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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

A Short Story Writer Walks Into a Bar…

A Short Story Writer Walks Into a Bar...

I first met Will Lupens at Porter Square Bookstore, after a reading he had given from Neighbor. Trying to distract myself from the approaching claustrophobia at Downtown Crossing by burying my head in the “Improper Bostonian,” I fell upon a scheduled reading that was taking from a collection of short stories. I was surprised. Not only were short stories being written outside of creative writing workshops, they were being published. Having only read a few of his stories in the store before the reading began, I was unable to have a relaxed conversation with him.

I arranged an interview with Lupens during finals week last semester, after reading his entire collection. I had the idea of giving a family member a signed copy of Lupens’ book for Christmas. I contacted Lupen’s publisher, Polyho Press, and they gave me his email. He responded promptly and said he would be glad to sign a copy of the book and we arranged to meet at Redbones Restaurant in Davis Square for a drink.

I sat against the beat up paneled walls of Redbones’ bar drinking a black and tan, watching Monday night football over the sounds of a yelling host and classic rock. I would have thought an author would pick a calmer place for a drink, but I wasn’t complaining-the drinks were good. Lupens walked into the bar and I stood to shake his hand then he said, “Hey, what are you drinking?”

Lupens chose this place because it is close to home, where he lives with his wife and son. I asked him about his academic life. Lupens attended college at San Francisco State, which had a community much like that of UMass Boston. “Fifty percent of students worked their way through school and I commuted 3 miles to class on a bike,” he said. He worked while majoring in sociology and has held multiple jobs over the years, from a forklift operator to software engineer.

He left full time employment behind saying “I wanted to share a daily routine with my son: cooking breakfast and seeing him off to school.” His son’s schedule also facilitates a sort of writer’s life, as he spends four hours a day working on his stories.

His son is definitely a muse for Lupens as many of his pieces feature children as the main characters. The story “Grim(m)” is about a boy who can only communicate with his father in the manner of infomercials because he is always placed in front of a TV. This shares a theme with “Pthalo Blue,” which Lupens said was a tribute to Bob Ross, the famous afro-headed painter that many of us stared at for hours during our youth. I asked Lupens if these stories were a criticism of parents using the TV to take on the role of parent. He responded, “Not really, in the case of ‘Grim(m),’ its much more about the father putting himself ahead of his child.”

Lupens’ characters drive his collection and he focuses on the peculiar much like his greatest inFlooruence, Franz Kafka. He writes a majority of his work in first person because he feels like the reader has a better chance of identifying with these characters.

In his story “Neighbor” the main character, a young boy analyzes a scab saying, “A drop of blood will seep slowly from the sport where it had been anchored, a tiny pinhole in the fresh pink skin.” What makes this boy seem so weird is that he has the voice of an adult. When I asked Lupens about this he told me that this was a question he always gets. He says, “When I was eight I know I didn’t use these words, but I know I thought this way.”

There are also adult characters in Neighbor. In “Collector of Worlds,” my favorite piece, the main character is so fascinated by the creativity of others that he steals their work from them while on the train. He is also driven by his artistic inability when he says, “[when] asked to draw something-a tree, a house, an airliner, a human face-I would probably be unable to surpass the technical Zenith I reached in the third grade.”

After reading Lupens’ work I could not help but to recall Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and Melville’s “Barteleby the Scrivener.” Perhaps writing like this is a rescue buoy for compelling literature. To read a few selections from Neighbor, visit his publisher’s website www.polyho.com. Lupens’ books, along with the books of many fascinating local writers, can be found at Porter Square Books or purchased on their website www.portersquarebooks.com.