Zipper Mouth

Zipper Mouth

4.3 3
by Laurie Weeks
     
 

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WINNER OF A 2012 LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD

In this extraordinary debut novel, Laurie Weeks captures the freedom and longing of life on the edge in New York City. Ranting letters to Judy Davis and Sylvia Plath, an unrequited fixation on a straight best friend, exalted nightclub epiphanies, devastating morning-after hangovers—Zipper Mouth chronicles

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Overview

WINNER OF A 2012 LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD

In this extraordinary debut novel, Laurie Weeks captures the freedom and longing of life on the edge in New York City. Ranting letters to Judy Davis and Sylvia Plath, an unrequited fixation on a straight best friend, exalted nightclub epiphanies, devastating morning-after hangovers—Zipper Mouth chronicles the exuberance and mortification of a junkie, and transcends the chaos of everyday life.

Laurie Weeks has been a superstar in the New York downtown writing world since the 1980s. Her fiction and other writings have been published in The Baffler, Vice, Nest, Index Magazine, LA Weekly, and Semiotext(e)'s The New Fuck You. A portion of this novel appeared recently in Dave Eggers' The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has taught in writing programs at University of California San Diego and the New School, and has toured the United States with the girl-punk group Sister Spit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Weeks’s brash, exuberant debut traces a young lesbian woman’s tortured, drug-addled, unrequited crush while living in New York City in edgier times. Hailing from a small farming community in the Midwest where she rejected the prevailing passions of “hunting and vacuuming,” the narrator, the daughter of an alcoholic father (“a drunken pork sausage”) who eventually died a violent death, gravitated to New York in her 20s, stumbled into odd jobs, heroin, and cocaine, and fell hopelessly in love with Jane, a savvy performance artist who happens to be straight—despite her ambiguous come-ons. This keeps the narrator in a feverish state of “fascinating and seductive interiority”; she’s drugged up, out of work, and obsessing, as her letter to actress Judy Davis clearly shows: “Though you look so calm and composed in your films, Judy, I suspect this to be a well-rehearsed defense mechanism.” The narrator is wracked by anxieties and is at home in the toxic landscape of 1980s lower Manhattan; drugs and alcohol both calm and stimulate her, lending the prose a psychotic compression that recalls Naked Lunch and imparts a fresh, lyrical sympathy to Week’s narrator. Dreamy, impressionistic, and rapturous, this brief volume is an ecstatic love story. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
WINNER OF A 2012 LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD

Selected by Dave Eggers for Best American Nonrequired Reading.

"Laurie Weeks' Zipper Mouth is a short tome of infinitesimal reach, a tiny star to light the land."—Eileen Myles, author of Inferno

Zipper Mouth is a brilliant rabbit hole of pitch-black hilarity, undead obsession, the horror of the everyday, and drugs drugs drugs."—Michelle Tea, co-founder of Sister Spit

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558617483
Publisher:
Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date:
10/04/2011
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
1,218,221
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.56(h) x 0.51(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE:
I decided I was in love with this girl so I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. I smoked cigarettes and lay on the bed. I wanted her to drop by in the afternoon for a nap. It didn’t seem likely and this was part of my pleasure, like the agony of fixating on a dead movie star the way I’d become obsessed at age fifteen with the long-decomposed actress Vivien Leigh, a.k.a. Scarlett O’Hara, and her later, more bummed-out incarnation, Blanche DuBois. Instead of rock stars, I had pictures of Vivien all over my room, glossy publicity shots and film stills I’d ordered or simply received in the mail, gifts from sad obsessives who advertised, as I did, in the back pages of Nostalgia, Illustrated, a creepy classic-movie magazine for shut-ins and losers that I’d stumbled across on the racks at Consumer’s Supermarket while leafing through Seventeen and holding my breath against the stench from the sugar beet factory reigning over adjacent fields. At night I lay awake in sadness, grieving that Vivien had died alone, coughing herself to death consumptively long before I was old enough to intervene. “She was a great actress,” I said morosely to my friends, trying to visualize her having sex with Laurence Olivier, an image not so easy, really, to wrap your mind around. Part of her allure was the fact that she spelled “Vivien” with an e, not an a, the e more refined and seductive, the a somehow thudding and crude, witness the barbarian Vivian Vance.

In one of the photos tacked up inside my teenage closet, Vivien leans into the lens and smiles, glamorous in the low-cut red velvet robe she wore in Gone With the Wind when Rhett takes her upstairs and rapes her, at which point she blossoms into the fullness of her love. The shot’s a medium close-up taken as she relaxes on the set, in her hand a cigarette, she’s smoking. Each day after school I'd lock my bedroom door, open the closet, and stand with my peanut butter sandwich, staring into Vivien's green eyes as if my gaze, held long enough, could jump-start the pulse in her throat, compel the hand with that cigarette off the page and up to my lips to offer me a drag, her body following to step gracefully into my room, suspended tobacco smoke drawn back into the chamber of her mouth as she starts to breathe again for real. Jesus, I couldn’t imagine: Mom vacuuming the same spot suspiciously outside my door while inside there’s this movie star thing looking into your eyes. Oh my god you just want to be the smoke pulled between her lips. What happens when you get inside a person anyway, up that close, inside their mouth? It’s like a photograph blown up. They just dissolve into a haze of black and white dots until all you have is molecules and air, nothing there.

That day on the sidewalk you lifted your arm above your head. There in the hollow the wispy dark hairlets, I couldn’t breathe. I lit a cigarette, walked inside a building. Dreamily I got through my task, propelled by shots of adrenaline at the thought of your name. The job was easy, I didn’t care. I drifted home, not minding the sidewalk, the wreckage percolating around me. Your name is Jane. I floated through my door, lit a cigarette, my nerves were black. I thought I might buy some drugs and call you up.

“I’m a Scorpio,” Vivien explained to a reporter, “and we Scorpios are like that: we eat ourselves up and burn ourselves out.” At fifteen, I lumbered numbly through various hallways—from my bedroom to the kitchen, from the snack bar to math. In geometry I sat there flunking and stared with loathing at my forearm: it looked so meaty. Whenever the guy next to me glanced over, I hid it in my lap. I had long, thin limbs but in my mind I was a sausage, the wrapping stretched tight to bursting with a putrid, ground-up meat inside. I pictured the finespun Vivien huddled in the corner of a darkened hotel room in Rome, abandoned by Olivier, career on the rocks, cold flames rolling off her, burning alive in the firestorm of her manic depression. I watched the scorpion stinger on her tail, stuck in her own throat and convulsively pushing poison into her neck. Something that doesn’t hurt one part of your body can leak from its sac and paralyze another.

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Meet the Author

Laurie Weeks has been an underground superstar in the New York downtown writing world since the 1980s. Her fiction and other writings have been published in The Baffler, Vice, Nest, Index, LA Weekly, and Semiotext(e)’s The New Fuck You. A portion of this novel appeared recently in Dave Egger’s The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has taught in writing programs at UC San Diego and The New School, and has toured the US with the girl-punk group Sister Spit.

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Zipper Mouth 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
MargoH More than 1 year ago
This novel was included in a category labeled “Humorous Novels” in a list of possible purchases I consulted. I suppose it is in fact humorous in a dark, cynical, life-is-miserable sense, but it seems essentially a 100-page uninterrupted monologue by a gay female narrator describing her life as a drug user and her interactions over a period of several years with assorted maladjusted people. The novel’s style reminded me a bit of that used by Henry Miller in his Tropics novels or by James Joyce’s Ulysses: short manic, psychedelic, vivid outbursts with descriptions of people, places, and experiences. It jumps back and forth in brief segments, in no obviously logical order, between the narrator’s ages of about 7 and 30. Several of the episodes in present time center on her friend Jane, also a drug user, on whom the narrator, as a gay female, has a strong but frustratingly unrequited, crush. I admire the author’s ability to create vivid word pictures, of the type undoubtedly experienced by someone under the influence of mind-expanding drugs. For example (p 79), the narrator is describing a painting: “…I see witches growing from a small hill or the top of a new-born planet, these witches are also trees. I see a sky with three wobbly objects like lavender clouds, green shadows sailing across the ground. Over the horizon a small tree or perhaps a yellow cloud on a brown stick, growing up from the curving earth. Incoming signals in origami packets, a translucent-winged insect named Jane sailing in on a paper boat.” Even though the novel seems highly regarded by important critics, if you are seeking a traditional novel with a linear plot development, this is not the book for you. Perhaps the work could better be thought of as the verbal equivalent of modern abstract art: splotches of color with interesting shapes but whose significance is not obvious to the unwashed viewer. I felt that the author is attempting to impart a message to readers but a message which I unfortunately am too dense or too vanilla to grasp.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it! Laurie Weeks' writing drew me right in to the twisted rationality of the addicted mind. The main character is brilliant and clever and passionate and hopelessly addicted to every substance available and every girl she meets, even the straight ones. The character's apartment and her job and her social life come to light with hilarious clarity, illuminating the beautiful tragedies of urban life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:((( why not? Sorry i took forever to reply my nook died :p