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Month: January 2019

CNF Annals of Contemporary Gastronomy: American Soul Food

by Charles Holdefer

Commonly considered a folk favorite but also savored by a slice of urban elite and, more recently, by a new style of religiously-minded devotee, this dish is typically consumed fresh and steaming hot and sometimes more than once in a day, courtesy of the President of the United States, since it comes directly out of his ass.

For many it is delivered more quickly than pizza into the privacy of their homes, packaged in surprising—yet characteristically incontinent—spellings. On other occasions it is served in public venues like racetracks or stadiums in the presence of hungry, eager crowds. Whatever the numbers in attendance, people share a common meal, à la loaves and fishes.

Is it good for you? Or quite the opposite? Is it merely a nostalgic frisson or a taste of the future? Is it foul or authentic, or authentic because it is foul?

These questions are sources of debate, especially among Americans who dislike it. But even critics appear to become habituated and capable of consuming larger and larger doses, thereby adding to its ubiquity.

Whether you are an aficionado or a detractor, it is a fact that this dish is impossible to avoid. And this raises another, oft-discussed practical matter. Can you consume it without getting some of it on you?

Or is that OK, like barbecue?

Amid today’s concerns about the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes, LDL cholesterol and compromised gut flora—all worthy subjects—and the debates about local versus imported, and questions of purity—also very timely—it is necessary to keep in mind the larger picture, too.

What are the dietary consequences of this dish, in its peculiar nourishment of the American soul?

Charles Holdefer is an American writer based in Brussels. His work has appeared in the North American Review, New England Review, Chicago Quarterly Review and in the 2017 Pushcart Prize anthology. His recent books include Dick Cheney in Shorts (stories) and George Saunders’ Pastoralia: Bookmarked (nonfiction). Visit Charles at www.charlesholdefer.com.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Annals of Contemporary Gastronomy: American Soul Food”?

Is it true that you are what you eat? Sure, interpretations differ about traditions or the significance of sardines. But lately I wonder about the toxic effects of a product I spend a lot of time consuming: the words of a public figure who very much likes the sound of his own voice and who presently dominates the news cycle. Am I informing myself as a citizen by listening to him? Or is this a pointless sugar rush? Or worse, snacking on poison?

Rise and Fall

by Justin Herrmann

The summer of my tenth birthday was spent in cabs of semi-trucks with an ex stepfather, Cotton. Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri. One time we made it to Florida. He’d give me twenty-dollar bills at truck stops. When he was married to my mother I didn’t get allowance. Sometimes while he rested, I’d spend hours playing arcade games shooting cowboys with plastic pistols. Once a man played alongside me with the other pistol, placed an entire roll of quarters on the machine, said a girl as pretty as me could help myself. That I was a boy didn’t stop me from spending those quarters. Another time, at the counter of a Huddle House, a waitress with rainbow-shaped tears tattooed on her face brought me three plates of fries, only charged me for a Pepsi. She wrote a phone number on the back of the grease-stained receipt. Some nights Cotton would park in rows alongside other trucks, climb behind the seats into the sleeper cab. I’d stay up front, listen to the crackle of conversations on the CB. The thick curtain to the sleeper remained unfastened and in moonlight or white glow of fluorescent tubes, a wool blanket would rise and fall, rise and fall, till sometime before dawn. Sometimes, too cold to sleep, too weary to fight the cold, I’d climb in the sleeper, pull a wool corner around myself. Other nights no one slept.

Justin Herrmann is the author of the short fiction collection Highway One, Antarctica (MadHat Press 2014). His stories have appeared in Best Small Fictions, as well as journals including River Styx, Mid-American Review, Fourth River, and New World Writing. He lives with his family in Alaska.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Rise & Fall”?

 A friend of mine recently published a story that contained a couple details from my brother’s childhood, which, for the most part, is my childhood too. She wrote a great story. She said my family has a childhood ripe with story material. It’s rare that I’ve written stories about children, so I haven’t tapped much into my childhood for material. Her story inspired me to write this. 

split

by Michael Gerard

Sitting in the waiting room
Of my psychiatrist’s office
I reflect on my week
I glance at tomorrow
There is a world outside
But I cannot see it
There is honest money but I am
Writing term papers for cash
I’m a sad piece of math
That’s being frank
I’m a tired hustler
Being split at both ends

Michael Gerard is a writer from the Cincinnati area. He is always writing, whether it be in the form of poetry, fiction or freelance work.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “split”?

This poem was created in the middle of a severe depressive episode. I was in a particularly dark place  and out of that darkness came “split”. The poem came out of me in a very raw format which matched the mood I was experiencing and in that way this poem feels very real and authentic to me.

Farrah Fawcett Poster

by Kim Magowan

Last night, I was lying in bed masturbating, and after I came I felt this strange, specific pain in my sphincter, which made me worry that I had that cancer that killed Farrah Fawcett. Anal cancer. What seemed most awful about that cancer was not the pain (though I imagine it would be painful), but how degrading it was. To be Farrah Fawcett, and be laid low by cancer of the ass? It seemed like one of those perfect punishments, like the sinners in Dante’s Inferno, whose circumstances in hell so precisely match their crimes.1 (What a demonic, mathematical mind Dante had! Like my ex-husband, Marcus, the sadistic engineer).2 Breast cancer might have been an even more perfect disease for Farrah, with that famous poster of her in the red bathing suit, her nipple protuberant as a wad of chewed gum—my twisted older brother David displayed that poster. But surely ass cancer was a close second. I hadn’t seen that poster in 30 years, but my vision of Farrah’s tilted haunch was so crystalline, and so menacing, that even though my modus operandi after I come is usually to crash (to the point that now the principle function of coming is to sleep, as if an orgasm were a glass of warm milk), instead I launched myself out of bed to Google “Farrah Fawcett, nipple poster.” But memory had played tricks on me: you can’t see Farrah’s ass at all, just the top of her brown thigh. I studied her bared teeth, her rictus grin3, and felt the strangest, superstitious relief—that I had dodged some projectile, aimed only at sexual women.4


1. In the second circle of hell are consigned the lustful, blown violently about like leaves in the wind, never able to relax or to establish footing. This represents how lust carries one away and generally fucks one up.

2. A whole treatise could be inserted here to count the ways of Marcus’s sadism, but to give just one illustration: he claimed once in couples therapy that the reason he never kissed me was because I had bad breath. Dr. Templeton nodded his head approvingly, like Marcus was being so brave, and at the end of that session, said, “I think we’ve made a real breakthrough today.” The men smiled beatifically at each other. That’s when I knew I would divorce Marcus. Even now, ten years later, no amount of Listerine or Altoids or obsessive flossing will fully convince me that Marcus was lying, merely trying to wound me. The best weapon of a sadist, my ex-husband taught me, is to sharpen the truth into a bayonet and gut you with it.

3. The most perplexing thing about the popularity of that poster is Farrah’s smile, which is not phony so much as tormented: the corners of her mouth extend as if she were a horse wearing a bit. Or perhaps this is not perplexing at all. Perhaps Farrah’s clear absence of pleasure is the key, not her nipple after all: her misery the turn-on to my creepy, misogynist brother David, and to all fucked up teenage boys.

4. Cupid’s arrows target those who aren’t yet in love, but outside the tidy box of myth, we all know at whom stones are flung in real life.

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and was published in March 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books in 2019. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, New World Writing, Sixfold, and many other journals. She is Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com  

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Farrah Fawcett Poster”?

Often when I’m writing a flash piece, I have a keyword in mind, and the keyword for this one was “interaction.” There are a number of interactions at work in this piece: pleasure and pain; low culture (Charlie’s Angels) and high culture (The Inferno); the immediate present, the more recent past (when the narrator was married to her skewering husband), and the long-ago past (when she last saw the Farrah Fawcett poster). I’m interested in how memories seem crystalline—she thinks she can picture the Farrah poster precisely—yet when cross-checked, turn out to be flawed. Some of these interactions are weirdly blurry, like the narrator’s reading of Farrah’s smile. The interaction that I found most intriguing was that between the main text and the footnotes. When I used to write scholarly articles, my favorite parts were my footnotes—that’s where I threw in the interesting bits that would take up too much time to pursue—and the same is true for me in this story. I like the mini-narrative the footnotes tell about being a woman and being in pain.

Dawn

by Harrison Candelaria Fletcher

[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size.]

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher is the author of the award-winning Descanso For My Father: Fragments of a Life and Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams. His lyric essays and prose poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. He teaches in the MFA programs at Colorado State University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Dawn”?

“Dawn” is from a larger project exploring notions of in-between-ness. With it I’d hoped to examine the residues of a dream – a kind of awakening – and the emotional reflections-refractions we carry over from sleep. I’d never written a tryptic before and I love how the form allows for echoes, ripples, shimmers, etc. Now I’m hooked!

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