Imagine a novel set in an alternate reality, written in a stream of consciousness style that tells dark and humorous tales of characters who struggle with their sexuality or A-list societal problems.
“Catastrophically Consequential,” written by novelist and performance artist Stephen C. Bird, combines these aspects into a dark, avant-garde literary work.
A 1992 graduate of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in World Literature, Bird began his literary career in 2009 when he wrote and self-published “Hideous Exuberance,” the prequel to “Catastrophically Consequential.” He classifies his latest book as “adult, experimental, fantasy, fiction, satire and novella.” It is a work composed of characters that travel through time and are likely to show up in your own dreams.
“There may or may not be any character or plot development because characters develop to a certain point, but they might drop out for no reason and then reappear later,” Bird said. “There’s no regular continuity in terms of time. Within one chapter the character could be in the present day, and then suddenly fly to 900 years later.”
Populating Bird’s pages are gay teenage boys, suicidal trust fund girls and Jersey princesses of punk rock, to name a few. He describes his characters as “reserved, imbalanced and mental illness-involved people,” with female characters commanding a stronger presence. Suicidal rich girl Cindy Cipro, whose tale began in his first novel, faces masochism and tragedy. Other characters, like gay teenager Djzheemi Sparks, battle depression while trying to salvage friendships. Because the characters’ stories are set in an alternate reality, their situations are far from normal.
“The stories are inner monologues that are going on inside the characters’ heads that I write out,” Bird said. “The main thing about my writing is that it’s non-linear, it’s written in stream of consciousness and it’s surreal. I’m also a visual writer.”
Bird, who has a background in performance art, wrote his novel with a visual mindset. Having produced off off-Broadway in downtown Manhattan since the late ’90s, Bird was inspired by his one-man comedy shows and converted his monologues into character narratives. His writing process is unique: he collects notes from his sets, packs them in FedEx envelopes and reorders them to tell a story.
“I cut and paste a lot,” Bird said. “There is definitely a collage aspect to my writing.”
Jennifer Miller, an author and performance artist known as Rev Jen, met Bird over 15 years ago when he performed at Jen’s open-mic comedy shows.
“[Bird’s novels] are written in stream of consciousness style that very few writers would be brave enough to write in today,” Jen said. “By self-publishing, he has circumvented the need to conform to what publishing industries want and has given himself a lot of artistic freedom. Even though [the characters] are dark and twisted, you get the idea the author had a great deal of fun which is also something that seems to be missing from literature today.”
A version of this story appeared in the Aug. 26 print edition. Kristina Bogos is special features editor. Email her at email@example.com.
In a previous version of this article, WSN incorrectly reported that Jennifer Miller was a reverend. In fact, she is known as Rev Jen. WSN also reported that Bird had produced films off-Broadway. In fact, he produced them off off-Broadway. WSN also reported that Bird was inspired by open-mic comedy shows. In fact, the shows were not open-mic. WSN regrets the errors.
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