Let's get physical
A bear who regrets his drunken night out and a man who will only have sex with women named “Jean” form two of the exploits from John Jodzio’s latest collection of short-short stories.
The local recipient of a Loft-McKnight fellowship follows up 2010’s short story collection “If You Lived Here, You’d Already Be Home” with the Paper Darts-published collection “Get In If You Want to Live.”
Including stories like “My Codpiece Smells Like Soup” and “I Am Committed to Getting You Your Heroin at the Peak of Its Freshness,” Jodzio crafts eccentric characters with hilariously absurd motivations.
“I don’t know how my mind works and brings these two ideas that are pretty far flung together. That just sort of how it ends up happening in my head,” Jodzio said.
Conversation seems to spark many of the narratives, springing from wild topics like hookers who really like chili or two best friends who resemble Handel and Beethoven.
“For a lot of the stuff that I write, there’s always one good opening line,” Jodzio said. “But that spurs me along into the story, and if I don’t have that initial spark, it’s hard to get into.”
Each of the 19 stories in “Get In …” uses this distinctive blend of humor alongside a revolving door of characters in fewer than 1,000 words.
Jodzio’s comedic ability fits his writing technique — he’s known for writing each sentence incrementally, reading what he’s written after every new sentence.
“A word out of place makes a sentence unfunny,” Jodzio said. “If you switch one word in a sentence, things start to open up in a more humorous way.”
Jodzio’s unique voice matches his publisher’s distinctive DIY aesthetic. After meeting Paper Darts co-founders and University of Minnesota graduates Jamie Millard, Regan Smith and Meghan Suszynski, Jodzio sought to publish his new collection under the creative helm of the three’s literary magazine, whose namesake is inspired by Virginia Woolf.
“It’s sort of a weird project that a traditional publisher wouldn’t do,” Jodzio said. “I shot that to them because I knew [Paper Darts] was looking for other ventures.”
The U alumni attribute their experiences at the “Ivory Tower” to Paper Darts’ success.
“To have something where you’re literally creating the project from step one all the way to the finish with ‘Ivory Tower,’ to have a class like that was absolutely the only way we could have done what we are doing now,” Suszynski said.
Images naturally accentuate Jodzio’s bizarre scenes. “Sorry But I Just Can’t Marry a Woman That Doesn’t Look Hot On the Jumbotron” features an animated close-up of a beaming, pixilated woman by graphic designer Kylo Moonguts.
The local and national artists Paper Darts recruits reflect Jodzio’s strong comedic visual themes.
“I wanted to see how people would interpret these pieces visually,” Jodzio said. “It’s weird how literal some people were doing some stuff and then there’s other [artists] who are just totally bizarre.”
Garnering praise from former SNL cast member Fred Armisen and author Chuck Klosterman, Jodzio’s narrow confines allow for true leaps in comic boundaries. The eye-popping visuals that the art and literature house of Paper Darts provides exhibit a unique collaboration in the diminishing world of printed writing.
“I would say in 10 years, the majority of stuff is going to be published online unless you have a really strong art component to a book,” Jodzio said.
Paper Darts’ strong Internet presence alongside their magazine’s printed output carves out a niche in the local literary community without relying on one art form.
“We’ve always valued print, but we don’t do it at the negligence of digital tools. We value each medium equally,” Millard said. “And we don’t think digital technology overshadows print.”