Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Interview With Jennifer Greidus

Jennifer Greidus’s “Offa Rex, Pigeon Fancier” appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Here, Jennifer takes a few moments to talk about her own love for Offa Rex, the origins of the story, structure and style, her two novels, and forthcoming stories.

Anne Valente: In our previous interview for your work in Issue 36, you mentioned that "Offa Rex" is one of your favorite stories. We're very excited about its debut too - what makes this story one of your favorites?

Jennifer Greidus: Offa Rex is a super-villain that I know. He may not seem evil in this story, but I know him to be fraught with vile flaws and antisocial behavior. He assassinates his own character. He is perceived by the public as one of the dirtiest, most disloyal assholes in the world, and yet he commands attention, affection, and adoration. Lovers and losers wait for him – they wait on him – and all because he does one thing well: entertain.

I love this man. He’s a thief, a liar, a misery, and he shows up in my writing again and again. Offa Rex is self-destructive and theatrical, and at his best, he has charmed the pants right off me.

AV: The use of style - particularly with plus signs and italics - is prominent in this story, adding a kinetic energy to the words. Why did these feel like the right choice for the content at hand?

JG: This story is a spasm. It’s a panic. I didn’t pull the plus sign stunt to be quirky. I hastily wrote this on hotel stationery in London, and the plus signs were my shorthand. My recent memory is shifty, and my long-term memory is patchy. If I’m asked to recall an occurrence from more than a week ago, most of what I say is going to be embellished.

I had just attended an event – Offa was there, hating me and loving me – and I returned to my hotel room, dropped my bag on the floor, found that ever-present courtesy hotel pencil and the embossed letterhead, and shook out my spasm. The Offa affair was an obsession for me, and obsessions often follow the predictable and embarrassing lines of doom. My fixation, however, was welcomed and nurtured the closer I got to its object. I frantically wrote, hoping I could capture the detail of my experience, hoping I could snapshot what would never be as clear to me as it was at that moment.

When I returned home to Pennsylvania, I transcribed the story exactly as I’d written it, plus signs and all. Then I shaped it into fiction. I do think that the plus signs look lovely in there. There’s something about this work that’s visually pleasing to me: the way the dimensions of certain words complement their neighbors, the structure, the odd punctuation, and the beauty of italics versus the straight font. All of these things roll and halt and hiccup in such a way that pleases my eye.

AV: How do both the style and content work to reveal the relationship between performer and audience, particularly with these two characters?

JG: I might say, since this story is a bit abstract, that I don’t wish to elaborate on the poetry of it. But that would be an excuse, and a cheesy one. Truth is, I think it’s difficult to annotate your own work, so I might butcher this.

Offa’s a bastard, but he’s the kind of bastard you’d like to love. Hers is a life centered around this bastard. Because there is no traditional story arc, it feels to me as if she’s waited forever for Offa, she’s waiting as you read, and she’ll still be waiting after you’ve moved on to load the dishwasher.

During the show, she admires the hypnotic pull that Offa has over his audience, how they deem him beatific, yet confident, sexy, and capable, while she alone recognizes his blemished beauty: the unclean, needy addict, the lazy, lying egoist. She admires Offa for duping his audience and aligns herself more closely to him because of her acuity. Her delusion is that she’s the only person to have sussed out his true character, and she longs to tell him how she’s the only one who’ll ever love and understand the real – though sometimes revolting – Offa Rex. (You know, how stalkers are made.)

It was meant to be jarring when her ordinary life crept in, disrupting the reader, the protagonist, and the anxious, Asperger-like narrative. The hotel, her Connecticut scene, and the “wasters” – no one wants to ruin a good high with this bullshit reality. I hastily revealed the setting and the back-story because the focus is her frantic passion, how it is bloated with expectation, how it is her singular motivation to be near him, to understand him, and to have him somehow understand her. All the rest, though necessary for a brief sense of place and timing, is peripheral to her pursuit of and convergence with Offa Rex.

AV: You have completed a first novel and are currently working on a second. How is the long-form project going?

JG: Actually, thanks to Storyglossia, I was approached by another agent about my novel-length fiction. She read “This One, You’ve Heard Before” in Issue 36 and solicited me through an email. So, thank you, Steven and Anne.

I am still at work on my second novel, The War in Your Core, and I expect to be done the first draft by February. Currently, I am collaborating with an editor, whom I met through another literary magazine site. He is vicious! I’m having nightmares about his critiques: “You’re using no discretion;” “This isn’t as funny as it’s trying to be;” and “Tighter. Faster. No idioms. Next.” I laugh now because this story, “Offa Rex, Pigeon Fancier,” probably is one he’d shred. But I still love it. Offa is my love.

AV: Are you working on other short stories in the meantime? What other projects do you have going?

JG: Mostly, I’m tightening my existing work. I have another short piece, “Recover the Doubt,” an excerpt from The War in Your Core, forthcoming in Velvet Mafia’s 8th Anthology, but the publish date is still TBA. I was recently named a finalist in the 2009 RRofihe Trophy for the piece “The Six Hillocks of Hiss,” and I have ten or so stories in the open waters at this time.

Jennifer Greidus lives and writes in Bucks County, PA. She has work forthcoming at Velvet Mafia and Eclectica. Her story, "The Six Hillocks of Hiss," was a finalist in the 2009 RRofihe Trophy. Contact Jennifer at greidus1 AT

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