I usually check my email, Facebook, and Twitter right before leaving my car to go to the gym because I like to stay on top of things. Once in a while, I find a new digital advanced reading copy of a book I’ve been eager to dig into. A couple of weeks ago, that book was Constance Ann Fitzgerlad’s Glue. I opened the document, checked out the layout, and decided to read the first chapter to get a taste of the writing because this is Fitzgerald’s second book and it’s not bizarro like her debut novella from Eraserhead Press, Trashland A Go-Go. Fifty minutes later I had finished the book and felt like I needed to hug the author, both for the way she must have felt while writing the book and for the way she’d destroyed me in less than 90 pages.
Glue is about loss, grief, and learning to cope. Simply put, this is a brutally honest recount of the most impactful deaths in the author’s life, dealing with her father being in the hospital after a serious motorcycle crash, and the way she survived all of it even though she was forced to walk around being an open wound on more than one occasion. It is also a narrative about addiction, the way we see the stories and legacy of our parents and what they come to symbolize in our lives, and how we find comfort in others and in routines when the things we love most are either shattered beyond recovery or damaged in a way that makes us feel like nothing will ever be the same.
There is a lot of literature dealing with loss and grief, but most of it is fiction and/or falls in one of two camps: individuals unable to cope and spiraling into madness or bouts of self destruction or people with almost superhuman abilities to deal with the situation. The beauty of Glue is that it escapes both camps and instead shows someone real, someone normal, someone ill-equipped to deal with the blows delivered by life and desperately holding on to anything and anyone who promises a fleeting, fragile moment of perceived stability and comfort:
You smoke some weed out of the apple, drink as much beer as your stomach will allow. You manage to get a few words out without dissolving into sobs. You used to be so fucking strong, but you find yourself crying every time you try to speak. Your little brother just drapes a skinny arm around your shoulders and lets you cry.
There is a small group of female authors out there who seem to have perfected the art of literature that is at once hyperpersonal but that also cuts to the bone and leaves readers in a state of suspended agony/pleasure because the themes being discussed are universal. Two of my favorites are Juliet Escoria and Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Now Constance Ann Fitzgerald has joined that group. Her writing here is very personal and autobiographical, to the point that calling Glue a chunk of a memoir wouldn’t be out of place, but the way she explains anguish and emotional soreness make the book a communal experience, a shared look at grief. Furthermore, Fitzgerald deals not only with the immediate but also with the inevitability of future catastrophes, and that is also something most of us do regularly, that is the huge “What if…?” that constantly hangs above our heads and fills some moments of our lives with the awful realization that some bad things are inevitable. After losing her mother, Fitzgerald is forces, more than ever, to consider her father’s future demise:
“What if he dies?” That’s the one that keeps you awake. Because it isn’t if, it’s when. It will happen someday. Your superhuman father is a human. And that’s what sent you over the edge. Thrown over a waterfall of your own tears in a barrel, like that would save you. You realized that someday your father will die and you’ll feel this awful unyielding blackness all over again. A thought you couldn’t bear, high as the devil, alone in the dark: Someday your father won’t be around. You pray that it happen years from now. Because you can’t ask for it to never come. It’s impossible and certainly something your father would never want.
Fitzgerald also belongs to a second group of authors: those with roots in bizarro fiction who have moved on to some interstitial space between genres. Like Cameron Pierce (who is responsible for this book as editor of Lazy Fascist Press) and Tiffany Scandal, Fitzgerald has jumped out of the bizarro realm and is making a statement with a second one that, despite being a single-sitting read, delivers a powerful, gut-wrenching punch. Besides the emotional honesty she brings to the table, Fitzgerald’s prose is straightforward, and that allows her to tackle hard questions with enviable simplicity: “Think of the heart like an antique vase. A Ming vase, or whatever that fancy expensive shit is. It’s that.”
Glue is another strange, unique addition to the Lazy Fascist Press catalogue and a short, commanding sophomore effort by an author I truly hope we see more work from in the immediate future. Just make sure that you find a good shade and have enough gas if you start reading it in your car.
by Constance Ann Fitzgerald
Lazy Fascist Press; 86 p.