Pay Pigs, Incels, and Young Sociopaths

By A. J. BrownMarch 23, 2024

Pay Pigs, Incels, and Young Sociopaths
PARASOCIALITE BOOK LAUNCH WITH BRITTANY MENJIVAR, Stories Books & Café, Los Angeles, March 15, 2024.

Last year, Brittany Menjivar co-founded the late-night reading series Car Crash Collective. This year, the Best of the Net finalist released her debut anthology Parasocialite via Dream Boy Book Club, which launched at Stories Books & Café on the Ides of March 2024. There, the group that surrounded Menjivar and crowded the Stories patio bore flowers, buzzing anticipation, and well-wishes.

First among the night’s readers was Car Crash Collective co-founder Erin Satterthwaite, debuting a piece about “pay pigs” in the DMs of her narrator, who begins subsidizing her corporate income by moonlighting as a financial dominatrix. Tess Pollok of Animal Blood read from her piece “Denver,” published in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. “Denver” tells of its titular character and the shopkeeper who loves him like a son—which he knows “because Hovik’s actual son worked at the store and Hovik seemed indifferent to his suffering”—and of a terrible collision with a highway median apropos of an event hosted by Menjivar, since Car Crash Collective was “partially incited by a near-fatal car accident she suffered.” Pollok was followed by writer and actress Sascha Nastasi, who shared a story about a narrator living in the shadow of his font-inventor brother, evoking a tongue-in-cheek commentary on internet culture reminiscent of Menjivar’s own anthology.

The readings closed out with my favorite piece from Parasocialite, “Animal Blood.” The short story centers on the friendship between a young sociopath named Kevin—who tries to induce feeling by slaughtering animals in a PETA virtual reality simulator at the mall—and the first-person narrator, who spans Parasocialite’s hyperop-shiny, whip-smart prose.

A Q and A between Menjivar and publisher Jonathan Blake Fostar—a.k.a. Dream Boy Book Club—focused on displaced toenails as well as poetry and prose (both of which formats shine in Parasocialite). Menjivar spoke about her experience with the venue, explaining: “The first time I came to L.A. five years ago, I took an Uber to a random neighborhood that sounded cool (Echo Park) and they actually dropped me off at Stories.” It was a full-circle moment for many in the audience, particularly as the conversation moved to the L.A. literary community, which Menjivar said embraced her as she embraced it. Menjivar expressed her gratitude for the community’s late-night diner writing sessions as well as its general air of warmth and openness.

To end the night, the conversation turned to the crowd, and to a favorite topic of Menjivar’s (as well as the subject of her undergraduate thesis): incels. Menjivar’s fascination with characters lurking in the darkest corners of the internet permeates Parasocialite, featuring in everything from ISIS beheading videos to celebrity sexual misconduct allegations. Yet Menjivar, known for her kindness and intelligence, assumed a similar role to her narrator in even those conversations: that of an observer reaching into dark corners, offering a hand.


Photo of Brittany Menjivar by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Aiden “A.J.” Brown is a Chicago-born, LA-based writer, multimedia artist, and Aquarius rising. Their work has appeared in Hobart Pulp, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Dream Boy Book Club, among others. Their Bachelor-inspired murder mystery received the 2023 T Paulo Urcanse Prize For Literary Excellence from High Horse magazine. Their debut anthology, The Apple House, is slated to rerelease in 2025 with Bullshit Lit.


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