Shaming works. I can no longer bear the terrible weight of Hugh pointing out every week how no one ever offers to take on the challenge of suggesting a story for Literally Reruns. I’m going to pull myself out of my narcissistic reverie on my own stories long enough to break the chain. And throw down the gauntlet to the next person. And any other hackneyed phrases that might offend all you literary readers enough to prove that you can do better.
I first became aware of L’Erin Ogle from one of Leila’s reruns, “Ugly,” a few weeks ago. Since then, her contributions to Literally Stories have become a bit of an obsession. It didn’t help that she’s from Lawrence, Kansas. There was a time when I rarely went anywhere without something by William S. Burroughs tucked into my back pocket, and Lawrence seemed to me the epicenter of all the weirdness in the world. Where I was from, a little less than 300 miles away, I didn’t dare to even whisper Burroughs’ name for fear someone might know enough about him to punch me in the nose. Just being aware that there was a place where someone could write the things he did within driving distance opened worlds of possibility to me. The first time I visited Lawrence years later, I’m not ashamed to admit that I drove past his former home with embarrassing enthusiasm.
I don’t know whether L’Erin has the slightest interest in Burroughs, and I don’t mean to draw a comparison—her stories stand just fine on their own. In fact, it wasn’t easy to find one that hadn’t already been featured as a Rerun. Fortunately, “How to Raise a Monster” was still available. I was about to write “there’s a lot to like about this story,” but I’m not sure that’s a good way to put it (it is fun, though, to quote my own internal monologue). There are things about the story that take hold of you whether you like them or not, and they won’t be denied. In my case, it wasn’t what I expected. The first time I read the story, I lay in bed that night unable to stop thinking about it (which was annoying, because I was trying to think about one of my own stories). I wasn’t thinking so much about what was in the story, as what was not in it. By writing the story as a monologue, L’Erin reframes several key elements, and draws special attention to them by their absence.
The most obvious of these is of course the “monster,” who gets the lion’s share of attention for most of the monologue, even though it is from a perspective from which the monster himself probably wouldn’t want to be seen. But it wasn’t the monster that kept me up—except insofar as I would like to ask L’Erin someday just how many of the characters in the story she intended as monsters. I was pestered, on the other hand, by the interviewer, another character whose direct voice is entirely missing from the story, but who features large nonetheless—and larger as the story goes on. It was clever writing to build up to the surprise ending by having this character constantly in the background as a vaguely sensed presence. But this also wasn’t what kept me up.
What kept me up was the line “Ain’t got a daddy. That’s enough about that.” There is an entire separate story secreted away within these eight words, on par with the ubiquitous “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” But with less complicated punctuation. As I stare at these eight words again now, they are biting into my brain, leeching my thoughts, and I know I’ll be up thinking about them again tonight. Curse you, L’Erin, for this bit of brilliance that is costing me so much sleep.
As you all know we are changing the Sunday feature to a sort of hotch potch of items. This is a Rerun story and who better to have one of our first of the new set up than one of our long standing authors and supporters L’Erin Ogle.