Get In If You Want to Live
Paper Darts Press, 2011
Get In (To this Launch Party) If You Want to Live
Honey, NE Minneapolis
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Chances are, if you’re aware of MCB, you’re aware of the local literary magazine Paper Darts. It therefore goes without saying that their foray into a full publishing press, gorgeous first book, and resulting launch party will also be familiar to you. However, one must acknowledge the possibility—as remote as it may be—that an MCB reader, though familiar with MCB, has never heard of Paper Darts. Why anyone would wish to imagine such a scenario is better left to the creative machinations of Stephen King or Nicholas Sparks. MCB, for one, cannot live in such a world. The aforementioned foray, book, and party are inarguable reasons for MCB readers to agree.
Several months ago, the three headed octopus down in the belly of Paper Darts pushing all the buttons and wrapping its tentacles around all the levers announced that the magazine would be publishing their first book, joining the ranks of Graywolf Press, Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, and other local publishing houses. That book would be local author John Jodzio’s second short story collection, Get In If You Want to Live. On Saturday night, dreams of both mollusk and man came true while over a hundred people huddled down together at Honey in Northeast Minneapolis to drink, support local artists, and laugh until their diaphragms protested as Jodzio read from his new collection.
A word on the book.
Readers unfamiliar with John Jodzio must imagine a dashing, boyish man who might steal your drink when you’re not looking—or, if we’re to connect author and art, while you’re staring right at it. His feel for the disconnected and the derelict elicits envy in the most adamant of self-proclaimed nihilists: he knows how to be dark. That’s not to say the stories in Get In are heavy or draining—they’re anything but. Not only does a room full of drunk people quake with laughter while Jodzio reads with his careful, fixed irreverence, but you—alone in your apartment—laugh aloud at each new absurdity. You laugh because Jodzio knows how to be dark. You laugh because there’s no other way to process these narrators pushed to the extremes of depravity, like the drug dealer who won’t hesitate to electrocute your nuts or the friendly neighbor who makes chili for one marvelous reason: “Hookers love my chili so much that they usually thank me for it with sex on my kitchen floor or in my broom closet.” You laugh because you have to.
Jodzio’s work hinges on the juxtaposition of societal norms and deviant extremes. In the title story, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse is approached by a man who claims he can save her. The catch, of course, is that she’s just as flippant and self-involved as she might have been with a frat boy at a campus bar: “If you are trying to hook up with this sweet piece of post-apocalyptic ass, you’re gonna need to try way harder than that, mister.” In a reverse scenario, the story “Javier”—which MCB would argue is the best story in the collection—recounts a man so lonely and out of touch that he manipulates his pet wolf into murdering his crush’s boyfriend. “This is Jake’s head, right?” he asks Javier. With this lens of absurdity, Jodzio encapsulates a generation—all of us who are isolated, emotionally inarticulate, and afraid of making anyone else uncomfortable. These stories are all electric with humor, but at the core of each is a sadness that you’d have to be illiterate to ignore, and it makes the collection not only complex but perfectly human, not to mention beautiful.
What the three headed octopus of Paper Darts has brought to the collection is its own special signature. Each story is paired with a local, national, or international artist. The result is a gorgeous and eccentric book that is unusual in every way1. If John Jodzio reminds us of the pitfalls of being human, Paper Darts reminds us of the ecstasies of literature in print. There’s nothing like it, and there never will be. Revel in it while you can.
Photo by Keoni Cabral.
1: MCB would like to stress that this is a good thing—a great thing—a wonderful, amazing thing.