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June 23, 2011

Book Notes - Myriam Gurba ("Wish You Were Me")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

These days my reading consists solely of books featured in this Book Notes series as well as my 52 Books, 52 Weeks feature, so I have little time for chapbooks. There was a time when I would discover many writers through chapbooks (and literary quarterlies), and I am thankful Future Tense Books and its publisher Kevin Sampsell are keeping this tradition alive with Myriam Gurba's fantastic Wish You Were Me.

Wish You Were Me is a gritty, shocking, and darkly funny collection of prose poems and short stories, bold and honest in its examination of big social and personal issues.

Michelle Tea wrote of the book:

"Myriam Gurba just blows me away. Her wit, her perversion, her sharp female smarts, her total fearlessness. I gasp and I gasp as I read her work because I can't believe she said that! It's not shocking, it's a relief. Okay it's a little bit shocking, too. All the best writing makes you come undone a little and Myriam is not afraid to stick her fingernails into your psyche and pull."

In her own words, here is Myriam Gurba's Book Notes music playlist for her chapbook, Wish You Were Me:

Like the cousin who calls me collect, from the women's penal colony, Wish You Were Me was an accident. Before writing it, I'd been working on a (James Earl Jones your imagination's reading voice for the next word) serious woman-of-color tome. I was secretly trying to channel Toni Morrison. Turns out, I'm no Whoopi Goldberg. Plus, it's nearly impossible to channel the living. One summer afternoon, I set aside my serious manuscript. Nearby, my chubby pet rabbit was napping on the wooden floor. I watched him twitch through a nightmare. Have you ever seen a rabbit having a nightmare? It's cute. Anyways, my rabbit's dream state inspired me to give myself a break and be me. What came to mind? Memories of my first erotic fantasies. These involved a top hat, a head of kinky hair, and a chocolate river. I wondered about the leftovers Zach Galifianakis shakes out his beard. I thought how a sack of Cheetos holds a collection of modern art. I realized my ethnicity, three quarters Mexican, one quarter Polish, allows me no dignity. I decided to stop trying to write in the voice of an eighty-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner from Ohio and write like the goofy thirty-three year old Molak that I am. However, should Toni Morrison die, guess who's writing her next novel, Enchilada Sunrise

"Pure Imagination" by Gene Wilder

Girls of my generation had crushes on Michael J Fox and Ralph Macchio. I didn't. I had a crush on Gilda Radner's husband. He played deranged confectioner Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I listened as he sang Pure Imagination to his factory's visitors, they gallivanted through a garden of sugary delights, and I knew the chocolatier was serenading me, too. He encouraged sweet fantasies—gummi bear trees, cream-filled mushrooms, giant lollipops—which could turn sour and kill you. Wilder's Wonka represented saccharine death, and thus began cameoing in my prepubescent sex dreams. As an adult, Wilder's Wonka is now a constant muse. And I still think he's sexy.

"U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer

In Wish You Were Me's eponymous prose poem, I reference Mr. Hammer's pants. Nothing is a more ridiculous fashion statement than those pants, not even me naked. I wore a pair of those pants, once, in 1990. It was not of my own free will. My now-incarcerated cousin invited me to a homegirl's quinceañera but strategically dressed me in a paisley sweatshirt, MC Hammer pants, and knee-high Minnetonka boots. Standing beside her, she looked like Paula Abdul. I looked a fool. Luckily, we made it out of the quinceañera before the shooting began.

"Loser" by Beck

I wrote a story about my high school boyfriend.

"Ain't No Fun" by Snoop Dogg

Testicles fascinate me and they seem to fascinate Snoop Dogg, too. Snoop's intro to Ain't No Fun is a skit involving DJ Eaaaaaazy Dick dedicating the song on W-Balls. If I were to debut my prose poem Squirtle on radio, I'm certain it would be right at home on W-Balls.

"Mexican-Americans" by Cheech and Chong

Every time I do something stupid, I wonder which part of myself to blame, the Mexican or the Polish. This is not internalized racism. This is keepin' it real. As a kid, racial jokes were the bane of my multi-ethnic existence. Not only was I mostly beaner, what little white I had was the wrong kind. Oh, I heard jokes, and they made me blame my constant tears on onions. Now, however, I wear these jokes like badges of honor. Give me mas. If you embrace such jokes, they can't hurt you. Now I love the one about the Polish peeping Tom who kept looking down his pants. And I love when Cheech, accompanied by Chong on acoustic guitar, sings about Mexican-Americans going to night school, taking Spanish, and getting a B. I have committed similar capers and documented them in a section of Wish You Were Me titled Epic Polish Fail.

"Used to Love Her" by Guns N' Roses

I'm going to say it: Lesbians are crazy. I should know. I used to be one till my girlfriend confessed she is really a man. Anyways, because of their insanity, lesbians are endlessly fun to write about, as subjects, they lend themselves easily to poetry, and I was considering, what is the lesbian anthem? Is it something by Joan Jett, the Indigo Girls, Pat Benatar, and then I realized… no, the lesbian anthem ought to be the most psychotic love song ever written: “I used to lover her, but I had to kill her...”

"Tonight You Belong To Me" by Bernadette Peters and Steve Martin

Around the same time that I fell in lust with Gene Wilder, I also fell in lust with Bernadette Peters. I guess I've always had a thing for kinky-haired white people who can sing and dance. My hair hangs straight and I've got no rhythm. I loved Bernadette Peters so much I even had an action figure of her and I should go dig it out of my parents' attic. Next time you watch The Jerk, and you watch Bernadette whip out her trumpet and blow the solo during Tonight You Belong to Me, think of me, my action figure, and my MC Hammer pants and for the love of god, and maybe, just maybe, you'll wish you were me.

Myriam Gurba and Wish You Were Me links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Big Other review
Wing Chair Books review

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists