On March 23, the upper level of Literati Bookstore was standing-room only. People were sardined into corners, craning their necks to get better views, balancing on tiptoes. They were eager. Lindy West -- journalist, comic, and internet personality -- was about to read from her bestselling memoir, Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman. As she approached the podium, the at-capacity room erupted in applause.
Shrill chronicles West's journey from painfully shy child to (over-)exposed public figure, and the trials, tribulations, and triumphs it took to get there. It's also a hilarious, poignantly honest expose of self-discovery. But most of all, it's a bildungsroman for an age dominated by internet culture, social media, and the rampant sexism that infiltrates both.
West began her career writing for The Stranger, Seattle's alternative press, where she became a viral sensation for her barbed wit and acerbic criticism of pop culture. Soon, though, those unapologetically candid columns made her a target of the monolithic, anonymous ire of the internet, which descended on her en masse. They attacked her relentlessly, threatened her life, her family; they harassed her for being herself, for being outspoken -- for being visible.
But West only got louder, drowning out the incessant, white-noise cacophony of her trolls by becoming a role model for those who exist outside "the norm."
Big Lonesome, Joseph Scapellato's first collection of stories, was published at the end of February. Divided into three parts -- "Old West," "New West," and "Post-West" -- the stories form a triptych, a landscape, a cave-painting; they begin and end and begin again, all-too-familiar and too new, digging into what we think we know about the American West.
The West, a central character in most of the stories, looms out and over, its flowers and cacti and creatures blooming, rustling the pages. This is a collection that follows a cowgirl, "born of a beef cow," of "ours"; follows a mutt-faced cowboy whose scar-smile brings him home to strangers; follows a man whose fiancée's dog sees and hears more than the man ever could. This is a book that deserves to be passed between friends, outsiders, enemies; to be shouted from on high and from on low.
Scapellato, an assistant professor of English at Bucknell College, earned his MFA from New Mexico State University. He will be in conversation with Claire Vaye Watkins on March 10 at Literati Bookstore. We spoke with Scapellato in anticipation of that reading.