Fiona Helmsley is a writer of creative non-fiction and poetry. Her writing can be found in various anthologies like How Dirty Girls Get Clean and Air in the Paragraph Line and online at websites like Jezebel, xoJane and The Rumpus. She can be reached through her blog Flee Flee This Sad Hotel at http://ilikemymeattender.blogspot.com.
by Gene Gregorits
Monastrell Press/ July, 2013
524 pages, $20.00 buy from Amazon or Monastrell at http:www.sexandgutsradio.com
I’m a little envious of Gene Gregorits. Not only is he a great writer, he indulges in the kind of public displays of frustration that most writers and artists can only fantasize about. An artist can’t eat Facebook “likes.” Gene lashes out at his fan base when his books aren’t selling, and the current state of popular literature when he feels that his contributions are being ignored. Gene spends a lot of time raging, but he does it in a way that is poetic, smart, and often achingly funny. You root for Gene because he’s a talented madman, and his targets mostly deserve it: ex-friends, ex-lovers, Harmony Korine, David Eggers. Anyone vacuous, anyone smarmy; no one is safe.
Gregorits. This is going to get ugly.
Gene’s most notorious freak-out, the one that will most likely establish his name in the same canon as the other creative, self-destructive greats (it’s worth noting, that like Van Gogh, Gregorits paints watercolors, which he sells online) is “The Ear Incident.” On a warm summer night in July, 2012, after threatening to do so for weeks online, Gene cut off, then ate his earlobe, videotaped the process, and posted the video on YouTube. The three years leading up to the incident are documented in the form of Facebook statuses in his new book, Fishhook (2013, Monastrell Press).
Fishhook 2nd cover. Lawsuits are expensive.
What the movie Network did for the frustrated-TV age, giving us the catchphrase, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Fishhook does for the frustrated- internet age and it’s just as quotable. In a status update from July 9, 2011, Gregorits writes, “Maybe I could write David Egger’s and beg him for some of his Squeaky Clean Guy Blood, but I fear that would make my penis ascend into my body cavity and vanish forever. Well, at this point, my johnson is expendable. I just want out of my god damn mother fucking misery.” Fishhook is the online diary of an exasperated writer pushed to the brink, and going over it.
Gregorits is hyper- aware that respect and recognition is most often given to real outsider artists posthumously: it’s the ultimate strait-jacket. Fishhook ends with Gregorits committed to a Florida State mental hospital, where he makes like Jean Genet did while imprisoned. Gregorits uses the empty hours of institutionalized- living to complete the sequel to his popular underground memoir, Dog Days.
In a Fishhook entry dated May 12, 2012, Gene writes, “I don’t care much whether I die or not. I’ve been physically uncomfortable for so long, it would be a relief. The important thing is that this book is read and understood.”
I don’t believe any of us can ever really be understood, but what we do, and claim to believe, can be put in context, and we can be empathized with. With Fishhook Gregorits ensures he will never go gentle into the good night. We will always know exactly what put him there.