Vincent is just a guy, who has “just an office job” working for “the State” in the fictional town of A-ville. He used to be a painter, until “the shame of not selling paintings [made him] give up.” Unlike his namesake, he doesn’t sever his ear in the depths of despair; he enrolls in the experimental “PER” program offered by the bureaucratic Leader Dorian Blood, designed to increase worker happiness and productivity. The program requires a total devotion to data-entry, and dictates Vincent’s routine even outside of his 9-5 work, but it simultaneously walks him through his “ideal gate.” Once through his ideal gate, he carries out the same perfected routine, but feels in every way as though he is living his deepest subconscious fantasy. For most workers, this fantasy expresses itself as the material gain that we conflate with corporate success: a nicer car, a house with a pool, time to do and be nothing. For Vincent, this fantasy turns out to be exactly the same as his reality, except it includes his ex-wife Alice, an activist who left Vincent once the grayness of his work seeped out into the rest of his life.
My first encounter with Jaime Fountaine came via her role as one of the two hosts of Philadelphia’s Tire Fire Reading Series. Then we had the good fortune of publishing her essay “19, 16, and 1” here at Vol.1 Brooklyn, showing off another side of her literary works. This summer brings with it the release of her debut novella Manhunt, the story of a teenage girl dealing with her complex relationship with her mother, the mundane horrors of growing up, and the restrictions of suburbia. I talked with Fountaine about her book, suburban landscapes, and the game that gave her book its title.
by Efrén Ordóñez
Come back and make up a goodbye, at least. Let’s pretend we had one.
A woman on a staircase
The wall is about twenty inches high. The construction worker and I didn’t talk before he started this morning. We locked eyes a few times as if he understood my situation and his role in this story: making a few extra pesos out of my misery. Nothing more. We didn’t say a word, but the CNN en Español anchors helped break the tension between us. I hadn’t turned the TV on before he came in. She’d left it on this morning before going out to run some errands that probably didn’t exist. Argentinian, Venezuelan, Costa Rican, and Mexican reporters have all been talking about Mr. Toupee’s inauguration, dissecting the implications of every decision made since he was sworn in as president. All week I’ve been hearing about bans, tweets, and plans for building a much bigger wall; a greater, more expensive wall than this one being built in front of me, a wall that’s supposed to separate two countries and keep out a horde of bad men and women who could very well be brown monsters with a thirst for white patrimony. Bad hombres, the President called them. I usually keep my distance from politics and avoid such discussions, but even I knew they were absurd—all these ideas, all the theories being tossed around by the Latino anchors. Was the project even realistic? Might it be idiotic as this wall in our apartment, this fake-cardboard attempt to send me away, to lock me up in my own space?
When you look into a funhouse mirror, and your body appears stretched out or warped, you believe that reality is being distorted. You are confident that what you’re seeing in front of you is not how things really are. But what happens when you’re no longer looking into a mirror? What if you’re looking into a computer screen, or a book, or someone else’s face? Suddenly, it’s much more difficult to delineate what’s true from what’s not.
This summer, I got the chance to correspond with Sarah Lopez, one of the co-owners of Radix Media, a new Brooklyn-based publisher that focuses on beautifully designed, illustrated books with a high attention to detail. So far, they’ve published speculative works by John Dermot Woods, Vera Kurian, Ashley Shelby, and others. All look and feel like collector’s items, objects that truly do justice to the ideas they contain.
In our morning reading: remembering the life and work of David Berman, an interview with Stephanie Jimenez, and more.
In our afternoon reading: talking books and movies with Jess Row, tributes to Toni Morrison, and more.
Self-Portraits and Empty Frames in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
by Jessica Vestuto
My apartment is small, the picture-hanging real estate even smaller—two large windows and a row of cabinets in the kitchenette leave limited surface into which you can hammer a nail. I have lived in Boston for a few months, and in a few months, I managed to acquire a varied collection of wall art. A New Yorker cover. A travel ad for Chamonix. A Bauhaus poster. A photo of young David Bowie riding a subway in Japan, all blonde and cheekbones. With each new piece, the surrounding empty space on the wall becomes more obvious, and the space bothers me until it is filled. On the phone with my sister one night, I learn my collection had become cause for familial concern. “Mom thinks you have so much hanging on your walls because you’re lonely,” she says.