visceral and strange.
For Love or Money, the latest chapbook from Guillotine, is structured around a conversation between Melissa Gira Grant and Sarah Jaffe. (Related: I really need to read the former’s new book.) Jaffe opens by discussing taboos in writing, and positing that writing about sex these days may be more palatable to a mainstream audience than writing about questions of money and class. What emerges is a series of arguments that challenges assumptions about issues that surround us. Does zeroing in on economic injustices surrounding sex workers reduce the attention paid to other people working low-wage jobs? Are the ways that we discuss issues of sex, power, and money fundamentally flawed?
Numerous assumptions are challenged here, though the fact that this is a dialogue (and it’s one that’s very aware of its nature as a dialogue, with references made to false starts and deleted passages that will never be sent) leaves the whole thing feeling like the beginning of a larger conversation. It’s certainly given me a lot to think about.