Story Title: Glen’s Homophobia Newsletter Vol. 3 No. 2
Originally published: 1994
Collected In: Barrel Fever
Brief Story Description: Glen publishes a quarterly newsletter about rampant homophobia in society, although more accurately, in his own life. His ex who left him for a younger man, is in fact, a rampant homophobe, as are the people at his office. Glen in his newsletter however decides to focus on one particularly bad day of homophobia he has suffered through, all revolving around Drew Pierson from Dave’s Kwik shop. Glen, while he is making purchases in the shop, gets talking to the attractive cashier Drew Pierson. Drew is studying psychology at a second rate college, and has to do a study about dreams, only he isn’t having any. Glen volunteers to describe his dreams to Drew, who is extremely grateful. That night, Glen has a dream about how he was forced to move into a ‘dark, subterranean chamber’ and to share it with ‘small trolls with full beards and pointy, curled shoes.’ However, when he describes his dream to Drew he lies and says he dreamt about being in a forest of cruel trees, like the ones in the wizard of Oz that throw apples, and how there was a a clearing where he came across a “single tree, younger than the rest, but husky [and] goodlooking.” Glen continues to have another dream the next night, even more disturbing than his first dream, but he describes it to Drew as the forest of mean trees, and the clearing with the young tree, however the young tree calls out to him with Drew’s voice, and Glen strips the bark of the tree to let the young man come tumbling out of it, naked. Drew realises the deception and snaps, and Glen goes on to urge the readers of his newsletter to boycott Dave’s Kwik Stop.
Why it works humour wise: Irony. Glen present s himself as the constant victim of persecution, but we can tell through his interactions that he is a devious, unsympathetic individual. A girl at his office has a huge crush on him and keeps making him dinners to take home, which he criticises frequently, though he keeps taking them from her. His deliberate plans for Drew Pierson are amusing, including buying snuff from the store, just because it is low down behind the counter and Drew has to turn and bend over to get it. I like Glen’s actual dreams, rich in symbolism, and the ones that he makes up to tell Drew. The actual dreams say quite a lot about Glen, but he is quick to dismiss them as meaningless. The story ends with Glen’s encounter with another homophobe, this time when Glen parks in a handicap spot and a man in a wheelchair is ramming his car with the wheelchair’s side. Glen lets loose his fury on the man.
Further Comments: It’s interesting to see the cross-over from other genres when it comes to the humorous short story. It seems the genre is not owned merely by the literary community. Much of Sedaris’s early work first came through radio. In fact, the collection, Barrel Fever is a mix of his short darkly funny stories and his radio essays including Santaland.
The radio/ short story link seems to be strong in the United States and Canada. There are writers like Garrison Keillor who start in literature and crossed the bridge the other way into radio. There is plenty of videos on youtube about Sedaris, including stories collected in his most recent book.