Archive for October, 2010

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (4/1/2010)
PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2010 Ed. by Laura Furman (4/20/2010)
Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield (7/15/2010)
The Art of Description by Mark Doty (7/20/2010)
The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young (7/20/2010)
Quiet as They Come by Angie Chau (8/17/2010)
New Stories from the South 2010 Ed. by Amy Hempel (8/17/2010)
Ape House by Sara Gruen (9/7/2010)
Best American Poetry 2010 Ed. by Amy Gerstler and David Lehman (9/14/2010)
Best American Crime Reporting 2010 Ed. by Otto Penzler and Thomas H. Cook (9/14/2010)
Best American Science Writing 2010 Ed. by Jerome Groopman and Jesse Cohen (9/14/2010)
Best American Short Stories 2010 Ed. by Richard Russo and Heidi Pitlor (9/28/2010)
Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 Ed. by Dave Eggers and David Sedaris (9/28/2010)
Best American Sports Writing 2010 Ed. by Peter Gammons and Glenn Stout (9/28/2010)
Best American Science and Nature Writing 2010 Ed. by Freeman Dyson and Tim Folger (9/28/2010)
Best American Mystery Stories 2010 Ed. by Lee Child and Otto Penzler (9/28/2010)
Best American Essays 2010 Ed. by Christopher Hitchens and Robert Atwan (9/28/2010)
Best American Travel Writing 2010 Ed. by Bill Buford and Jason Wilson (9/28/2010)
Best American Comics 2010 Ed. by Neil Gaiman, Jessica Abel, and Matt Madden (9/28/2010)
Bound by Antonya Nelson (9/28/2010)
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (10/12/2010)
Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré (10/12/2010)
Djibouti by Elmore Leonard (10/12/2010)
I Found This Funny Ed. by Judd Apatow (11/1/2010)
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (11/16/2010)
Long, Last, Happy by Barry Hannah (12/1/2010)
Best American Magazine Writing 2010 Ed. by The American Society of Magazine Editors (12/7/2010)

Live Nude Books: The stories in If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home often begin with humorous, quirky premises that help undercut their more serious, weighty themes and subject matter.  I’m wondering if you could you talk a little about your approach to writing short fiction.

What triggers the creation of your stories: premise or theme?

John Jodzio: For creation, it’s almost always premise.  After I find one that’s entertaining to me, I’m usually able to sort of determine what the main themes of the story are/might be and then begin to explore those within whatever world I’ve thought up.

LNB: Because such strange occurrences happen on the surfaces of these stories, they’re really fun to read.  Which story did you enjoy writing the most?

JJ: Probably “Flight Path.”  That story started when I took some of my more interesting characters in my non-working stories hostage and smashed them together into one confined space.  It took me a couple of years to figure everything out, but I really like what ended up occurring.

LNB: This collection contains a mix of short stories and flash fiction pieces.  Is form an element of craft you enjoy experimenting with?

JJ: I think I’m ultimately a traditionalist.  Even within those flash pieces, I think I am writing them as short stories — pretty structured with a beginning/middle/end.  Lately I’ve really been re-reading a lot of Barthelme and so things may get more experimental form-wise.

LNB: What’s the best advice on writing you’ve ever received?

JJ: Persevere.

LNB: What are you working on next?

JJ: I’m kicking around some pages for something that I’m hoping will become a novel.  It’s going to be set in Florida and there will be a lot of snakes and some old people (mostly astronauts).  That’s all I can say at this point, not because I don’t want to give anything away, just because I really don’t know any more than that right now.

LNB: What have you recently read that you’re recommending to friends and other readers?

JJ: I really loved Daddy’s by Lindsey Hunter and Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin.  Also, if you haven’t picked up House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni, now is the time.

These days there are so many options with which to occupy one’s leisure time—what with the speed and ease of internet access, the availability of hundreds upon hundreds of TV channels, and the realistic graphics of video games—digital distractions, among others, make sitting still and reading more difficult now than ever before.

John Jodzio’s stories, however, could be the cure for the reader with ADHD. Often they’re only a few pages in length, and they never fail to hook the reader from line one:

“There are some things you should not do in the rich town up the mountain from yours and one of those is sticking your dick in their mail slots or dog doors…”

So begins the title story of Jodzio’s debut collection, If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. After the death of their little league coach, two brothers redirect their anger and grief toward the residents of the neighboring town, whose little league team had recently defeated theirs for the sixteenth time in a row. They exact their revenge by urinating on and through the front doors of their enemies’ houses, until one day, when they’re caught in the act, they find that the people in this wealthy part of town have much greater concerns than winning little league baseball games.

What begins as almost a quirky anecdote quickly develops into a layered story that delves into themes of social class, family dynamic, and mental health. Which turns out to be Jodzio’s biggest strength as a writer: having the ability to blend humor with heart. He uses humor to undercut subject matter that could easily be overdramatized in the hands of a lesser writer, the same way his characters often try to distract themselves and others from more pressing issues.

In “The Egg,” a young man named Scott shows his need for attention and discipline by acting unruly. In response to this behavior, his father avoids confronting his son by going on “business trips” and stepping on a footswitch that makes his office phone ring any time Scott tries to talk to him. When things get especially bad, his father redirects his anger at his employees by firing them.

The married couple in “Shoo-Shoo,” discovers they won’t be able to have children and leave the issue alone, in terms of talking about it with each other. Instead, the wife takes her anger out on their downstairs neighbors who like to play music loudly and whom the cops refuse to quiet.

Two stories where Jodzio really shines with the theme of refusing to accept reality are “Homecoming”—where a young woman accompanies her mother on a weekend trip, centered around a college football game, and looks down on her mom for being promiscuous, not fully realizing the consequences of her own affair with a married man—and “The Deadsitter”—the story of a 13 year-old boy who has had it with his job, dressing up as and pretending to be Vincent, her neighbor’s dead son, so she can believe he’s still alive.

Jodzio pushes the bounds of reality and the fantastical in his work because his characters, often times, are either out of touch with or refuse to accept their own realities. They’d rather answer the phone, knowing full well it’s a prank and not word on the whereabouts of a lost dog or a prospective job offer, because their delusions have created a sense of false hope.

These stories are quick—there are 21 of them within 171 pages—and take little time to read. As bizarre and funny as they are on the surface, they always seem to knock you over with that little something that seems to be missing in a lot of contemporary short fiction: substance. Which means you can fly through them for entertainment, and revisit each one to absorb their depth and complexity. I can say, without a doubt, that you will not have a chance to get bored reading this collection.

Replacement Press
March 15, 2010