Read Grant Faulkner’s sparse yet evocative piece “Model Upside Down On The Stairs” in July’s issue.
1. Which line of this piece did you write first? Where did it start?
A friend of mine actually sent me a photo by Francesca Woodman and asked me to write a 100-word story about it. I’d never heard of Francesca Woodman, but now I have a minor obsession with her work. Every one of her photos is a beautiful nightmare, a strange reaching out, a shivering place of peace.
So I saw a blurry, contorted model sprawled upside down on a staircase. Not to get too mystical, but I then heard the phrase, “A woman’s beauty can be her damnation.” I distinctly heard it spoken by her mother in a Texas accent. I like the line because it’s the kind of advice you can only truly understand after it’s too late.
2. What is the most awkward pose you’ve ever had to strike? Witness?
I grew up in a small town in Iowa, so I was often with sinners posing as saints. That pose has taken different forms in my adult, urban life, but I see many people moving in somewhat awkward poses, not quite themselves. “Hell is others,” as Sartre said, so we’re all contortionists of some sort, shaping ourselves to others’ visions, myself included, of course. Every time I put on a saint’s garb, I tend to trip on its cloaks.
3. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT TENDERNESS.
It’s fleeting, but I’m always trying to return to it, find a way to give it. There’s no better place to reside.
4. This piece strikes me as very sinister. Can you anticipate how this relationship will end?
Her boyfriend takes her to a peep show one night after a fancy dinner in which he’s talked with bombastic, grand puffery. They sit in the darkness watching a stripper dance in front of the window. He has a tiny camera in his lapel. She hears the shutter click open and shut. She walks out and half expects him to come after her, but he doesn’t, and she walks until she has to carry her high heels in her hands. She eventually goes to college to get a degree in art therapy, but ends up moving back to Texas to take care of her mother. One day, she hears him being interviewed by Terri Gross on the radio. She turns the dial to ranchero music and plays along with her ukelele, sipping ice tea in the heat.
5. Is there anything we won’t do to make each other bend?
There are those who make others bend, and those who like to be bent, and those who bend to make others bend, and those who flee. That’s been the way of the world since the beginning of time, right?
6. At what point is enough enough?
Five minutes before you ask yourself that question.