All posts by Jon Konrath

About Jon Konrath

Jon Konrath is the editor of this crap.

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Available now: Fiona Helmsley – My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers

We’re proud to announce our latest release from Paragraph Line Books: Fiona Helmsley’s new collection, My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers.

Check it out at Amazon in print or on the kindle store.

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I thought I wanted to be degraded, but I wanted to be degraded with love. You wanted me to talk during sex and what came out was, “You hate me.”

 Sam D’Allesandro once wrote, “I like living with the danger of what you know about me,” and the candidness on display in Fiona Helmsley’s My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers takes an incredible amount of guts.

Beginning with an epigram from Anne Sexton’s With Mercy for the Greedy and ending with an essay on the virtues of Courtney Love, in-between, her stories and essays breathe new life into the idea that the things that we are ashamed of often make for the best stories.

Badly wounding her boyfriend in a fight over money for drugs, Helmsley leaves her beloved bloody, and the responsibility of getting him to the hospital on someone else. After plotting with a friend how to best get money for drugs, their decision to charge their friends for sex leads to devastating results.

Including essays on art and persona, the rejection of the word “victim,” and an imagined meeting between Joan Vollmer Burroughs and Patti Smith at the Chelsea Hotel, Fiona Helmsley’s My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers presents a gritty and moving portrait of life on the fringes at the turn of the millennium.

 Fiona Helmsley is a writer of creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. In line with the trope of comparing talented women to more revered men, she’s been called “the Eugene O’Neill of halfway house culture.” Her writing can be found online at sites like PANK, and The Rumpus, and in anthologies like Ladyland and The Best Sex Writing of the Year. She can reached through her blog, whatfionaworetoday.tumblr.com.

The Last Days of Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker was punk rock, a crazy mix of Burroughs, porn, feminism, persona, and lit history. I recently fell down a Chris Kraus k-hole, reading all the books by the experimental filmmaker and writer. She mentions (I think in Aliens and Anorexia) about how she visited Acker in Mexico during her dying days in Mexico, at a weird new-age clinic where they fed her organic food and morphine as she fell to cancer.

I coincidentally saw this piece pop up, by Jason McBride over at Hazlitt Magazine, talking about Acker’s finale in Mexico. It mentions the Kraus thing, how Acker was secretly reading her book I Love Dick, but would hide it while she was there. Anyway, check out the short article over at Hazlitt:

The Last Days of Kathy Acker

Dredging the Holiday Nostalgia by Jon Konrath

Here’s some holiday cheer from Jon Konrath. This story is an excerpt from his book The Earworm Inception which is available on Amazon for cheap. Happy Firestorm!

Every winter, I have fond memories of the holidays when I was a child. I went to this charter school for the gifted and talented, pyromaniacs, and kids with a bad glue-huffing habit. (It was an “or” thing; you didn’t have to test well, sniff Testor’s, AND get caught spraying a hobo with gasoline; any one of those three was fine.) Most of my teachers were 60s hippie types that made us sing songs about hemp farming and replace pronouns to honor all genders, so we didn’t spend a lot of time decorating Christmas trees or writing lists to Santa. Most years, we spent a lot of time reading about Druids and potato famines, although my second grade teacher, Mrs. Finkelstein, introduced me to Laveyan Satanism and had all of us puke in a ceremonial chalice for the Firestorm. (She later got busted for securities fraud, and when I was in high school, I used to mail care packages of King Diamond bootlegs and pruno ingredients to her in prison.)

I had a neighbor, Mr. Iommi, who used to invite over kids to snort lines of egg nog during the Christmas. He had a son, Bologna, born without any internal organs, kept alive with an experimental NASA exoskeleton and a Honda ATV with a special cart that hauled around a primitive heart-lung and dialysis machine. (A made-for-TV movie was made about his life, starring John Travolta, but it was badly done and glossed over details like how Bologna Iommi spent his days playing Atari 5200, and compulsively masturbating to snuff films, while eating Jello, sometimes using the Jello as lube. He’d later work as a key grip on a couple of David Cronenberg movies, but lose all of his money on the bootleg teeth whitener fiasco of 1998.)

I never liked snorting egg nog, especially the high-test stuff Mr. Iommi would concoct in his kitchen, using soy milk and Kingsford charcoal lighter. “Don’t drink it, you fairies, SNORT IT!” he would yell, holding a loaded snub-nose .44 bulldog to our heads, spinning the chamber, pulling back the hammer. He hobbled around on a cane, and looked a lot like Charles Manson, if Charlie poorly cross-dressed in get-ups bought at a Fashion Bug. “SNORT THE NOG! HAIL SATAN!” he would scream. Then, with the taste of eggs and butane in my throat, I’d go kick Bologna’s ass at Q*Bert.

I lived in one of those annoying subdivisions where everyone judged your place in life by how many toxic chemicals you paid one of those Chemlawn places to spray down on your yard. There was a homeowner’s association that mostly did a lot of racial profiling, but had an annual Christmas decoration contest. To most of these Izod-wearing motherfucker, this meant wrapping every single surface with K-Mart lights, throwing a plastic Santa on the roof, and blasting some new-age fake-ass solstice crap through three thousand watts of distorted all-weather speakers. Even though our subdivision was adjacent to a nuclear reactor plant, we’d have frequent brown-outs in December when these fuckers would start installing klieg lights and commercial ski resort-quality snow machines, jockeying for the grand prize, a $50 gift certificate to a local Ponderosa steakhouse.

My parents worked four or five different jobs and didn’t have time for this shit, so they usually left me free reign on a MasterCharge account and let me decorate the front yard. “I don’t care what you spend, but no more John Wayne Gacy-themed dioramas. I don’t want the FBI digging through our basement again,” my dad told me. Fair enough, but I wasn’t going to show up at the Farm and Fleet with unlimited credit and erect yet another tribute to a two-thousand year old religious prophet by hoarding a bunch of crap invented by Coca-Cola and Montgomery Ward in the last 50 years. I wanted to go historical on everyone’s ass. For example, when I was nine, I did a historically-accurate Rape of Nanking Christmas display, depicting the 1937 battle for the capitol of the Republic of China by the Japanese Imperial Army, and the ensuing atrocities. I did not win the contest, and our house got firebombed by some radical Japanese gang, but I did get free Chinese food for a year.

After our school let us out for the two-week Celebration of the Solstice and Mandatory Recognition of the So-Called Messiah Cock-Oppressor Jesus As Required by State Law, we’d binge on junk food and prescription cold medication, then visit my grandparents, who operated an illicit dog track and unlicensed plastic surgery clinic just outside of Muncie, Indiana. There was all of the usual Christmas stuff: games of Russian roulette, fried goat anus treats dusted with a thin layer of cocaine, the annual showing of the classic Christmas movie, Surf Nazis Must Die. But I don’t remember these rituals as much as how me and all of my cousins would go to this tattoo parlor in downtown Muncie and pool together all of our Christmas money and buy a bootleg Stinger missile from a former Nicaraguan freedom fighter that did wicked tats of characters from Roseanne Barr sitcoms. (He was really good too: did all of the shading and everything.) Then we’d get fucked up on some kind of fortified wine, and take the missile to the Delaware County regional airport in hopes of shooting down a multi-engine prop plane before we lost our buzz. It wasn’t even about the actual joy of watching a Cessna 421 fireball and kill everyone onboard; it was more about the sense of family and togetherness involved in illegally purchasing an antiaircraft weapon and dragging it to a small airport via BMX bike after consuming a large amount of malt liquor on a cold winter day.

And that’s what Christmas is really about, isn’t it? So whether you’re attempting to kill two of every animal you can find as a sacrifice to Lucifer, our master, for the Firestorm, or you’re just watching some football with your family, and hoping you black out before the voices in your head tell you to watch A Christmas Story again, I hope you have a happy holiday.

King Dong and Moron Movies

Do you remember Moron Movies? They were short little 8mm movies that Johnny Carson showed back in the 80s.  Len Cella was the one-man shop that directed, filmed, narrated, and acted in all of these little capsules of absurdism, stuff like Jello Makes A Lousy Doorstop. Just the titles alone were hilarious, like An Exercise to Prevent Fat Ears and Hitler In First Grade.

The Moron Movies were a perfect example of a brief blip of absurdism in the 80s, a time when things like The Far Side and Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts were hilarious capsules of surrealist humor. (I know Deep Thoughts was shown on SNL in the 90s, but it all came from National Lampoon in the 80s.) Cella’s work was the great granddaddy of some of the funny stuff we see on YouTube or Vine, much like how Handey’s work is a direct precursor to some of the best twitter humor.  The Moron Movies are also an amazing demonstration of the DIY ethic, because Cella was banging these things out in his house on a cheap 8mm camera, without any help, and then mailing them off to Carson.

There is an (unfortunately named) documentary short from a couple of years ago called King Dong.  (Be careful of what you click when you search for that.)  It’s on YouTube now, and is worth the 20-some minutes to watch it.  There’s also an old VHS tape that I remember finding at Blockbuster in college and watching at three in the morning, and part of that has also surfaced on YouTube.  It’s all incredibly dated, which makes it perfect.

Fireball 001 by John Hicks

FIREBALL 001 (2014) is a short video by John Hicks. Hicks, a writer, photographer, and musician, received his Warholian due in 2000 as a featured extra in Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which he exclaims the well-known line, “Hot damn! It’s the Soggy Bottom Boys!” He lives on a farm near Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The Collectors by Nathaniel Tower

All my friends have their own unique methods of tracking the chicks they’ve banged. This one guy, we call him “Pubes,” tapes a lock of each woman’s pubic hair to the wall behind his dresser. He’s got a whole color wheel of pubes back there. Red, black, blonde, brown, gray. If it’s a suitable color for pubic hair, he’s got it in his collection. Hell, he’s even got a rainbow pube lock that looks like he got it straight from one of those clown wigs. We’re not positive he didn’t.

“Pubes” usually trims their pubes right after sex, when the hair is a bit sticky and matted down. He says it helps with the preservation. Sometimes he tapes them up while the woman is still watching. “What are you doing?” she’ll ask. “Preserving,” he says.

If a chick’s got a shaved pussy, he tells her to come back when she’s hit puberty. Surprisingly, most of them come back. Actually, that’s the only time any of his women come back.

This other guy, we call him “Moist Mike,” takes panties from his girls. He keeps them in the top drawer of his dresser. He’s not picky about the type. Thongs, lacey things, bikini briefs, edible ones, split crotches. He even has a pair of XXL white cotton panties that look like they’d fit a bloated beluga whale.

“Moist Mike” says the key to panty collecting is getting them nice and wet before he pulls them off. He likes to rub a chick’s panties really hard before removing them. It traps in that horny vag scent, he says. Usually he gets up from his bed and puts the panties in the drawer before he even bothers to fuck the woman. That’s when they’re the most vulnerable and least likely to say no.

He’s really particular about how the panties are arranged, and he won’t let anyone else open the drawer. On lonely nights, “Moist Mike” opens the dresser, takes a big whiff, and jerks off into a napkin. I’m pretty sure he saves all his semen catchers in another drawer. It’s not like he has much else to put in that big ass dresser.

And me? I collect toenails. I keep them in a jar on my nightstand so I can stare at them while I bang a chick. It helps me get off faster. Every morning I reach inside and fondle the broken shards of toe. It’s the perfect antidote for my morning wood.

It’s a pretty kick ass collection. I keep them in an old pickle jar–slices, not gherkins or spears–that I didn’t really rinse out, which helps prevent fungus from spreading. I have all kinds of colors. A lot more than “Pubes” has taped to his wall or “Moist Mike” has arranged in his drawer, that’s for sure. The orange ones are my favorite. I keep a few extra bottles of nail polish lying around the room in case I don’t like the girl’s color. As soon as she orgasms, I dive under the sheets and start chewing on her toes. They always think I’m going to lick their crotch or some gross shit like that.

Most of the time, a few hard bites will yield something that’s jar-worthy. Other times, I chew until I get the whole nail off. Most of the girls don’t fuss about it too much. I almost always use a numbing agent before I start nibbling. Occasionally, a woman will kick me in the face, but it’s more reflex than anything else.

Last night this woman had magenta toes. That’s right. Fucking magenta. I thought for a minute I was in love. After chomping on her delicious tootsies, the damn jar is almost full. I don’t really want to start another one, so I might go through my collection and get rid of the ones I don’t like that much anymore. The crescent moon shaped nails sort of give me the creeps when I’m rubbing them on my body. It’s going to be hard to get rid of any though. They each have their own charm.

My dad kept dozens of pickle jars full of nails and screws and other shit in his garage. That’s where I got the idea. He loved building shit, but I never really had a knack for anything handy.

I think my old man would be proud if he could see my collection now.

Nathaniel Tower is a former English teacher who now spends his days at a computer. When not at work, he writes fiction and manages the online literary magazine Bartleby Snopes. If he’s not writing or editing, he’s either spending time with his wife and daughter, listening to records, or going for long runs while juggling. His short fiction has appeared in over 200 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Million Writers Award. His first collection of short fiction, “Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands,” was released in 2014 by Martian Lit. Visit him at nathanieltower.wordpress.com