Introduction for Jean Znidarsic
WTAW PDX “Bridge”
August 19, 2018
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
Jean Znidarsic, our final reader for the evening, joins us from San Francisco, where, as co-founder and fiction curator of Peninsula Literary, she has been promoting and encouraging writers for over a decade. A few years back, Jean created The Dystrumpian Almanac, an online literary journal dedicated to “Resistance, Survival, and Camaraderie!” in our current political era. These days, she’s busier than ever: founding and running Tarweed, an accelerator for writers, serving on the board of the Belize Writing Conference, and putting the finishing touches on her novel.
A few days ago, someone – her brother, actually – told me a tidbit about Jean: After taking a pre-med class that required her to spend time in a cadaver lab, she became a vegetarian for a year. Well, sure, I thought, but then – then! – she became a novelist.
I say this because Jean wields her pen like a forensic pathologist wields her scalpel, neatly eviscerating her favorite subjects – modern American culture, and, by guilty association, modern Americans – and placing the contents of said evisceration into the dissecting pan of her pages, such that her readers get an intimate look at the mechanism of death. She makes great use of her forceps, revealing not merely the underbelly, but the shiny guts of her subject, and probes unflinchingly at those guts with pointed irony. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Jean’s evisceration – er, writing – is that the specimen she is dissecting is us, her readers, and all from the inside out. This might sound as if Jean’s writing is chilling and gruesome, which it kind of is when you really look at what she’s showing you, but mostly, it’s just funny. Wry, satirical, and unapologetically smart.
As contributing editor of the Dystrumpian Almanac, Jean routinely flays open our current administration – with the necessary gloves of humor, don’t worry! Here we find advice from “kindly Avicenna, our Apothecary from the First Middle Ages,” who offers useful tips for surviving “Dystrumpia.” One such tip is a shopping list for converting that “first aid kit into a handy Dystrumpian Do It Yourself Doctor Bag,” including such items as “morphine, bone saw, trepan, coat hangers- assorted, hemostat, needles, fishing line, duct tape, cannabis.” With the deadpan tone of the very worst bedside surgeon, Jean’s writing diagnoses our present malady: we have, indeed, voluntarily chosen to return to the ignorance and suffering of the Dark Ages.
Her forthcoming novel, from which she will read today, is perhaps a touch lighter, though may – for some of us – cut even closer to home. Shivansana tells “the story of two women who go to Napa for a vacation, discover they are invisible and embark on a series of capers, igniting a spiritual journey driven by a murderous quest for enlightenment.” Along the way, they meet a yoga teacher, “aptly named Acrimony,” who leaves her students “drenched in the briny steam of their own suffering.” I hope we meet her, too.
Please welcome Jean Znidarsic.