Yesterday, I received my copy Brian McElmurry’s chapbook “Everybody’s Gotta Suffer (Even Jesus And Rich People) ‘Cept When We’re High Or Having Sex Or Eating Or Laughing But Then That Fuckin’ Negative Suicidal Dissonance Comes Until You Come Or Listen To Musical Dissonace.” My first thought was, “that’s one hell of a title.” The typo is on purpose. He even annotates it as such on the cover.
He sent me the chapbook for free. What a nice guy!
The cover artwork is a painting by Mark Gonzales. Re: the painting, Brian writes, “I didn’t get his permission, but he’d dig my vibe.” I assumed that Mark Gonzales was some kind of literary hero of Brian’s, because on the inside flap Brian writes that he made the chapbook after reading about Mark Gonzales making limited edition zines for his art shows.
Boy was I wrong; in a poem on the last page of the chap, Brian mentions “The Gonz” ollying some stairs in a move called “Videodays.” My thirteen year-old self hates me for forgetting that “The Gonz” is a famous skateboarder. I guess he was before my time, but still.
“Everybody’s Gotta Suffer” is comprised of three short pieces of fiction, a long poem, and some shorter poems.
The first story in the chap is titled “Tamarind,” and it describes a hot summer day during a blackout in Denver. The narrator (I’ll call him Brian) and his girlfriend escape from the heat on their roof. They get stoned, they eat ice cream, Brian gets hit on by transvestites, and the couple play chess by lantern. I think part of “Tamarind” is set in the alley where the above picture was taken, but I may be mistaken.
“Tamarind” made me feel the warm laid-back excitement of summertime in a big city. It moves at a slow pace, but at the same time, everything is full of movement. Brian writes, “The sky became a deep blue and the wind’s chill held the wild embrace of the dark city, just waiting for an excuse to let go completely.” I’ve never been to Denver, but that quivering energy at dusk is universal on a hot day in a big city.
The next story in the collection is in the second person. It is called “How Xena Will Make You Her Bitch.” I’m not sure how to write about the second person, so I will refer to the person who the narrator is talking to as Brian again (sorry, Brian).
Brian and his girlfriend are hanging out watching Xena on TV, and Brian starts fantasizing about how Xena is like the ultimate dominatrix, and he realizes that he wants to explore what it would be like to get funky with a powerful woman, so he goes down on his girlfriend and then convinces her to slap him. He likes it even if he doesn’t know why.
I liked this story. It felt intimate, sexy, and nerdy all at once. I was happy that the protagonist was able to tell his partner what he’s into. A lot of people can’t.
The last short story in the collection is “1-800-White-Male Corporation LLC.” It tells the story of a company that helps white, middle-class, college-dropouts with unpublished novels become very successful. Ultimately, the company is bought out by an Indian dude who invents an iphone app to turn your phone into a vagina.
The story was funny. It hit on something that makes me sad: white people can be fuck-ups and still succeed at everything. That’s kind of a bleak fact. I felt the white-guilt running through this story, and as a white-guy, I guess I too felt white-guilt reading it. There was also some discussion of race in “Tamarind.” Brian seems a anxious about race. I can relate to that.
Next Brian moves to the poetry. The first poem is called “Going To B&N On My Lunch Break Hoping For A Book Titled ‘If You Think of Suicide 20 Times A Day, And Really Want To Change Your Life So You Won’t’”. If you need to re-read that title three times, it’s okay, I understand. I also read that title three times, but it actually makes sense after enough reads.
This poem was my favorite part of the chapbook. It talks about something that I can relate to: feelings of depression, ambivalence, and passivity that inevitably accompany working a mundane office job that you don’t care about.
I felt sad reading this poem. I don’t spend my time at work scanning print-outs of emails into the computer, but I definitely sometimes wish that I was doing something fulfilling.
Brian thinks a lot about death in this poem. He speculates that “Sound of Silence” would be a good song to die to, buys American Psycho and reads the part about a decapitated blowjob, eats a sandwich, hates his boss, thinks about suicide, thinks about fighting with fiance, thinks about catching a bus out of town, thinks about becoming a heroin junky, and then thinks “I really need to change my life.”
Fortunately, Brian has found the work of Steve Roggenbuck (you can tell by his shirt). I’m not too worried that he’ll become a junky or commit suicide, because I’m confident that he has been boosted. He has probably accepted the YOLO lifestyle.
I can’t imagine someone with a YOLO lifestyle would stay trapped in a job he hates forever. I hope that Brian can one day break free of the chains of corporate America and tune out the negative suicidal dissonance.
If he’s looking for somewhere to live, I really recommend Oregon. From what I’ve seen, there are no corporate jobs in Oregon. At least not the part that I’m from.
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