Young & Restless

Pony Castle / Looking Good and Having a Good Time

By Crystal Chan

A review of Looking Good and Having a Good TimePony Castle by Fawn ParkerSofia Banzhaf

Published on March 18, 2016

Contrary to stereotypes about millennials becoming illiterate, twenty-somethings do read and write – a lot. What some lack is confidence face-to-face. Meaningful human connection: like agency in the sixties or career success in the eighties, it’s what a lot of us strive for. For young writers, storytelling – honed, perhaps, through online chatting as much as writing workshops – can lead to interpersonal connection.

Take Metatron. This publisher grew out of a reading series hosted by its eventual editors, Ashley Opheim and Guillaume Morissette, in Montreal’s cafe-bars. These events were as much about building a social community as a creative one. Sofia Banzhaf’s Pony Castle and Fawn Parker’s Looking Good and Having a Good Time, like all Metatron books, would make appealing public reading. Banzhaf’s novella and Parker’s story collection are speed reads – Pony Castle is forty-four pages, Looking Good, sixty-one – and their conversational prose, as if written for wandering attentions, brims with aggression, humour, surprise, and sarcasm.

Pony Castle
Sofia Banzhaf

Metatron
$10.00
paper
44pp
9780993946448

The manuscript of Pony Castle won Metatron’s Prize for Rising Authors of Contemporary Literature. In these snapshots (chapter 22 is one short sentence) of a naive woman’s unmaking through depression and drugs, there’s plenty of millennial discontent and disconnection: “My desire to be understood by others is the primary way in which i introduce resistance and suffering to my experience.” But the emotional core of the book comes from the painful contrast between childhood and adulthood, fantasy and reality. The title refers to a plastic symbol of childhood, the protagonist’s “plastic Barbie pony.” When she finds her baby teeth, she acknowledges, “I always feel sad when I think about the smallness of my child body.” Banzhaf grants us access to the internal narrative of mundane actions: eating fried chicken, holding a garage sale. Then her language turns them into poetry. She describes the protagonist observing her period blood on bedsheets: “I put my finger on the spine of the butterfly staining the sheet.” And having sex: “I am performing girl performing slut performing real person performing fantasy.”

LFawn Parker - Author Photoooking Good and Having a Good Time is breezier in tone, its dark edges submerged in self-effacing humour. Parker makes fun of her generation, and of contemporary literature. The title of one of the four stories, “Doreen, Doreen,” is taken from a scene where the protagonist sifts through submissions to the Alien Baby Anthology:

Another submission is titled ‘Photo of My Ass’ and the document is empty.

The last submission is called ‘Untitled,’ containing only:

DOREEN, DOREEN.

In the next scene,

Heather O’Neill is reading at Monument-National. I show up with no clothes on and sit at the bar. A man is on stage holding a wooden moose, saying, It’s a give and take.

John Travolta comes over and sits behind me at the bar. He writes on a napkin: I want to fuck you.

Looking Good and Having a Good Time
Fawn Parker

Metatron
$10.00
paper
61pp
9780993946455

Magical realism has arrived in millennial Montreal. Parker plays with form, incorporating a fictional interview in Vice magazine. Here, the young person’s desire for a life instruction manual is made literal. In the last story, a teenaged girl discovers a self-help book titled Looking Good and Having a Good Time. And it costs seventy-five dollars.

The mind of a self-doubting young person is a tiresome place to be (for both the protagonists and the reader), so it’s hard to imagine these books sustaining their prose for much longer than their short page counts. These books are the right size, although such short books are unusual. Also rare, regrettably, are stories by and about young women testing their independence, conveyed through the form of independent literature. That’s reason enough to read these books. mRb

Crystal Chan is a writer and journalist. She is an editor at UBC Press and the editor of the QWF Writes column for the Quebec Writers’ Federation.

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