Few people in the literary community create as many fun and meaningful opportunities for writers as Ander Monson. From editing the magazines DIAGRAM and Essay Daily, to running New Michigan Press, to hosting an annual March Madness-inspired writing tournament dedicated to essays about music, Monson creates unique spaces for many writers of all stripes to share their work.
In his new book of nonfiction, Predator: A Movie, A Memoir, An Obsession (Graywolf Press, 2022), Monson explores the culture and fandom surrounding Predator, the 1987 action film starring eventual governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Predator: A Movie, A Memoir, An Obsession shows what films, books, games, artworks, or sports can reveal through analyzing a thing and the culture around it. Even campy “big dumb movies,” as Monson calls them, offer entry points into deeper understandings of the self and others. When Monson explores why he’s obsessed with Predator, it’s an invitation to ask yourself why you’re obsessed with Slayer, or My Little Pony, or Keith Herring, or The Raiders. What does that obsession say about you? About others? What can an action film teach us about masculinity, violence, eroticism, fear, or love? When the book examines what Monson’s love for Predator reflects, or fails to reflect, about his values now and throughout his nearly life-long relationship to the movie, we can ask the same questions about our obsessions.
A few years back, I reviewed the poetry collection Losing Miami by Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué for Terrain.org. The collection was later a finalist of the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry, which didn’t surprise me at all, because the work was outstanding. It was so outstanding, in fact, that when I learned about Gabriel’s new collection with Nightboat Books, Madness, I was excited to read it and curious where the poet would go after Losing Miami.
Where Gabriel went was a faux-collected works format, a book that created a fictional poet (Luis Montes-Torres) and attributed the real poet’s work to the fictional one. Each section represents a fictional collection of Montes-Torres’s and a preface by the fictional editors provides a biography. It’s a poetry collection in a fictional frame. Totally brilliant.
The poems themselves present the same accessible insight as those in Losing Miami, often focused on themes of ecological change and queer identity explored in the previous work, but in new, fresh ways.
I ended up reviewing Madness for Rain Taxi Review of books. The review is in the print edition, which you can get here. It’s only 5 dollars and there’s lots of other great content and leads to new reads. You should pick up a copy of Madness and then read my review and let me know what you think!
Elle Nash’s novel, Gag Reflex, takes place on Live Journal and chronicles a young woman’s transition into adulthood and her struggles with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder. It’s an extremely fast read and feels like an artifact of the early 2000s. Dark as the character’s struggles are, the book maintains dark humor and prurient action to keep readers from despair. It also contains a classic mall metal playlist.
I never met the bear who is the subject of my essay’s title, “What’s the Bears Name?” It lived in the Galiuro Mountains in Arizona in canyon called Rattlesnake Canyon near an old homestead called Powers Garden. Deep Wild was so kind as to include my essay in their newest issue. The essay asks why we don’t see animals as individuals and what effect that generalization of other species has on how we consider and treat them. Of course, people generalize each other, lumping people into groups and losing sight of individuality, so it’s not surprising that we do it to animals. Still, it’s interesting to think about what might change – in our thoughts or in our actions – if we allowed ourselves to acknowledge bears, and many other creatures, as individuals.
Essay Daily always features fun and creative ways to think about writing essays. One of their ongoing events is their semi-annual advent calendar featuring one new essay each day of December leading to Xmas. This year’s theme was cover essays. Think like cover songs, but with essays. Participating writers chose an essay to cover and wrote an original piece.
My essay, The Brain of Ozzy, is a “cover” of Roland Barthes’ The Brain of Einstein, which was in his collection Mythologies. What Einstein and Ozzy Osbourne have in common is a public interest in their brains – Einstein’s brain because of his genius and Ozzy’s brain because of his drug and alcohol tolerance.
Thanks to Essay Daily for featuring my piece! I’ve really enjoyed the other advent essays, too.
My short story, “A Heliograph to Kin Kletso,” appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Weber: The Contemporary West. That issue is now available online here. The story is on page 109. There’s lots of excellent writing and interesting interviews in there, too.
I have been a bit negligent in updating this site over the summer, but I have been writing and reviewing books.
David Tromblay’s memoir, As You Were, recounts the author’s abusive childhood and military experiences. The memoir pulls zero punches, describing physical abuse at the hands of Tromblay’s father and grandmother in fairly graphic ways, but somehow the author’s dark sense of humor manages to take some of the edge off. The book also addresses the cultural erasure that occurred at boarding schools for Native American children, like the one Tromblay’s grandmother attended.
E.C. Osondu’s Alien Stories uses extraterrestrials as metaphors for immigrants in US culture. That sounds like a simple premise, but Osondu gets great mileage out of it, describing immigrant experiences in accessible and empathetic ways. The stories are often quite funny and always clever. Osondu is from Nigeria but now teaches in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m hoping he attends the Tucson Festival of Books because I’d really like to hear him speak or read from his work.
In other news, my review of Anna Zett’s Artificial Gut Feeling is featured in the Full Stop Reviews supplement, which is available for Full Stop’s Patreon supporters. The supplement includes several feature essays and many reviews. Definitely worth checking out.
I’d also like to congratulate Full Stop on their recent Whiting Literary Magazine Prize. It’s a real accomplishment and well deserved. I’m proud to be a contributor to their important work!
Fugitives and Futurists were kind enough to share my story, “Misoprostol.” The pic above is the image the editors of the site chose to accompany the story. It’s a very short piece of near-future science fiction that imagines how prohibition of reproductive rights will manifest similarly to drug prohibition. As someone who grew up around religion-based opposition to reproductive rights, particularly women’s reproductive rights, I see religion-appeasing prohibition as irrational policy and an ideological poison in our society.
About 10 years ago, I went hiking alone and met an intriguing hiking partner with an interesting past as an activist protesting an observatory on Mt Graham in Arizona. At the time, some of what the man said sounded far-fetched. Though he seemed nice enough, he had a gun. The gun, combined with frightening, paranoid-seeming stories he told, freaked me out.
For a while, my encounter was a story I told. Then, I wrote down what happened. Over time, I ended up looking up many of the things the man said and found that much (though not all) of what seemed far-fetched actually checked out. I grafted my research to my original story.
The final product is “Space Mountain.” I’m very thankful to Terrain.org for publishing the piece, and for the effort it took to present my system of notes. If you’re not familiar with Terrain.org, I’m sure my essay will be a gateway to much future reading!