Saturday, November 12, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Justin Hocking

I think I first met Justin Hocking when we read together at the old Blue Monk bar for one of the launch events for the book Portland Noir back in 2009.

Yes, I just jumped onto an old journal (that was back when I had time to write extensive stuff down about my life) and looks like though he and I both attended the initial launch event at Powell's a few weeks earlier, I only saw him across the room and met him later at the Blue Monk reading. Not that any of this is all that interesting, but I'm glad I peeked, because in looking at the entry for the event he and I shared, I came across a little bit of gushing I'd done to myself about Justin's Portland Noir story, "Burnside Forever":

Photo by Leann O'Rourk
Just opened the book up to see where he read to and got sucked into the story. It’s so beautiful. There’s so much to it, such voice and such twisted reality and the stories are brief and they ribbon around each other and they emerge and they ribbon again. It’s so full of longing.

Notwithstanding the fact that I got a little purple with that description, I really did count that story among my favorites in the book. Here's the first line:

1) Fuck Hawaii.

See what I mean about longing?

I was so excited when Justin's book The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld won the Oregon Book Award. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and dip into this beautiful memoir about ambition, loneliness, uncertainty, the joy of surfing, and his obsession with Herman Melville.

Here's a great review about it from the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld was also selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers program, and named as one of “Ten Brilliant Books that Grab You From Page One” by the Huffington Post.

Justin is a co-founder and lead instructor of the Certificate Program in creative writing at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, and also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University. He has won a Humanitarian Award from the Willamette Writers for his work in writing, publishing, and community building.

I recently had the honor of being asked to read his entire City of Weird story "Vampire" on the air for OPB's Think Out Loud. It's a beautifully understated, funny, poignant tale of an aging vampire. Matthew Korfhage of Willamette Week said, "In one of the collection's best pieces—"Vampire," a deadpan commentary on hipster aging by Justin Hocking—the 'vampire seriously regrets not buying a house in Portland when real estate was affordable, back in 1896.'"

Here's a taste:

Recently the vampire has been struggling with heart palpitations.

When the vampire meets someone new, especially a taller, handsome, more accomplished vampire, he feels a hot sting in his guts, a hammering in his chest. The vampire worries he might come apart, or have a heart attack.

His doctor prescribes him beta blockers. They help with public speaking and social situations, but they give him a piercing headache.

By the way, Justin will be reading from his story for the City of Weird event at Annie Bloom's on Monday, November 14.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the generous post, Gigi! Great seeing you for the Annie Bloom's reading. Thanks again for taking a chance on my weird story.