The Aversive Clause is out from Black Lawrence Press. Terrific. You think you can just waltz on up, dump seventeen weird-ass stories on us in 175 pages, get our hackles up and our issues raised, then depart on a note like “Evitative”? Well, fine. You’ve done it. And it is fucking great.
Don’t worry for one second about our sensibilities. We’ve been warned by the cover font that we’re up for something “gritty.” Don’t even worry for a moment that your raw, creepy stories about doppelgängers, your iron-haunted house, your man with the ill-fitting skin suit still trouble our daydreaming moments and make our skin crawl. We actually love the way you take our capacity to be unsettled to the very edge of taste and stop just shy of too-far.
These stories, particularly the voice-centric ones, totally out you as someone with some theater background, but do not worry, we won’t hold it against you. Much. Your bio indicates you are a producer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and as annoying as improv is, generally, it appears to have had a positive effect on your timing and ability to totally commit to a character, no matter how out-there. A few pieces in the collection read more like dramatic monologues than what we’re used to as short fiction, but does anyone really give a crap about that, anymore? Did they ever? Or is adherence to form and genre just an urban legend invented by reviewers so we wouldn’t have to kiss ass for 800 words?
Theory aside, in the midst of your thoroughly creeping us out, you go and hit us right in the emotional breadbasket: showing repeatedly (sometimes a little too repeatedly) what it is like to watch a lover drift away, whether it is due to a zombie epidemic, an invasion of angels, or because a you’re too lazy and immature to get your shit together and get a real job. That most of these lovers are gay men is even more poignant; the specificity niggling at the universal woes we’ve been trying to forget since our last breakup. You go on: showing us what it is like to consume what we desire, to be overcome by our experiences. Below the belt, man.
The worst of it, B.C., is how you shine when you really fucking shine. Where is that? In the voices. Specifically, the first and second person. You’ve taken a rookie blunder of so many MFA students to polished comedic success. Jerk. “My Recipe for the Best Tuna Salad in the World”? Are you flipping kidding me? Three pages of hilarious bitterness couched as a tuna salad recipe that transmits the tender bitchiness of breakups. Nice. The gall of having an idea as original and oddly sweet as “Eugene and the News”, let me tell you: if we weren’t pissing ourselves laughing at narrator Eugene’s passive-aggressive dispatches to his mother from the site of his TV news internship—following a T-Rex named Sandy around the Arizona desert—well, we’d surely take issue.
There are echoes of the usual genre-bending storywriters that come to mind, the Saunderses, the Benders, but your voice is particular and (clearly) catching. Writing transcends its influences through specificity, and in The Aversive Clause we have new go-to texts for when you need a Queer love story with zombies, or a heartbreaking fable of not belonging in a city where “anything wished for was possible but generally expensive.”
This is your first collection of stories, and yeah, it feels like a first collection—a little bit repetitive, with a few pieces that could’ve been left out—but so did Civilwarland in Bad Decline. The title story is supposed to be the strongest of the bunch, but the final “Evitative” (the grammatical form indicating something to be feared or avoided, synonym: aversive), while creepy, finds us a bit apocalypsed-out, feels somewhat in love with its own linguistic quaintness. Some pieces are stronger than others, but you knew that. Almost all are original and honest enough to cling in your brain like some kind of conceptual virus. Nice work, B.C. You’re very talented. Shut up.