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Ofelia Hunt

Ofelia Hunt is the author of My Eventual Bloodless Coup (Bear Parade). She lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first novel.

Blurbs

"This book would like to give you an ice cream, but you will have to get in the van."

– Amelia Gray, author of Museum of the Weird

"The ironic is a mere ancient whisper in this torqued narrative: its odd violence feels true. Today & Tomorrow crashes through the windows of strip malls and paints the hypertrophic aisles with bristly-creepy hilarity."

– Stacey Levine, author of The Girl With Brown Fur

"Ofelia Hunt is the balladeer of the doe-eyed detrivores of over-stimulation. Within Today & Tomorrow, readers find the fried and the frayed nerves in the youth of the Hyperworld. All will be well, America, as long as the rims keep spinning and Hunt keeps writing."

– Matthew Simmons, author of A Jello Horse

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Today & Tomorrow

Stride Mechanics and Broken Toys

06/09/11

Thanks everybody for your thoughtful discussion about violence! As we continue to dig into Today & Tomorrow and start to meet some of the novel’s key players — Erik/Todd the Wal-Mart cashier, Aaron the eerie new guy, Merna, the memory of Anastasia — I’d like to call to your attention a couple new interviews with Ofelia that’ve gone up in the last couple days.

Over at the literary magazine Monkeybicycle, J. A. Tyler talks to Ofelia about Bill Murray, violence, and coming of age. Here’s something interesting Ofelia says about the novel’s relationship to growing up:

I was 28 years old when I started T&T, and I’m now 32 years old. I might be regressing. I graduated from college four years late. And there’s something odd about approaching and entering your 30s. When my mother was 30 she had three children, was immersed in the work/eat/sleep routine. The language of violence is interesting and it surrounds us (television, movies, newspapers). “I want to stab that mofo in the face,” is funny. I remember a former coworker saying that about a demanding customer, while miming a stabbing motion. Also, as I wrote and edited T&T I remember being very concerned/interested in the separation of body and thought, the separation of any body part from any other, and the compartmentalization of the mind. Violence, real and imagined, seemed one way to write about this. Bodies are so mechanical. Parts fail and are replaced. I like to run long trail races occasionally and the racers become very focused on ‘refueling’ and  ‘stride mechanics’ and the possible failure of their parts (a foot, a tendon, the iliotibial band). Perhaps ‘coming of age’ is a step toward subjective understanding of one’s own body, and move toward greater mental compartmentalization. One learns to become many people as needed, for work, friends, lovers, partners, the internet, to subsume/suppress the parts that do and don’t fit current roles.

* * *

Then, over at the lit blog We Who Are About to Die, Noah Cicero talks to Ofelia about influences, the process of writing, concrete truth, and consumerism:

NC:
Do you believe that consumerist culture makes people into non-humans? I get that from the book, everyone is turned into a non-human, they have been turned into something, what, no one can really say, but the primitive instincts are gone from the humans in your book?

OH: Consumerist culture makes me feel robotic and alien. I have trouble existing in large masses of people, at shopping malls, Wal-Mart, Target — I become nervous, awkward, clumsy. Television commercials make me bitter and sarcastic. I feel weird when media outlets discuss professional athletes, actresses, and politicians as ‘commodities.’ I find it strange that the polite language for couples to refer to one another is ‘my partner.’ Our day to day language is overrun by business metaphors. ‘Business’ is the standard for excellence in most of American life. Speed and efficiency or something. Lack of waste or excess (not that ‘business’ generally lives up to these standards). I sometimes feel like people often rely on objects outside of themselves to accomplish goals, and are never deterred when those objects don’t perform as expected. I have nightmares of broken toys from my early childhood, how I felt when the toys disappointed me.

* * *

Both these interviews are very insightful, and I suggest checking both of them out in full. Meanwhile, what do you think of Ofelia’s answers? Do we become more compartmentalized as we age? Do television commercials make you feel sarcastic? Do you find your everyday language overrun by business metaphors? Do you have nightmares of broken toys from your early childhood?

And — taking a cue from Chris’s discussion of Cut Through the Boneare there things you find yourself wanting to ask Ofelia that no one’s asked yet?

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14 Comments

  1. Jordan Blum said on 06/09/11 at 2:21 am Reply

    In the Monkeybicycle article, she describes all the things Bill Murray could be and do. And I understand what she means; he’s a beloved pop culture icon. I wonder if she is using him as an example for a generalization about how our favorite celebrities are almost infallible to the ridicule, punishment, and forgettable-ness of us “normal” people. In other words, short of mass murder, Bill Murray could do anything and he’d still be “that lovable guy from Ghost Busters.”

    I totally agree about “One learns to become many people as needed, for work, friends, lovers, partners, the internet, to subsume/suppress the parts that do and don’t fit current roles.” I am a different person given the situation and people I’m around. And there’s a different Jordan Blum for just about every person I know. It reminds me of a line from “Seinfeld” – “A George [or Jordan, or you, or he, or she] divided against itself cannot stand.” Sometimes I even feel a destructive conflict inside when I’m with people that bring out different sides of me. I will say that Facebook Jordan is pretty much the real me – and I hate how I just spoke in the 3rd person haha.

    No, television commercials don’t make me sarcastic; I am quite sarcastic anyway, and TV is ripe for ridicule.

    Reply

    Mark C said on 06/09/11 at 2:04 pm

    That’s such a good point, Jordan. We all do have this weird obsession and love of Bill Murray. It makes complete scene why he’d be such a significant figure of T&T.

    Same goes for the thing about people bringing out different sides of me. I had a friend who said he had a “mirror personality disorder,” which I had never heard of but made total sense to me once I noticed how frequently he mimicked my vernacular and slang. And it made my hyper-aware of when I do those things my self.

    Back to T&T–after reading these interviews, I completely understand why the grandfather is such a significant (and sometimes weirdly endearing) figure. T&T is so awesome–at the surface level it seems like nothing more than a silly, funny book, but deep down it is uber-complicated and uber-critical of modern American society. It’s great when those subtleties are such an integral part of the reading process.

    Mike Young said on 06/09/11 at 6:21 pm

    Yeah, Mark, the grandfather is an awesome character! I’m going to do a whole post about him soon.

  2. Mark C said on 06/09/11 at 1:57 pm Reply

    Am now about 3/4 through with T&T and I can see how separation of body and thought was on the forefront of Ofelia’s mind while she was writing this (wow, did it feel weird and meta to type those last propositional phrases). It’s really eloquent how she handles the tonal shifts in relation to the more violent scenes–the language gets shorter and more descriptive and sort of more real.

    I guess we’ve talk about the violence before. I just wanted to say that I can absolutely see a link between what Ofelia’s saying and what her book is doing. It always makes me feel special when it feels like I’ve made the proper interpretation.

    Reply

    Mark C said on 06/09/11 at 1:57 pm

    jesus, what was my point there? “Mark is awesome?” Well, anyway…

    Mike Young said on 06/09/11 at 6:22 pm

    Totally with you on the shifting in the language. Especially with the lurking man in the Anastasia flashbacks and the climatic brutal scene near the end, which I don’t want to give away if you’re not there yet. =)

  3. Kristina said on 06/09/11 at 5:24 pm Reply

    It’s interesting that Ofelia has different folders on her computer with different names on them. I often wonder whether, if I wrote something totally unlike my “regular” stuff, if I would feel compelled to use a pseudonym. I wonder why we are so concerned with consistency. Especially when watching the NHL playoffs the term “consistent” is always considered a compliment. Isn’t it basically the same result if you’re really good sometimes and then really bad? Like, if “consistent” is on a number line it’s 0, and inconsistent is -5 plus 5, right?

    I don’t know. This bothers me in politics too. It’s as if having a consistent, middling position on whatever votey topic is better than having a shitty position and changing it to a good one. No, dudes. No.

    I wish writers didn’t feel this pressure. I wish they felt freer to experiment and claim all of their inconsistent body of work as their own. And I wish people in general did too without so much fear of others crying “hypocrisy!” Your opinions and behaviors et al should be allowed and encouraged to change over time, ’cause, you know, you learn stuff.

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/09/11 at 6:18 pm

    Hi, Kristina! Good to hear from you. I wonder if the different folders speak to a kind of performative thing going on, like the idea of “putting on” a name like a mask and allowing that to mess with you and factor into what you’re making.

    Kristina said on 06/09/11 at 11:56 pm

    Hey, Mike, I realize that post might’ve sounded critical of Ofelia – but I think it’s pretty clear from various interviews that she enjoys & fully embraces the mask-wearing, which I love. I myself pretend to be other people to strangers all the time, just to sort of prove to myself that no one can tell the difference, I guess.

    I’m just wondering, if her other pseudonyms were uncovered and one of is, say, Stephanie Meyer, would we think less of the “Ofelia” work? I think, sadly, most people would, since when it comes to talent we tend to take the average instead of just appreciating the high points.

    Mike Young said on 06/10/11 at 12:13 am

    Yeah, totally, I agree with you, Kristina. All of us theatre nerds in my high school used to go to the malls of neighboring cities and pretend to be from very far away. I think your point speaks to a widespread and insecure cultural obsession with “authenticity” that I think T&T plays with and exposes the anxiety of.

    Ofelia Hunt said on 06/10/11 at 1:03 pm

    Hi Kristina,

    I’m down with your comments. For me, the various folders/authors function more as ‘fun’ or ‘play’ than a concerted effort to mask my inconsistencies as a writer. I’m very inconsistent. The first things I wrote as Ofelia Hunt were Flarf poems that I jokingly submitted to my friends lit journal. But I didn’t think that fit, so those got refiled. And I have no problem linking these names all together under a unified ‘me’.

    Consistency in politics and life make me suspicious, because it feels like a performed mask (and most likely is), and yet as long as the mask is consistent ‘people’ accept it as authentic.

  4. Jordan Blum said on 06/12/11 at 5:26 pm Reply

    I totally agree with this consistent “mask.” I think that, at times, it’s appropriate though. President Obama, as we see and hear him, is merely a false version of who he is behind closed doors. He’s an adult like the rest of us (so he likely engages in adult behavior and ways of relaxation/celebration), but we only know him as a sterilized public figure.

    I’ve also read about a lot of famous writers who don’t count their initial work as part of their catalog. They might say, “oh, that was before I became serious’ or “that was before I got published and it mattered.” I wonder if these people should (1) count it as is as their earliest work, (2) release it under a different name, or (3) revise it and put it out as “____ the early years” or something similar.

    Reply

  5. brian warfield said on 06/13/11 at 8:03 pm Reply

    my question to ofelia would be: what was the deal with the thin man?

    Reply

    Ofelia Hunt said on 06/14/11 at 12:01 am

    my answer is: i don’t completely know. at the time i wrote it, i felt that something needed to be there. i liked the ‘sinister’ feeling writing those scenes gave me.

    to some degree, i enjoy stories/novels/movies where the ‘plot’ or ‘theme’ seems to go ‘off the tracks’ a little, where the things you expect to happen, don’t and something else fills their place, in a kind of confusion (this is why i like Suicide Club so much).

    so perhaps the thin man was (at the time) a way to push myself away from explication or synthesis. i’m not very theoretical. and (to be fair) i’d probably come up with a different explanation at any moment.

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