"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

An Interview with Brontez Purnell, author of Since I Laid My Burden Down, our September Pick for Soup of the Month!

Dan Lรณpez: Since I Laid My Burden Down deals with some pretty serious issues but the tone remains light throughout. How do you find the humor, and how important was it to cultivate that voice?

Brontez Purnell: I think all comedy is based in tragedy – the two are forever linked. It can be a sugar pill for things too, which I have varying degrees of uncomfortableness with. I think it’s a learned behavior too, from my family and the circle of friends I ran with since I was young. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves and the absurd mess of the human condition. Otherwise I don’t know how to present a real 3D picture of the world. I think it sucks too how a lot of tight asses in the world don’t view comedy with intellectual rigor. I find that view rigid and unforgiving and also just fucking lame.

DL: Something that really strikes me about your writing is its capacity for forgiveness. Your characters have suffered and in many cases continue to suffer, yet you find a way for them to shed their victimhood and move forward. Is this something that you wanted to highlight or did it come out naturally in the writing? 

BP: Both. When we forgive I think it’s not so much to absolve others. Forgiveness is also this spell that gives one the courage to move forward. It’s a way of throwing away a lot of baggage.

DL: You’ve spoken about how you wrote your first book (Johnny Would You Love Me If MyDick Were Bigger) in spurts of time and how for Burden you took advantage of a grant. How did the different processes affect the final product?

BP: I think Johnny has a frantic, funny, “I just got off of work at 5am” mania that I think added to the urgency of that book. Burden is a more collected type of frantic. They both I think carry an appropriate tone for what they are. 

DL: You write that DeShawn was a man “that liked things feeling ‘equal,’ things coming full circle.” Can you talk a little bit more about that idea?

BP: I like the idea of symmetry – like something revisited that’s finally dealt with and put into its proper place. The whole theme of the book is reconciling so it’s important to me that all issues are dealt with and not like some forever-spiraling narrative like fucking Game of Thrones with 90 plot twists every 9 seconds that go nowhere. That shit bugs the fuck outta me.

DL: At your book party the other night, you joked that you sometimes like to start drama with your loved ones just for fun. I’m curious about how you see the utility of provocation in literature and in a public persona. What do you gain and what are the risks? 

BP: The main risk is being labeled a drama queen but we already knew that! I don't know – I have lots of friends and lots of friends where the emotional pitch is static, but I guess I’m just a fucked up person cause sometimes I enjoy connections with a high emotional pitch. Probs residue from growing up in a super big messy family. I dunno...

DL: In many ways, the book centers on the theme of men withholding their love from DeShawn. He wonders what he would’ve gained had these men instead taken the opportunity to love him. Can that question ever be resolved for DeShawn? 

BP: I think ultimately a character like DeShawn has to realize that these shitty men not loving him back was a blessing in disguise. He’s the type of guy who is looking for his inner boyfriend and sometimes the type of men we pick is a metaphor for how we feel about ourselves. Or sometimes you can have all the self love in the world, and the universe (seemingly just to fuck with you) will deliver you one fuck boy after another – I’ve been on all sides of this situation.

DL: You’re known as a bit of a creative Renaissance Man. How has simultaneously pursuing multiple projects informed your creative process? 

BP: It adds a kind of complexity that can’t be found sitting in a room doing one thing alone. Like dance as a body based practice teaches you how to emote/express without using words, which can give you a whole analytical arsenal in turn – it’s funny how it works.

DL: Do you find that some forms are better suited for certain types of expression? For instance, your books are super funny but, while still fun, I wouldn’t describe your music as “funny.”

BP: In music I get to be a truly cheesy poet that I sometimes need the license to be! With book writing, you have to explain yourself more cause it’s not like this 3 min format where you have to get all the plot points in such a limited space.

DL: What’s one thing that you’d like to see more of in contemporary novels?


DL: And finally, let’s play bookseller. What are three titles that you’d shit yourself to hand-sell to people?





Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Our September Soup of the Month is Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell

Brontez Purnell is something of a secret for now, but not one you're likely to keep. Seriously, ask your artist friends. They probably know about him already. They may have even attended a show by his queer punk rock band, or a performance art piece.  They're possibly among the first to know the pleasure of his novel  Since I Laid My Burden Down, or its predecessor Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger?  - Two novels that are not for the faint of heart, and too queer, too black, too frank about sex and sexuality for most publishers. So thank you to Feminist Press for making sure this voice doesn't get lost although Purnell strikes me as someone who is unbothered by such things and would write anyway, if ten people, or ten thousand read his words. That's where booksellers come in, and trust us on this one - you should read this novel!
Purnell's protagonist DeShawn is wickedly funny, unflinching, and honest, in that way that only people who have nothing else to lose can be. Having grown up in a small town, he kicked and scratched and crawled over the bodies of others to get out, making it all the way to a new life in San Francisco. It's that call home for a death in the family that reminds him and by extension, us, that we'll always be that kid from Alabama, Kansas, etc, and that while we can reinvent ourselves any number of ways, somebody, somewhere - maybe an aunt or a secret lover, will always know the truth.
This novel is truly a discovery and possibly outside of your own reading comfort zone, but in a volatile year like this one, perhaps it should be.

- Dan Graham, Assistant Promotional Director