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Nick Antosca

http://brothercyst.blogspot.com/

Nick Antosca is the author of two novels: Fires (2006, Impetus Press) and Midnight Picnic (2009, Word Riot Press). Antosca was born in Louisiana and currently lives in New York City.

MARWENCOL: A GREAT FILM ABOUT STORYTELLING

a marriage in Marwencol

The big art documentary of 2010 is Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, a great film which my best friend told me he found profoundly reassuring and inspiring on a creative level.  If this Mr. Brainwash guy, who overcomes apparent lack of actual artistic talent, can succeed through sheer force of will, then anyone can. I loved it too, but I found it profoundly depressing to watch the man mass-producing his artworks and corralling hype like a magician.

Last night, however, I saw Jeff Malmberg’s Marwencol, an extraordinary documentary about a man named Mark Hogancamp.  This film was the one that affected and inspired me.  It reminded me what a rich and complex experience it is to create a world.

Hogancamp is a man whose memory and motor skills were destroyed by a brutal assault that left him in a coma.  Afterward, kicked out of the hospital and denied sufficient physical therapy because he had no insurance, he continued his therapy on his own, regaining his dexterity by building models.  He built an entire WWII-era Belgian town called Marwencol in his backyard, and populated it with dolls who represent people in his life–people with whom he shared history he could no longer remember, so he created a new history–a lurid, sexy, illustrative history that indulges his fantasies.

Those fantasies include finding love (he was married once, before the attack, but he can’t remember anything about it, and he can’t remember the experience of sex at all, so he was psychologically a virgin when he emerged from his coma) and taking brutal revenge on the men who attacked him.  The stories he tells with the Marwencol characters channel those fantasies in fascinating ways that sometimes affect his relationships with people in the real world.  Have you ever written something based on a friend, had it published, then had the awkward experience of explaining this to that friend?  Parts of Marwencol may seem familiar.

Hogancamp was profoundly damaged by his experience, and if you met him without knowing anything about his past or about the complexity and detail of the world he created–that is, if he just started introducing you to his dolls–you’d think he was unhinged.  But I challenge anyone who’s ever experienced creative euphoria–flow–while constructing a narrative to watch Marwencol and not recognize the immersive quality of his invented world and the emotional investment he makes in it.  It is a reminder of how transformative, how elevating, the process of creation can be, and how it can have the vertiginous effect of making your life feel like it’s worth more than it was the day before.  (Vertiginous because on unproductive days, you feel the decline in value, too.)

I’d say more but the film is best appreciated without too much preamble, and the point of posting this is not to analyze it but to say go see it, if at all possible.   Marwencol is maybe the best film I’ve ever seen about the reasons for making art.

Film / 8 Comments
November 24th, 2010 / 11:42 am

A REPORT: PEN USA / JAMES SALTER / PLAYBOY

I was in a thrift store buying some clothes last week and under the counter I saw a stack of old Playboy magazines. Although it’s hardly possible to be an adult in America and not have at least a passing acquaintance with hardcore pornography, I realized I couldn’t remember ever having looked inside an actual copy of Playboy. So for $5 I bought the copy on top of the stack, the June 1973 issue featuring Marilyn Cole, playmate of the year, with fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, Robert McNear, and George MacDonald Fraser (yes, the issue contains three short stories).

where is she now?

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Events / 12 Comments
November 18th, 2010 / 10:40 am

DROWNING BEAUTIFUL

Look at this beautiful artwork by Jason de Caires Taylor.

(update: That first link seems a little overloaded, so here’s his website: http://www.underwatersculpture.com)

He creates people out of cement and puts them on the bottom of the sea.

Here’s a writer on the ocean floor…

i will not go on the internet, i will not check my phone

Random / 6 Comments
November 17th, 2010 / 2:46 pm

COOKS SOURCE EDITORIAL MEETING

Just when I thought I’d never watch another Downfall redub. The lovely thing about this, of course, is that it’s fair use.

Random / 2 Comments
November 8th, 2010 / 3:35 pm

Check out “In Room 208″ by Stephen Collins, which won the 2010 Observer/Cape graphic short story prize.  It’s creepy and lovely.  A couple whose honeymoon is cut short by bad weather retreat to a hotel, where a strange inertia takes hold…

ZSNYRB

Zadie Smith writes with mixed feelings and a note of condescension in the New York Review of Books about The Social Network, a movie I saw four times in the theater.  (Enough times to know that she misquotes the dialogue.)  From the opening scene it’s clear that this is a movie about 2.0 people made by 1.0 people, she writes, and it does its job so well that it feels more delightful than it probably, objectively, is. Mercifully she ignores the tedious controversy over the film’s alleged misogyny in favor of a nuanced analysis of its generational significance.  Remember half a decade ago, when you’d meet someone and one of you would say, “Are you on Facebook?”

Random / 19 Comments
November 6th, 2010 / 7:00 pm

BLUE

Do you write more or less during times when you’re depressed?   For me there are two kinds of depression, the kind that comes from failure or rejection (which usually leads to long sessions of writing), and the kind that comes from feeling worthless because I’m not writing enough (which is tougher to beat because it’s not intuitively obvious that the cause is not enough writing; breaking this sort of depression requires more willfulness, because the insidious thing is that is doesn’t particularly make me feel like writing; I just have to remind myself from past experience that productivity makes me feel not-worthless).

Craft Notes / 9 Comments
October 22nd, 2010 / 12:18 pm

Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird reviewed in the New York Times Book Review by J. Robert Lennon. Congratulations, Amelia!

DECRIMINALIZED

So Schwarzenegger decriminalized marijuana a couple days ago (law goes into effect January 1).  What writers are huge stoners?  David Foster Wallace… who else?  I’m thrilled to hear about this news, since on principle I think all drugs should be decriminalized, although personally I loathe weed — always seems like an incredible waste of time, doesn’t do anything particularly interesting to your thoughts the way more intense drugs do, after 20 minutes I get impatient for my mind to return to normal, and I don’t like being around other stoned people.

Behind the Scenes / 22 Comments
October 4th, 2010 / 1:49 pm

Would anyone like to buy me a present, like a sculpture, to put in my home?

A BOOK I LOVED: THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN

a cardinal's instruments

One thing I’ve meant to do more frequently as an HTMLGIANT contributor is simply to post about books I love, especially ones that didn’t just come out, especially ones that don’t get flogged constantly here already.  I’ve got a mental list, but when there’s no publication date to which a post is tied… well, shit gets away.

But I read something in the past two weeks that absolutely got me by the throat, and I want to write about it: The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley.  It came out in 1953 and I’d never heard of it until a few weeks ago.  I’ve rarely read a book that gnaws so thoroughly — and simultaneously — at the intellect and the viscera.

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I Like __ A Lot / 9 Comments
September 28th, 2010 / 1:02 pm

ESSENTIAL VIEWING: ENTER THE VOID

the naked city

Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void, which opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles (and will soon be available on demand, I think),  is spectacular, maddening, technically brilliant, sophomoric, unsubtle, mature… what am I forgetting?  I don’t know.  You could make stew out of the adjectives that would work in that list.  It’s a movie that, if you love movies, you have to see.  (By no means do I mean to suggest that you’ll definitely love it.  You very well may loathe it.)  It is truly, and I honestly feel I’m saying this without hyperbole, not like any movie you’ve seen before.

Noe is an infamous and incorrigible provocateur.  There’s no one moment in Enter the Void as confrontationally horrific as Irreversible’s fire extinguisher or tunnel rape scene, but it does contain many instances of hardcore sex and gynecological grotesquery.  That aspect of the movie, though, is an afterthought to me.  I saw it foremost as an attempt to expand the language of film.

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Film / 27 Comments
September 27th, 2010 / 12:41 pm

Read all the interviews ever published in The Paris Review. Of particular interest (to me): Bradbury, Salter, Amis, Amis, Ballard, Fowles, Ellroy.  They have a new site design.  We have a new site design.  Coincidence?  I think yes.

WORD RIOT HAVIN’ A CONTEST

contest!

Yo!  Word Riot, publisher of me (oh and some other folks, like Mike Young and Paula Bomer and Kevin Sampsell), is having a contest.  THREE contests.  Poetry, flash fiction and short story.  The winner of each will receive half the contest money (from their respective individual contest, I assume) and be published in the WR 10th anniversary anthology. They’ve also opened up submissions for the WR 10th anniversary anthology from authors previously published on the site. More info here: http://www.wordriot.org/archives/2019.  I just got a galley of Paula Bomer’s book Baby this week and I’m gonna read it ASAP, like as soon as I finished this amazing Aldous Huxley book The Devils of Loudun that I got from the library.  (Read this shit, it’s so good!)

Contests / 8 Comments
September 13th, 2010 / 12:57 pm

The Republican Party in Arizona is recruiting homeless people to run as Green Party candidates in order to siphon off Democratic votes.  Short story writer Richard Grayson won the Sixth Congressional District Green nomination with six votes, and says he is now being sued by the Green Party for being a sham candidate.

My friends over at RapGenius put up a pretty excellent post on the triple entendre in hip-hop.  I tried to think of some triple entendres off the top of my head, and now the top of my head hurts.

The New York Times op-ed page publishes fiction?

NOTRE JOUR VIENDRA

Looks pleasing. (slightly NSFW?)

Film / 7 Comments
August 25th, 2010 / 1:26 pm

All other things (like payment, for example) being equal, at this point I’d rather have short fiction published online than in a print magazine.  It lasts longer, it’s accessible to more readers, and typos can be fixed.

WRITER’S EMBARRASSMENT

mortification

One time I saw the film director Paul Thomas Anderson give a talk to a small group of college students.  A burly male student made the mistake of asking a question that went something like, “My problem is that I feel embarrassed to show my work to people. Do you have that problem?”

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Film & Random / 87 Comments
August 23rd, 2010 / 3:04 pm