museum of the weird


Deus ex McFlurry: An Interview with Amelia Gray

This year saw the release of Amelia Gray’s second book, a collection of texts from FC2 called Museum of the Weird. More than a simple consolidation of stories into a single body, or even a creation of texts within the confines of one body and a strong mind, Museum of the Weird seems an object bent out of the mysterious and new, taking foreign objects, mysterious relations, freak peoples, and bringing them together in a wilding chorus of the strange and, holy shit, the entertaining, addictive. Last month I traded a bunch of emails with Amelia re: the new book, how she works, the function of belief, fate, trying, and just what the hell is with all the eating of the hair that shows up all throughout her writing.

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B: Amelia, your prose has an interesting quality of being at once familiar and intuitive, while also at a seeming kind of remove: beyond just using objects and animals as active elements, there is at all times a feeling that you are way back in there somewhere, narrating your way your way rationally out of these intensely messed up, or as you say “weird,” prompts. Do you think your writing is a kind of emotional propaganda? Is all writing emotional propaganda?

A: The phrase “emotional propaganda” strikes me as redundant because any effective piece of rhetoric contains some emotional element. In propaganda and in writing there is an actor with an intent and an audience, a communicating element and a receiving element. Effective propaganda sets up a world in which only one outcome is possible in the same way that a great tragic story drives its characters towards an inescapable fate. So sure, in the way each genre stands as a completed product, writing is a kind of message propaganda that ultimately stands to aid or question a cause/idea/person. Fiction tends to attack or support ideas like love or trust or babies via scenes and characters, while war propaganda, for example–thinking of WWII posters here–attacks or supports a country or cause using ideas like love or trust or babies. There’s an emotional appeal in each, driven towards a point or points.

The biggest difference is that war propaganda or motivational speeches tend to get created with a message in mind beforehand, while fiction doesn’t have to be created in the same way (though it can be). When I write, I tend to start with a very basic idea or image (all these could be described as prompts, sure) and write my way out of it. Someone creating a political image might do the opposite–begin with a larger point and work to seek out its supporting evidence–but we end up in roughly the same place.

“Propaganda” doesn’t insinuate emptiness, nor does it have to suggest a singular message, nor does it have to be negative, but it does suggest that there’s ultimately a point to every message. Same with fiction or poetry or advertising or journalism: if a string of letters doesn’t make any words, the point might be that there’s no point, or there might be a different point, point is there’s a point.

B: Once you have your idea, say, babies, how do you go about “writing your way out of it”? How do you know when you are “out”?

A: In the story I wrote about babies called “Babies,” I started with an ordinary fear of accidental pregnancy and unwilling parents and put it into the context of an irrational fear, where the baby is immediately there and there’s no time to have serious conversations or hold a baby shower or make a doctor’s appointment. The ordinary fear combines with the irrational fear and sets off a rational string of events. Obviously the woman is going to want to clean everything up. The baby is hungry, there’s no food in the house. That’s a more comic story, things are lightly touched. I could have made it more about umbilical cord infections or traumatic blood loss or flesh ripping or whatever, but I wanted to keep the real bumping up against the unreal, babies floating inside balloons. At the end I felt the impulse to make it a happy story, where the relationship is saved and the individuals are improved, and then I felt the impulse to crush that impulse in as few words as possible, and then I felt I was out. I had the plot of that story down fast, so I remember the impulses shifting. That’s not how it always goes but it’s how it went then.


November 29th, 2010 / 1:22 pm

Live Giants 10: Amelia Gray

Thanks to everyone for watching, to Amelia Gray for reading, and to Mary Hamilton for handling the internet questions.

At any point you can pick up a copy of Amelia’s brand new Museum of the Weird here.

Web Hype / 12 Comments
October 28th, 2010 / 8:55 pm

Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird

This is one for the decade, and came out today. You are going to need at least 1-3 copies. I’d say more but you probably already know. Or here are blurbs.

“Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird is a cabinet of curiosities—a talking armadillo, a serial killer named God, a woman who amputates her toes for dinner, a man married to a paring knife—this collection of stories is so good and funny and wondrous that I couldn’t look away from her dark and curious imagination.”—Michael Kimball

“To say Amelia Gray belongs in the hilariously inventive hallows of Ann Quin and Rikki Ducornet would be to miss her light. This book is gleaming evidence of the author as a trophy case unto herself, wrought of magic equally surprising, wicked, giddy, and loaded with a megaton of Boom.”—Blake Butler

[Here is a sample text from the book: There Will Be Sense.]

Get get now. Do the get. Get the real: straight from FC2.

Or also available here.

Author News / 89 Comments
September 7th, 2010 / 7:03 pm

Amelia Gray !!! FC2 !!!

ameliaMad congrats to the firestorm known as Amelia Gray, who has just been announced as the winner of 2008 FC2 Ronald Sukenik / American Book Review contest:

Lidia Yuknavitch, our final judge chose Amelia Gray’s manuscript titled Museum of the Weird as this year’s winner.  A complex and piercing collection, as poetic as it is poignant,  Museum of the Weird features twenty four short stories that collectively expose both the hilarity and heartbreak of life in the twenty first century.   Congratulations again, to our winner, Amelia Gray!

Like T.I. said: what you know about dat?

Mega congratulations to Amelia. I am super excited for her. I hope it includes two of my favorites, There Will Be Sense from DIAGRAM, and ‘Diary of the Blockage’ from Caketrain.

If you have not already picked up her first collection AM/PM from Featherproof/Paper Egg, now’s the time, kid.

Author News / 19 Comments
May 2nd, 2009 / 7:29 pm