Writing the Kaleidoscope: A Conversation with Jackson Bliss

November 14, 2021   •   By Bryan Hurt

A DECADE AGO, when Jackson Bliss and I were younger men than we are now, we sat across the table from each other at USC and workshopped our stories. Jackson oozed cool in a way that sort of annoyed me. He had great tattoos, great shoes, espoused veganism, and wrote these hyperkinetic, neon-tinged stories full of style and confidence at a time when I was eking out the most minimal sentences. I was afraid of my work and avoided squeezing more than five words into a sentence for fear of fucking up. I remember once in workshop feeling exasperated by Jackson’s chutzpah and saying that not every sentence he wrote needed to explode on the page like a firework. Give us a few dull, simple sentences, I told him. This is one of many times I’ve been wrong.

Since we graduated USC, Jackson and I have been on parallel career tracks. He taught at UC Irvine and I taught at UC Riverside. I moved to Ohio to take a tenure-track job and he soon followed. We both left Ohio at the same time. While I left to pursue another academic job at the University of Arkansas, Jackson stepped away from academia altogether. His longtime spouse and partner was offered a dream job back in Los Angeles, and he decided that after many years on the academic hamster wheel, it was time to step off and let her career and aspirations take the lead. Since then, Jackson has been breaking my heart on Instagram, posting vibrant and beautiful pictures of the city I once called home. All this time he’s never stopped writing and publishing the kind of explosive, ambitious stories I envied in our workshops, though now I’d say his work is tempered by a sense of longing and loss that one acquires with a bit more experience and age. For Jackson, that longing might be the longing of the outsider. Though I’m hesitant to call any Jackson Bliss story “typical,” much of his work features outsiders, people of mixed-race — often hapa — identity who feel exiled and disconnected from their Midwestern communities because of the circumstances of their birth. Jackson himself is mixed-race, bicoastal (if, he says, we count Lake Michigan as the third coast), and is deeply interested in the process of construction, be it the construction of identity from the disparate pieces we inherit or the construction of a piece of work. Though he resists the term “experimental,” his work resembles little that I’ve seen before. His stories are often broken into sections and segments, sometimes told backward, made up of lists, or structured around the lighting of candles on a menorah. He prefers to call himself a conceptualist, and I like that term for the idea of describing someone who’s trying to imagine a new and better world from the pieces and scraps of the one we have.

Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments (Noemi) is Jackson’s first book and is as fine an introduction to his ecstatic and heartbreaking work as I can imagine. It also happens to kick off what is set to be an epic run. In March 2022, his debut novel, The Amnesia of June Bugs, will be published by 7.13 Books. It will be followed in October 2022 by Dream Pop Origami, a debut memoir published by Unsolicited Press. This interview took place over email in September, sometime in the early morning after I’d been woken up by my new puppy and was awaiting a flight from Fayetteville to New York for my first big pandemic trip. I imagine Jackson answered my questions while sipping iced coffee at a café in Echo Park or Venice, sunglasses down, great shoes on, effortlessly being the coolest guy around.

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I. “Counterfactual narratives can give us something that reality cannot, which is agency and imagination.”

BRYAN HURT: What is a counterfactual love story?

JACKSON BLISS: A counterfactual love story isn’t just something that is contrary to fact, but a love story that is true, or might be true (or could have been true), if only in another set of circumstances. As humans, we value facts so much, but in 2021 facts have collapsed into opinions, ideas, and thoughts, which isn’t a good thing. A fact used to have a strong whiff of empiricism because of how it’s traditionally connected to scientific discourse and scientific methodology, but facts are in crisis now. On the other hand, part of the potential upside of living contrary to reality is that sometimes counterfactual narratives can give us something that reality cannot, which is agency and imagination. This is partially because reality itself is constructed, tenuous, subject to whims, data, interpretation, technology, and framing. Also, if we think about imagined communities, which have always been important but undefinable for marginalized communities, or if we stop to consider the constructed world inside our (day)dreams, these are worlds that feel very much real to us, sometimes even more real than the world we live in. (Day)dreaming is part of reality, for example, it’s not its antithesis. This is why a counterfactual love story can be a deeply painful thing, because of how it potentially dislocates us from reality. But it can also be redemptive, because it allows us to reimagine, reconsider, and even relive our own connections to each other and to the world.

II. “I’m Midwestern at heart but Californian in soul and it’s a complicated dance”

I consider you, perhaps incorrectly, an L.A. writer. You’re someone who’s wildly in love with the city, its Day-Glo aesthetic and sunny ethos. When you talk about the optimism and pain of counterfactual love stories, it strikes me that L.A. itself is a counterfactual city, a hub of dreams and imagination. All of which is to say I was surprised by how much of your book was set in the Midwest. Why was so much of your imagination focused on the middle of the country when your heart was out West?

No, it’s not incorrect at all! I consider myself an L.A. writer too. I literally cried hiking through Griffith Park once I’d returned here after being stuck inside an old farm house in Ann Arbor for two years. L.A.’s clearly not a perfect city, but it’s a vibrant city that I’ve never been able to get over. A dynamic city of light and color and music and storytelling that haunts me whenever I’m not here. A city that, at its best and worst, is deeply invested in its own historical amnesia, self-invention, artistic ethos, and cultural imagination. And I think that’s part of the reason why I really wanted to write a collection about navigating mixed-race identity in the Midwest because I’m Midwestern at heart but Californian in soul and it’s a complicated dance for me, since I went to high school in California and the Midwest, I spent most of my holidays in Chicago and Solana Beach, I got my MFA at Notre Dame, smack dab in the middle of Catholic Country in northern Indiana, but I also got my PhD at USC. Even my first teaching gig was at UC Irvine, so clearly I’m supposed to live in California as an adult, but I also can’t deny that I’m essentially bicoastal, if Lake Michigan is the third coast. For that reason, Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments is in many ways a book about the negotiation of hapa identity in the Midwest told from a POV that is both Californian and transnational. To the naked eye, it probably doesn’t read as Midwestern almost at all, but I guess it’s my version. A version I would have loved to have read growing up in the Midwest as a mixed-race/hapa kid trying to figure my shit out.

During my time as Midwest editor of Joyland, a regionally themed journal, I was struck by the enormity of the region. It’s so many things; it’s hard to quantify! One of the many things I appreciate about Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments is just how big it is. The collection bursts at the seams in terms of its depiction of gender, race, geography, and style. Can you talk about a bit more about what I’d call Counterfactual Love Stories’s “mysterious abundance,” to borrow a phrase from the opening story, “Conspiracy of Lemons”?

I’ve definitely met quite a lot of Midwesterners who think I’m too urban or fancy or brand new to be Midwestern (in my writing and in person). It’s a weird battle for cultural authenticity when many of the people you identify with reject you as one of their own. At the end of the day, I think I’ve been Californicated, which is why I say shit like “hella” and “rad” without irony and feel more at home here in L.A. than I do in Chicago or Ann Arbor or Madison, even though I understand those places and love them in my own way. And I think it’s pretty easy for readers to see how complicated and expansive my love for the Midwest is in this collection of short stories. They get to experience firsthand both how multifaceted, stunning, dynamic, hard-working, and emotionally grounded the Midwest can be, but also how stifling, parochial, vast, isolated, and judgmental it can be as well, especially for mixed-race and BIPOC (and also those with a deep emotional reality). Beyond that, I feel like CLS&OE is as much about mixed-race identity (which almost always includes an element of racial and cultural hybridity of the self) as it is about the endless ways that we can tell stories about ourselves, violate the rules of storytelling, and reimagine storytelling itself. In other words, I feel like the largeness, the boldness, and the full-spectrum quality of this book reflect the largeness of place, the largeness of mixed-race people, and the largeness of the genre itself.

Almost all of the characters in the collection, in addition to being Midwestern, are mixed-race. Why was it important for you to highlight mixed-race, especially hapa, identity?

Several reasons. For one thing, the stories of mixed-race characters are rarely told and often ignored for many of the same reasons that mixed-race people are: we don’t fit perfectly into either category or community we (dis)identify with. Speaking only for myself, many hapas often don’t read as Asian, or we’re racially illegible, which means a fundamental part of our racial identity is a story we must tell every new person who misidentifies us, which happens over and over again. In other words, being mixed is as much a racial exploration and contradiction as it is a narrative identity and burden. For another, the racial binary in this country forces mixed-race people to “pick a side” all the time, even when they can’t or don’t want to. Even when they explicitly reject that binarism. So, part of me wanted to center mixed-race/hapa identity in this book and give visibility to the continuous negotiation that takes place between competing racial, class, historical, and cultural narratives of the self. After all, one unique perspective that many hapas bring to the table is the state of being simultaneously subaltern and hegemonic, which is technically impossible but actually very common. I also thought it was important to expand the literary archive for Michigan fiction, however imperfectly. There are amazing books written by so-called Michigan authors, but so few of them are BIPOC authors and even fewer are AAPI or hapa authors. Hopefully, this book complicates the inherent whiteness of that archive just a tiny bit.

III. “You never see that shit in top-shelf literary journals”

Do you have favorite stories in the collection? I’ll admit that I have favorites in my own. One way of looking at a collection is as a representation of a broad swath of time and experience. Looking back, I can fondly identify early versions of myself in my stories, versions of myself I don’t recognize anymore, versions that I wish were a bit more present, and those I’m happy I outgrew. All of which is to say, collections seem like very intimate and personal records of self and growth, even beyond the content of the stories themselves. 

I never play favorites, lol! Okay, actually, I do have a couple in this collection, not necessarily because they’re the best stories, but because I feel like they matter the most. So, for example, “Sola’s Asterisk” will always be one of my favorite stories simply because it’s so ambitious, so fearless, and so intriguing to read a short story about a character with eight different destinies in Chicago. Like, you never see shit like that in the top-shelf literary journals because it’s too much of a commitment and it asks too much of readers. Also, it’s too long for 2021 readers, myself included. I’m still an ambitious and conceptual writer, but I’m not sure if I could write that story now. I don’t have the patience or even the same artistic vision I did back then. Beyond that, I feel like that story is a perfect microcosm of the collection overall, both intersecting with and playing off of the major themes and narrative modalities of Counterfactual Love Stories but also existing autonomously, self-sufficiently, inside its own world according to its own rules. This is probably delusional of me, but I’m just waiting for a production studio to option that story because it’s effortlessly cinematic. Another reason why that story will always be one of my faves is because it helped me realize that I’m a writer, as crazy as that sounds. It was literally the first short story I wrote as an adult in my first fiction workshop back when I was living in Portland, Oregon. “Sola’s Asterisk” was as much a heuristic for me as it was a love song to the two movies I was most obsessed with when I wrote it: Amélie and Run Lola Run. If you understand those movies, then I think on some basic level, you understand this book, because so much of the storytelling in those movies exists in the minds of the protagonists and in the voice of the narrators.

Another favorite story is probably “14 Songs for the Steering Wheel” because of the modal narrative structure. I like that while each section is basically a self-contained piece of flash fiction, together they form an interconnected, self-buttressing, interwoven, and multifaceted short story that none of those individual sections could have realized on their own. It’s like Voltron for literary fiction except there are more moving pieces and more unhappy endings. Another reason this is a fave story is because it has more scars than most, and I think that makes me protective, solicitous, and more patient than normal. “14 Songs” is one of those stories that will almost always get destroyed in workshop (I know it did in mine) because it violates so many of the rules of workshop orthodoxy and fiction craft: the narrators’ voices are different, the plot lines are super-basic, the tone, language, and syntax shift continuously, some characters reappear but most don’t, causality and parallelism coexist, some sections are long and some are short, non-English words aren’t translated, and some of the stories don’t even take place in Michigan. In other words, this short story is pretty heterodox, which your average MFA student absolutely detests, even though they think they’re open-minded because they once read a Donald Barthelme story in college. But for me, “14 Songs” succeeds according to its own rules, not anyone else’s, and I think that’s part of what’s so exciting about that particular piece. And even if the story fails (and what does that even mean in the context of fiction writing?), I think it also fails on its own terms. But most people I talk to now seem to love it because it’s unlike anything they’ve ever read before.

Since we’re naming favorites, let me say how much I like “Blue Is the Loneliest Number,” “Conspiracy of Lemons,” and “Semipermeable Membrane.” They’re all so different and resist paraphrasing, but I think one thread that runs through them (and Counterfactual Love Stories in general) is their attention to shape and form. You mention Barthelme, and he’s someone I was thinking about while reading your collection. In particular, he spoke against deconstruction and said he’s not interested in the individual pieces of a work of art but in the way they come together. I love the way your seemingly fractured and atomized stories build and build until they overflow with deep emotion. I’m thinking especially of “Blue Is the Loneliest Number,” whose narrator is losing her vision and we see her world dissolve thread by thread. Could you talk a bit more about the way you think about shape and fragments?

What’s interesting about the stories you just mentioned is that I wrote each at radically different periods in my life. I wrote “Blue Is the Loneliest Number” in Portland in 2003 when I had made the life-changing decision to pursue a writing career instead of studying for the foreign service exam or applying to the UN. I wrote “Conspiracy of Lemons” in Indiana in 2007 back when my time as an MFA student was coming to an end and I worried I might not ever have time again to write. And I wrote “Semipermeable Membrane” in 2012 back when I was busy working on my dissertation in Chicago, haunted by my time in L.A. And yet, once I started seeing CLS&OE as a collective work and not just as a bunch of unrelated stories, once I began seeing that this book was about the interplay of self and place, about the negotiation of mixed-race identity in the Midwest, I think that discovery helped connect the individual stories together for me both conceptually and thematically. Also, as you hinted at in your question, there’s an underlining formalist aesthetic in Counterfactual Love Stories. I really do care as much about how a story is written as the story itself. This is probably one of the ways I disconnect with Borgesian stories. I love his cuentos so much, but mostly I love the ideas behind his stories, not necessarily the way he tells them, so one thing I’ve been trying to do since I started writing is combine a richness of ideas with a richness of language and characterization. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it really falls flat on its ass. But I’d rather try and fail, I guess, than write another Carveresque story that no one will remember (and that everyone will do better than me anyway). Ultimately, my emblem for writing is the kaleidoscope because I think it’s a perfect metaphor for how I write (for better and for worse). So much of what we think is unrelated (in reality) is only unrelated because we don’t see the thread that connects things together. But artists do! At least we should. And for me, the short story is the kaleidoscope and the twirling shapes, colors, and designs are the different fragments (or sections) of that story that only mean something collectively to me. The story doesn’t just bring those fragments together and keep them in a unified space, it’s also the special peephole through which we see that fragmental dance. It’s the specific pattern those shapes take inside our head that (should) linger in our imagination years afterward. But you’re so right, a lot of the emotion in my stories happens at the end once everything comes together, which feels synergistic I think.

You’ve mentioned the idea of stories failing several times, which brings to mind the idea of experiment. Experiment, to my mind, is an entire enterprise built on failure. You try something and either it works or doesn’t. You try again. You fail better (per Beckett). Is there a difference between being a writer who experiments and an experimental writer?

I think there is a difference, but then again, what do I know? I just write stories the way my brain understands them. And most experimental writers I know and love don’t even see me as a member of their team. Fuckers. I think a lot of writers probably experiment with their storytelling at some point in their writing career, but that doesn’t necessarily make them experimental any more than writing a straight-up narrative short story makes someone a realist. I mean, it might if that’s mostly what they write. In general, though, I think to identify with a particular genre, there has to be a specific and prolonged commitment to that genre. And the tricky thing about genres is that sometimes critics will staple genres to authors that the authors themselves reject or had never even considered when they were writing. So, on one hand, the question of who gets to decide which genre an author belongs to is confusing and open to debate. On the other hand, the term “experimental writing” feels so amorphous, unclassifiable, vague, and passé now, that it feels like almost any non-realist could qualify and almost any writer could be disqualified depending on which genre conventions are used. That’s one of the reasons I try not to worry too much about where my writing lands on the genre spectrum. As a conceptual writer, one of my biggest goals in my writing is to explore the infinite ways that stories can be told, reconsidered, reimagined, and transgressed. If a draft fails terribly, then I revise and recalibrate it (sometimes over and over again) until I feel like the story is forcing me to accept it as it is.

IV. “But I worry, I’ve always worried, about what we give up as writers to have university jobs.”

You recently left an academic job and you spoke pretty directly about negative ways your stories were workshopped in academic settings. You’re a smart guy — anyone who spends any amount of time with your collection will see that — but you seem pretty adamant about writing outside the university. Not to rehash the old NYC versus MFA debate, but, in your opinion, where does the best writing come from?

I think the best writing comes from the most original writers, pure and simple. It comes from the most deeply original, fearless, and disciplined writers who could write their books almost anywhere, whether they taught at MFA programs or were stuck in a Hollywood basement or working the nightshift as security guards. As it turns out, many of the most amazing fiction writers teach creative writing in the academy for the simple reason that the academy has hired — or attempted to hire — virtually every great writer on the planet.

When I look at some of my fave writers like Zadie Smith, Peter Ho Davies, Junot Diaz, Lydia Davis, Toni Morrison, Chang-rae Lee, Aimee Bender, Michael Chabon, Karen Tei Yamashita, Sandra Cisneros, Jeffrey Eugenides, Yiyun Li, Tommy Orange, and Haruki Murakami, almost all of them teach at the university (or used to for a time), even Murakami. And writers being artists, they know how impossible it is to live on one’s art in a capitalist society unless they write commercial fiction prolifically or they’re literary superstars. The rest of us can’t resist health insurance, talented young writers, the cultural exchange of the college classroom, and a stable income (even if it’s well below what we’re worth). That’s why I did it. But I worry, I’ve always worried, about what we give up as writers to have our university jobs. For many writers I know, they give up writing for most of the year because they’re teaching two to four classes a semester, they’re mentoring undergraduate and MFA students, they’re going to department and committee meetings, they’re advising a literary journal, they’re organizing a guest reading series, they’re doing pretty much everything except working on their novels, which is why they were hired (and how they’ll get tenure). I guess that’s what summers are for. And considering how corporatized universities have become, very few writers these days are getting those plum 2-2 schedules anymore. So, yes, many of the best writers do teach in academia for sure, but academia can also burn away our life, fill our schedule with meetings and endless emails, and turn us into glorified administrators. After all, you’re not getting that dope teaching position unless you center your own students, but if you do that (as you must and as you should), then you’re naturally de-centering your own writing. It’s a noble trade-off, but it’s a trade-off nonetheless. The most disciplined and driven writers I know can overcome those obstacles, but we shouldn’t have to make that choice. And of course, the other risk of staying inside the academic bubble, especially for college writers, is that it can be a convincing simulacrum of reality, but it’s not a replacement for reality. Writers need to live deeply in order to write deeply in my opinion. Many of the writers I love lived rich lives before they came to academia.

When I was an undergraduate, Michael Chabon visited my school just before Spider-Man 2 came out. He was there to talk about Kavalier & Clay but obviously we all wanted to talk to him about Spider-Man. At some point he was like, “You guys! I work on screenplays so I can be in the WGA and get health insurance. Can we please talk about my book now?” (He said this much more graciously, as I recall, but that was the gist.) It was sort of an eye-opening moment for me, realizing that writers worked on all sorts of projects for different reasons, commercial and otherwise, sometimes to get their guild credits and health insurance. A few years later, a professor at USC called me “perversely uncommercial.” For a while I wore it as a badge of honor, but as I got older the comment really dug. I’m not writing to cash in or make millions (or thousands or hundreds) but I do hope that people read my work. I think part of that means eliminating a certain amount of friction in order to make the work more accessible, whatever that might mean. How do you navigate these tensions? Your work challenges conventions, but I think it’s very outward-gazing as well.

I completely feel Michael Chabon, for the freedom he gains by writing screenplays, the health insurance and pension he gets from being part of WGA, and also the privilege and the joy of writing outside academia. I’m actually contemplating a similar move, since I’m in L.A. I’m working on a couple of screenplays about mixed-race/part-Asian identity as we speak, because I can, and because screenwriting is one of the only types of writing that is still paid its worth (and a pension would be nice). I think a lot about a conversation I had once with T. C. Boyle where I asked him if he’d ever go on a late-night show or read his fiction on the radio, and he said that he’d do almost anything that helped promote his work and connected his books to readers. I love and understand that level of devotion and feel the same way. So, whether I’m giving a reading from Counterfactual Love Stories at Chevalier’s Books, writing a short web series about hapas living in L.A., creating a speculative fiction hypertext, or writing the next After Sunset for mixed-race Angelenos, my goal is always the same: to find and connect with readers, to promote my work, to put my art out to the world, and to examine, investigate, and celebrate what it means to be human. I think that’s one reason why I don’t usually call my writing experimental but conceptual, because a lot of old school or classic experimentalists — pardon the oxymoron — were white guys with brilliant minds but no editor in sight. Don’t get me wrong, I love their writing so much, but their writing never makes my cry. I think that CLS&OE (and also Amnesia of June Bugs and Dream Pop Origami) centers humanity as much as it centers language, ideas, love, and storytelling, while also showcasing mixed-race and AAPI narratives. All of those genre conventions I mention modulate the genre for me and makes it feel like a different genre. Also, none of my writing friends who are experimentalists think my writing is experimental! Probably just as well because I’m not sure I do either. I’m too conscious of the outside world and too fixated on the ways that we can examine our own humanity and overcome our own emotional voids to qualify.

As you mentioned, Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments is the first of three books you’ve got coming out. Congratulations! I know these are all projects that have been long in the making. Care to give us a preview of what we can look forward to?

I’m happy to. So, Counterfactual Love Stories, my debut short story collectioncomes out on October 1, 2021. Then, in March 2022, my debut novel, Amnesia of June Bugs, comes out by 7.13 Books (out of Brooklyn). It’s basically about a Chinese American culture jammer, a mixed-race teacher from New York, a Moroccan French translator from Paris, and an Indian American traveler from Chicago whose paths all cross on the New York City subway during Hurricane Sandy. Much like the short story “Blue Is the Loneliest Number” in Counterfactual Love Stories, this novel is told backward, structurally divided into the four stages of an insect’s life cycle: adult, pupa, larva, and egg. Amnesia of June Bugs is conceptual, lyrical, and character-based, like my short story collection. Karen Tei Yamashita called Amnesia a “21st-century love song to America,” which is incredibly kind of her, but I also think it’s a massive protest against capitalism, adulthood, linearity, and perfect endings. For example, one of the most heartbreaking parts of this novel for me is the counterfactual narrative thread dedicated to an alternate reality wherein two of the main characters fall in love and start dating. To know how beautiful things could have been for them and then to find out that that’s not what happened is, I think, pretty fucking sad. But it’s a sadness laced with something extraordinarily beautiful, even if it can only exist in another world for them. Then there’s also another narrative thread dedicated to an Asian American political graffiti artist who’s struggling to come to terms with his father’s death and his mixed-race girlfriend who is struggling to become a mom, both of them fighting their own voids. What’s interesting is that the lives of these four characters intersect, but it’s only the reader who knows every story of every character. In this novel, the reader is also the librarian. Fun fact: This novel was my MFA thesis at Notre Dame and it pretty much took me 12 years to rewrite and revise it with lots of enlightening suggestions along the way.

And then, last but not least, in July 2022, Dream Pop Origami, my debut memoir, comes out by Unsolicited Press (out of Portland, Oregon). Much like Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments, this memoir is about mixed-race identity, AAPI masculinities, and fragmentation, and is essentially a work of ideas and lyricism at its core. But it’s also highly conceptual, blending themes of cyclicity, personal vulnerability, diasporic longing, love and desire, and narrative variability with a quiet celebration and reimagining of Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book. The central conceit in Dream Pop Origami is that readers can pick a number between 1 and 74 and then start reading the corresponding entry, they can pick a random page, or they can start from the very beginning. Either way, at the end of each personal essay and autobiographical list, readers get to choose from a list of options about where they go next, exactly like a choose-your-own-adventure book but this time with my life (no pressure at all!). This freedom of choice gives readers the ability to partially direct, create, and reinvent my own stories according to their own imagination. It gives readers the power to decide where the book begins and ends. It lets them decide whether they want to avoid trauma (or love or pain or nostalgia or self-loathing or joy) or jump right into the middle of it. Because of how the memoir is written, every reader will read a slightly different version of it, which I find incredibly exciting as a text. Ultimately, Dream Pop Origami is about racial self-discovery, travel, metamorphosis, and love, which can all be the same thing sometimes. One more fun fact: I came up with the idea of this memoir back in grad school and vowed I would someday write it and that day finally came, even if it took 16 years to pull it off!

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Bryan Hurt is the author of Everyone Wants to Be Ambassador to France and editor of Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest. His fiction and essays have been published in The American Reader, Catapult, Guernica, Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, and many others.