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LCB Interview With Writer Josh Rank

August 26, 2011

Deckfight Press has a new release out: Josh Rank's I'm Here Right?. Josh originates from Wisconsin, I believe, and wrote these essays/stories while living in Atlanta. They mostly seem to deal with a concoction of where public and private spheres meet, the divisions, the violence, the ramifications, consequences, etc. He also runs/writes/operates the blog These Things I Know. The following is my interview with him:

First, what jumps out most to me about the stories/essays as a whole is their bluntness. Bluntness seems to be a key word in the other reviews I've seen of them. Did you intentionally mean for the voice in your writing to sound like it was coming from a barstool, a cookout with a friend, or did that just happen?
I didn’t have a plan for how it would come across.  I learned a while ago that brevity is a key factor in solid writing (which made minimum word counts in college essays a bit troublesome), and I guess that could come across as blunt. The stories were originally written for my blog, and then revamped and elaborated upon when the idea of the e-book came around.  The blog started as a collection of stories that happened to me while unemployed, strictly so I wouldn’t forget what I did with my time and so I could read them later.  Kind of a public journal of stupidity, I guess.  So the fact that they come across as something you might hear at a bar makes sense because that’s essentially how it started. 
By the way, here’s the trick I learned to make the minimum word counts in college:  Take out all of the contractions. Find every “it’s” and “can’t” and break it into two words.  Depending on the length of the paper, you can get an extra couple hundred words.
You make the experience of getting hit by a car seem quite cool, maybe even chic, but what would be the most uncool vehicle to be run over by? 
Minivan.  And not because of the whole “soccer mom” thing.  In fact, I drove a minivan until I was about twenty or so. And the Astro kicked a lot of ass.  But minivans are big.  They have a lot of momentum.  They also don’t have hoods for you to jump onto and diminish the damage.  Look at any movie where someone gets hit by a car.  They always slide over the hood.  But a van is just a straight wall of heavy death.  You’d pop like a water balloon. 
I went to elementary school in Georgia, where MLK Day was a pretty big deal, and then I wound up at a university where we lobbied the administration to make it a big deal, which kind of puts our experiences with the holiday in some sort of negative correlation with one another. Anyway, what are your thoughts on the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial that's debuting on the Mall at the end of this month? Do you expect Hooters to be part of the ceremonious unveiling?
We can only hope there will be girls in short shorts and tank tops surrounding the memorial at all times.  But, I think it’s nice to put up a giant effigy of MLK.  We’ve got enough statues and monuments of people that owned slaves, we should probably even it out with a civil rights figure.  That being said, venerating people in this way makes me a little uneasy.  I’m not talking specifically about MLK, but about the way we treat prominent figures in general.  A thirty-foot statue?  That’s pretty intimidating.  It makes me think of the golden calf of the Old Testament.  Once people get to the point where we are willing to carve their faces into stone, they become an idea instead of a person.  This can be good for inspiration, but dangerous at the same time if used to validate questionable behavior.  An example being people blowing up abortion clinics because of their skewed interpretation of the Bible.  I think it would have done more to honor the teachings of MLK if they took the money spent creating the monument and distributed books either about him or based on his work.  But I’ve lost my point; I really hope the Hooters girls show up.
Your essay "There Are Kids Around!" handles a gay pride parade with an air of the parade's purpose being that of celebration and not protest. The essay also follows your account of an MLK march, a word that in King's day suggest protest, so I guess what I'm asking is: what discerns between a group of people walking together being labeled a parade versus being labeled a march? And is celebration a form of protest?
I’d say it could be labeled a “march” if there are people with slogans on their signs.  People in parades don’t generally have a message to convey besides, “Look at me!  I’m doing this with this group at this place!”  But I’ve never really thought about them as being mutually exclusive.  The terms seem a bit interchangeable to me.  Except for when you see those videos of North Vietnamese soldiers walking in perfectly straight lines while doing that high-kick walk that the hyenas did in the elephant graveyard in the Lion King.  You wouldn’t call that a “parade.”
Celebration is definitely a form of protest.  Have you ever had somebody laugh after you yell at them?  It’s infuriating. Also, showing that you are enjoying yourself while living a lifestyle that is either not accepted or not understood is a great way to show people on the opposing side that there might not be a simple “right” and “wrong” to the issue, but more of a “You do what you do and I’ll do what I do,” option.
I loved the Dragon Con piece "Crosswalk!" Mainly, I liked how a crosswalk is designed for people to orderly cross from one side of a street to the other, but most of the account is not orderly--you use the phrase "dance riot," but I also liked how this piece worked alongside "Moral Diarrhea" and "There Are Kids Around!" Did you feel there was a common thread running through all three pieces and could you explain that thread (You know, the juxtaposition)?
Josh Spilker, the guy responsible for Deckfight Press, first approached me with the idea of compiling a few blog entries into the e-book form.  We tossed around some ideas of which stories to include, the meat story being the first one he suggested.  I then read through what I had previously written and tried to find stories that I thought to be funny and interesting while also including a point of some sort.  I felt like I needed stories like “Moral Diarrhea” to balance out the drunken shenanigans of the other two you mentioned.  I think they work together, even though at first glance they are simply booze-fueled excursions (excluding “Moral Diarrhea”).  But towards the end, the underlying experience that I was able to take away will hopefully come through as well.
A lot came to mind after reading "Call Up the Muscle." A lot. But I kept coming back to how this piece highlighted the cost that comes with not fitting in or being able to find a place of belonging. I also couldn't help wondering if you thought most of the prisons and jail cells in life are the ones we build for ourselves. Thoughts?
Oh yeah.  Everyone is trapped within their own heads.  Otherwise we’d be floating around like in Ghostbusters 2 when their power goes out and Slimer gets out of his box along with all the other ghosts they trapped.  I know there are a lot of prison cells in the world, but there are definitely more people than that.  So, going strictly by the definition of “more,” there are more jail cells we impose upon ourselves than there are in places like the Fulton Country Jail.
Another way of looking at it would be the institutions we voluntarily enter.  School, jobs, marriage, etc.  These are all forms of a jail cell.  Once you enter into something that takes away your ultimate free will, you’re essentially in jail. Electric bills are a jail.  Sunsets are a jail.  Eating is a jail.  Once again, the answer is yes.

And, after reading "How Many of You Are Felons?", what's your favorite New Kids On the Block song?
Hangin’ Tough, obviously.  It’s easily their most badass song.  That chant deal they continually recite throughout is great.  I wish a metal band would remake that song because that chant would make a sweet breakdown.  Palm mute some guitars, pump out the chords in triplets, and let the crowd punch the living shit out of each other.  NKOTB (as the kids call them) were actually in Atlanta not too long ago.  Sadly, I didn’t find out until a week after the show.  I cried real tears.

The full catalogue of Deckfight books can be found here.
All images are courtesy of Deckfight Press.


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