They Sprayed the Radiation Away (also, my AWP schedule)

I think we're all ready for winter to be over. Right now it is snowing or raining or something in between. Around here, the weather never quite knows what it wants to be when it grows up.

Tomorrow, I'm reading at Roosevelt University if you're in Chicago. Come by Gage Gallery at 4:30 and have yourself a listen if you are of a mind.

Next week is AWP! Here is my schedule for those of you inclined to stalk me:

I'll be at the bookfair most of the time, working the PANK table at S27.

On Thursday, Tiny Hardcore Press is having a reading at 4 pm at the Cambridge Community Television studio with Rose Metal Press, Gold Line Press, Les Figues, and Anamolous. The THP readers will be James Tadd Adcox, Casey Hannan, and Ashley Farmer.

I'll be reading with very fancy people at the VIDA prom. I will be wearing jeans, not a prom dress. Doors open at 8, readings at 9, dancing at 10! Come early, as the space will fill.

Later that night, PANK, Hobart, and Barrelhouse are having a Not Reading.

On Friday, I'm reading with the Rumpus/McSweeney's gang with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thomas Page McBee, and others! This starts at 7 pm.

Last but not least, I am on a panel on Saturday with Marcia Aldrich, BJ Hollars, Ryan Van Meter, and Bonnie Rough:

How To Lose Friends and Alienate Loved Ones: Exploitation vs. Documentation in Creative Nonfiction
Date: Saturday, March 9
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. 

Location: Room 306, Hynes Convention Center


I also have new writings out in the world!

In the current issue of Oxford American (80), I have a very short story called Group Fitness.

I also have a very long short story, The Year I Learned Everything, in the Spring 2013 issue of Prairie Schooner. They haven't updated the website with the issue yet, but I got my contributor copies and they are pretty. Way back in the day, when I was getting my M.A., I was an editorial assistant for Prairie Schooner, and I really wanted to someday find my way into the magazine as a writer and I thought it would never be possible. I was wrong! Mission accomplished! Or as Anne Hathaway might say, “It came true.”

Retirement, imminent.

Here is a sneak preview of The Year I Learned Everything:

It is summer in a dead end town. There’s not much good to say about that. I have been spending a lot of time at the community center pool. The lifeguards at the pool are all ugly so it's kind of a waste of time. I always hope I'll see a cute boy there and I like how the hot pavement feels when I walk barefoot. One of the lifeguards, his name is Jason Miller. He's in college and still has terrible acne. I feel sorry for him. Acne is supposed to go away when you're in college. You’re supposed to grow into your looks. He seems pretty lonely. Even though he wears sunglasses all the time, he stares at me. I always set my towel right next to his lifeguard stand and make sure to wear my skimpiest bikini. I feel like I'm doing a good deed. Sometimes, after he jumps in the water to help a kid who can't swim or whatever, he climbs back into his seat and water from his body drips on me. He tastes like chlorine and sunscreen. I keep waiting for him to ask me out. He knows I’m going to be a senior this year; I told him. I think he's afraid of girls. My brother says men who are afraid of girls are gay but Jason Miller isn't gay. When I roll onto my back and see him staring at me, I also see a rise in his swim trunks. Last week, I saw him at the Skate & Bowl with some of his friends. He's the best looking of the bunch so you can imagine how ugly his friends are. They were all bowling and really getting into it like total fucking losers. I mean honestly, it's bowling. My dad bowls. Bowling is the only thing that makes him happy but he's old so he has an excuse. These guys are like nineteen or twenty and bowling makes them happy. There's no hope. Anyway, Jason Miller was sitting off to the side drinking a beer. He must have a fake ID. He looked lonelier than he does at the pool. I sat next to him and started drinking his beer. He didn't say anything so I stared at him and slowly drank every drop of that beer and he stared right back and when I finished, I set the glass down. He said, “You're welcome,” so I said, “Thank you.” Then my friends came looking for me. I squeezed his thigh, surprised by the muscle and he turned bright red. I slid my hand higher to see how red he could get. I would have stayed longer. I wanted to stay longer. I would have squeezed other parts of him but I had to go. I want Jason Miller real bad.

Lastly (SORRY), I have an essay in Salon about narrow literary conversations that's connected in spirit to this essay at The Rumpus about why diversity matters and why sometimes satire comes at too steep a price.

Many people have asked what it's like to work with big publishers and I don't have a lot to tell you yet but I will keep you updated on the secrets as best I can! Oh I have learned one thing! Free books! They just send them! I've also learned that things move very slowly when paperwork is involved and the editors I am working with are really nice and smart. I've gotten notes on my novel that I need to think about and then apply to a revision. I'm working on an introduction for my essay collection and thinking about structure. When I have release dates and other secrets I will divulge. I think the most popular question concerns French flaps and I don't know yet on that either but trust, if I get French flaps, you will know.

I've been to the movies!

Safe Haven was very much a Nicholas Sparks movie, set in a South utterly devoid of black people. It's really impressive how he consistently manages this. There's a handsome guy and a beautiful girl and a dark secret and a mystery and then there's this hilarious “twist” at the end that is not to be believed. Now, full disclosure, I saw the preview for Safe Haven a couple months ago and I was like man, I'm going to have to read this book. I did that, friends. I did. The book was terrible. When I got to the twist, I almost hurt my Kindle but I restrained myself because it is pretty new. Then I laughed and laughed because it was just so ridiculous. I was prepared for the nonsense and I still found the twist ludicrous. That said, this is not an offensively bad movie. It's well-acted even though the plot is typically overwrought the way Sparks loves to do. Also, Josh Duhamel looks great in board shorts. That's what really matters here.

Moving along.

As you might imagine, no fucks were in danger of being given during the making of A Good Day to Die Hard. This was an odd movie that was a pastiche of the previous four Die Hard installments as well as some other action movies thrown in for good measure but it was all bizarre and poorly rendered so at times the movie was baffling and at other times, the movie was simply hilariously bad. Everything was bad.

When the movie opens, two older Russian men, one in prison, are having a little chat about a file. This file will be discussed for nearly the entirety of the movie so just get used to hearing “the file.”  The guy in prison, Yuri, refuses to give the other guy what he wants. There's going to be a trial though and they are both ominous about what's going to go down during the trial. Yuri leaves us with this sentiment:


On a shooting range with the NYPD logo conveniently painted on the wall (so we can know they are in New York without having to pay for any shooting in New York or some backlot made to resemble New York), John McClain, bald, face surgically and chemically tight but not tragically so like his buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger, is shooting and the old man's still got it! He gets all his shots in a little cluster. One of the guys from Prison Break, hands him a file and we learn that it has information on someone who has been up to no good and then there's a ham-fisted reveal that the someone is John McClain's son. He's in Russia and

he's about to go on trial for his misdeeds! Daddy to the rescue!

John goes to the airport and from Die Hard 1 we know he hates flying but mercifully we're saved any stupid jokes about this. This will be the only time we are saved from stupid jokes. At the airport his daughter hugs him goodbye just to remind us that Die Hard 4 was about her sort of. It's not memorable. Once in Moscow, there's traffic and some lame banter with a cab driver who is straight from Russian Cab Driver central casting. Eventually McClain makes it to the courthouse and walks around looking sort of befuddled.

Meanwhile, some serious looking fellows in dark suits and dark Mercedes sedans drive around Moscow looking criminal. Three sedans pull up alongside the courthouse and just like that, they are blown up!  Jack McClain, the son, helps Yuri escape!  Lots of people die.

This movie is, essentially, one long explosion with some awkward dialogue thrown in for good measure. It is also a movie with a blatant disregard, if not hostility, for human life.

This is how Die Hard 5 feels about life:


Out in the street, Jack and Yuri jump into a van, also Mercedes product placement, and John McClain stops in front of the van and Jack cant believe it. He's like, seriously? My dad? In downtown Moscow? When I'm doing something sneaky? Parents just don't understand.


For the next ten minutes or so Bruce Willis seems to mostly talk to himself about wanting to talk to his son. It's really really uncomfortable to watch. I'm not sure if it was a sound mixing problem or an editing problem or a directing problem, but a problem it was. McClain was just doddering around, babbling about not being done talking to Jack, and on and on. Just terrible.

Eventually there's a very long car chase, one that takes up approximately 20% of the movie as if the director wondered how he might get this shit show to 90 minutes, and came up with this solution. At one point, McClain uses cars as, well, a driving surface and conveniently, the necessary configuration of cars is available to facilitate this. It's a car road!

It looked a bit like this but with lots of destruction and crunching sounds.

kc jump

After some conflagration, Jack goes back to save his dad and then they're all together and they go to a safe house and we learn Jack is a CIA agent. Now, you would think John would be excited about this, or at the very least, relieved to know his son isn't an international criminal but no, he makes some snide, faintly humorous remarks about “spy shit.”

Cole Hauser is Jack's partner and he's in the movie for about two minutes and then he's killed because somehow, the bad guys have found them. Jack/Yuri/John run for safety into the same abandoned mall/set used in lots of movies including last year's absolute travesty, The Darkest Hour. Yeah, I sure did see that in theaters. I did.

Yuri says he needs to go meet his beloved daughter and pick up a key for the file or something at a hotel where he and his wife last danced. I was already tuning out at this point so details are hazy from here on out. They go to the hotel and once again John McClain is being snarky and there`s this fake moment where Jack overhears Yuri and John chatting about parental regrets. Eventually, they get up to this ballroom and  father and daughter reunite and it's a bit awkward because something is off.

What could it


John then feels like something just isn't right and Jack is being stubborn and petulant until he notices, over yonder, a fancy helicopter hanging out on a nearby roof and realizes it's a set up. Yuri grabs what he needs at some point but then the daughter turns on him and she and her men abscond with him.

Now, one of the Russian villains stays behind to take care of the father and son and as in all movies with psychopaths or sociopaths, this guy cannot help but narrate his hatred of Americans, life, everything good in the world. You can always spot a weak screenplay by this device of having the bad guy provide an overwhelming amount of exposition to fill in blanks or to demonstrate just how bad he (or she) is. I SEE YOU, SCREENWRITER!

John and Jack save themselves and then they go hang out in the parking lot of a night club. Jack finds a car he feels like stealing, opens the trunk et voila!


It's full of guns, grenades, bulletproof vests—basically everything they need to save the day. Jack is real smug and says, “This is a Chechen night club,” and I thought, That's racist!

Now this is where the movie goes the rest of the way off the rails. Yuri and his daughter go to Chernobyl. Yes, Chernobyl. I am absolutely serious here. There's some lame backstory I won't bore you with but the “file” is in a vault in the middle of this nuclear wasteland. Eh, no prob. There's a big production of breaking into the vault and then we realize there is no file. There was never a file! Instead, the vault is full of weapons-grade plutonium and the daughter hasn't betrayed the father. He's been masterminding the whole thing. They take this spray LOL and this is when I lost it. I guffawed. They begin to spray everything down and then they're all, welp, we can take off our masks now.

They sprayed the radiation away, is what I am saying.


John and Jack drive up to Chernobyl, just like that, and there's a dramatic ending where they realize Yuri isn't trying to defect and hand over the “file,” he's just trying to retrieve his billions of dollars worth of uranium. John says, wryly, “It's always about the money.”

There's also a helicopter scene that confirms my helicopter movie rule. If there's an action movie involving a helicopter, someone is getting chopped up by rotor blades. This is fact. The best part about this scene was that the CGI was TERRIBLE. We are talking Etch-a-Sketch levels of CGI.

The scene was

also eerily reminiscent of two scenes from Die Hard 4, only, with the background of the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Of course.



Because of all this mayhem and murder, father and son have bonded, they are victorious, and everyone lives happily ever after.

A few additional notes:

  • At random points, they borrowed from scenes from the previous franchises, basically shot for shot, like the gold removal scene from Die Hard 3. If it's not broken, don't fix it, y'all!
  • Yuri's daughter has some Electra issues I cannot even get into. Also, face actor.
  • During all of this battling across Moscow and Chernobyl, at no point is there any kind of intervention from the authorities. It is absolutely a free for all. Enjoy yourselves, throughout the city, criminals!
  • What radiation poisoning?

I felt… dirty after seeing this movie and not in a good way. I am sorry I saw it and then felt compelled to tell you about it for a lot of words.


5 comments on “They Sprayed the Radiation Away (also, my AWP schedule)

  1. Why. Why do I start reading casually in my google reader while I’m listening to muse-ic and sort of journaling like the movie review section isn’t going to require my undivided attention. Because I LOVE it. Seriously, can we talk about how Mr. Sparks writes grand literature in the vein of epic poetry (I guess) and also (don’t forget) thinks he can rewrite Alzheimer’s? So I cannot WAIT to know he did in this new dealie when I watch it in four years.

    Also, you’re funny.

  2. forevermore now when i watch a terrible movie, or even an okay one that suddenly devolves into time-consuming and unnecessary exposition (whatever happened to show not tell? also, visual medium, ahem) i will shout “I SEE YOU, SCREENWRITER!”

    (did they all watch too much scooby-doo as young’uns?)

    so thank you for giving me a way to clearly and succinctly articulate my pain. cheers!

  3. This morning I read The Year I Learned Everything on Rookie, but I couldn’t leave a comment there because that’s a website for girls my daughter’s age. (Right? She’s 13. Is it too sophisticated for her? Am I in denial?) In my own defense, it was a link from The Rumpus blog that got me there. (Why am I so defensive about it? I’m totally headed back there after I leave this comment.) Your story was like the written equivalent of that tingle I get in my feet just before I orgasm. How did you write that tingle, Roxane Gay? Wow. Love. And there’s this: I’ve been married to my Jason Miller for 15 years now, since I was 19.

    Thank you. And yes, them’s book bones right there. And, I’ll stop now…


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