Ofelia Hunt is the author of My Eventual Bloodless Coup (Bear Parade). She lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first novel.
"This book would like to give you an ice cream, but you will have to get in the van."
"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."
"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."
When movies show you how flies see, they always like to focus on the fractals. How, supposedly, insects see like kaleidoscopes: lots and lots of tiny windows, all showing duplicates of the same image. Of course, this isn’t how insects actually see, but it’s fun to think so. What’s even more fun about being a fly is: flying. You get to fly. And flying, of course, is a way of moving that’s also its own way to see.
In 2006/2007, I first discovered Ofelia Hunt through her blog and later her Bear Parade e-book My Eventual Bloodless Coup. You’ve probably already guessed this, but now I’m going to try making an analogy that Hunt writes like a combination of the way Hollywood thinks insects see and the way insects fly into thinking. Here we go: Hunt’s narrators see the world divided into fantasies, daydreams. A girlfriend tells a boyfriend that she wants her “left eyeball and right ear removed while you watch through a two-inch glass panel,” and then she proceeds to keep telling him every intricate detail she can make up because he doesn’t stop her. Finally her boyfriend looks at her forehead and says:
“Why do you say things like that?”
“I was joking.”
“I don’t think you’re joking, you’re always saying stuff like that.”
“I’m just being funny because I’m bored and tired of watching TV with you and I wanted to know how long I could talk without you stopping me but you didn’t stop me because you don’t care about anything and are a nihilist or something.”
The lies and delusions and whimsy of Hunt’s narrators are undercut by concrete realities of violence and trauma, the reasons and results of too much making up. People are kidnapped and stuffed into refrigerators. Sisters punch their eight-year old sisters and apologize by saying “I thought your face looked kind of like a speed bag or something, and I thought I could be a boxer, and boxers need to practice.” A masked man waves a knife and tells the world to admit that he’s a sloth bear, that his genes were spliced. This exploration of how imagination intertwines with violence, how the imagination makes objects of everything, runs through all of Hunt’s work, and gives it an existential awareness and a contemporary significance that I find hypnotic and true, true as any buzzing daydream that seems incapable of landing.
Her language, too, flies and divides. The physical world is rendered through repetition, the world boring as the world. Station to station, parking-lot to parking-lot, the world wheezing along like a strip mall of hyphenated connections, temporary sidewalks. No wonder we imagine ourselves away, into flights of imagining Bill Murray driving a giant robot in the Carlsbad caverns and then the next thing imagined and the next, because any stopping of the “ands” means the attention is no longer suspended and we have to get back to paying attention to a world where—as one boyfriend in a Hunt story says— “One baby is like any other baby so who cares what baby you brainwash or whatever?”
After I read My Eventual Bloodless Coup, I started reading Ofelia’s blog, where she was posting excerpts of the novel that would later become Today & Tomorrow. I emailed asking if I could publish one of the chapters in this literary journal I co-edit, NOÖ Journal, a chapter about the narrator as a child at the zoo with her grandfather. This was about a year before I started Magic Helicopter Press. Later, when I decided I wanted to start the press, I knew I wanted to publish chapbooks and books by writers whose voices rendered an uncompromisingly honest and singular worldview, but whose work challenged that voice, put it through the ringer of a world that doesn’t care about any view at all.
That’s what I say now, anyway. That’s me trying to describe a feeling without just turning the feeling into a description.
In high school, I read Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, and then I walked around thinking everyone had a secret phone number, that the world was basically a Thomas Pynchon novel. This, I realized, was the benchmark of a certain kind of great book. It takes over. When I read T&T, I walk around seeing the way Ofelia Hunt’s imagination swoops. Reading certain great novels is like wearing sunglasses for your brain, and Today & Tomorrow has frames shaped like anarchist penguins.
Many thanks to Molly and Chris for hosting me in the Lit Pub’s inaugural month to talk about T&T and other great books. Thanks to you for tuning in, and please feel free to join the conversation with any thoughts you have about insects, small presses, novels-as-ways-of-seeing, and whether you yourself are actually Bill Murray.