Life As We Show It

Life As We Show It
Writing On Film

Edited by Brian Pera, Masha Tupitsyn
Introduction by Masha Tupitsyn


"Dodie Bellamy immerses herself in thoughts of E.T. while coping with her mother's dying. Wayne Koestenbaum riffs on the gender 'puzzle' that is Elizabeth Taylor. Bard Cole considers both the veiled porn
implicit in mainstream movies featuring young men, and the life of erotica icon Joey Stefano. Richard Grayson exhumes the film screens of his Florida youth. Abdellah Taia, sitting with his dozing mother in a
darkened Moroccan room, recalls finding sexual self-realization watching a queer French movie on TV. Rebecca Brown overlays her own life with imagery from classic Westerns. In these smart essays, plus a few short stories, a poem and a screenplay, 25 entries in all, contributors – smitten by cinema both contemporary and classic – cast a personal eye on a universal medium. They aren't reviewing films, though. Instead, these writers muse on how film and life are intertwined, how they find themselves on screen and how those screens in turn reflect them. Settle in with a box of Twizzlers and revel in the provocative thinking collected in this fresh take on popular culture."

-- Richard Labonte

Gay & Lesbian Times

 ". . . these writers muse on how film and life are intertwined, how they find themselves on screen and how those screens in turn reflect them. Settle in with a box of Twizzlers and revel in the provocative thinking collected in this fresh take on popular culture."

—Gay & Lesbian Times

Library Journal

"This collection of short stories, essays, and poetry compiled by Pera (Troublemaker) and Tupitsyn (Beauty Talk & Monsters) examines what it means to experience the world through the cinema. . . . Exceedingly personal and usually provocative, the pieces included here represent our collective history with film. VERDICT: Recommended for film studies students and scholars as well as adventurous and creative film buffs." —Pam Kingsbury

Midwest Book Review

"The movie has long since passed the book as the primary method of American storytelling. Life as We Show It: Writing on Film is a blend of fiction and ponderings on film from many well known writers who offer their ideas on the concept of life imitating art. The result is intruiging, thought-provoking and high entertaining. Brian Pera and Masha Tupitsyn have put together quite a volume, making Life as We Show It a uniquely recommended read."

Book News

"This cross-genre collection unites 25 writers and thinkers to explore the cinematic experience and the film-viewer relationship via short stories, essays, and poetry. The texts play with the idea that life imitates art by asking: If movie-watching has become a primary way of experiencing the world, what kind of movies are our lives imitating? Pera is an author as well as a film director. Tupitsyn is a fiction writer and cultural critic."


"… this collection uses cinema as a literary springboard. Movies are not so much the subject as they are the hook — the departure point for authors with varied credentials (some are poets and novelists, others academics and armchair theorists) to offer up fiction and creative nonfiction . . . all ordered around their personal relationship with films as medium and filmgoing as practice."
—John Semley

Shelf Awareness

"Twenty-five writers discuss attachments they formed for certain movies -- ET, Shane and Rosemary's Baby acquire new significance and resonance after reading these inspired pieces of narrative nonfiction."
—John McFarland

Chapter 16

"At the core of Life as We Show It is the paradox of the viewer, who is at once passive and intrusive, detached and yet profoundly affected by the viewed scene. The writers embrace that paradox, using it, Tupitsyn says, 'as an ingredient for narrative impetus — for writing, for imagining, and for thinking.' Taken as a whole, the collection provides a glimpse of where the brave new media-saturated world may be taking the ancient art of storytelling."
—Maria Browning

Tina Magazine

"We'd like to note the excellent 'Outtakes' by Lidia Yuknavitch, who offers a rewriting of La Fureur de vivrer by Nicholas Ray; 'Phone Home' by Dodie Bellamy juxtaposes her own fiction with Spielberg's vision for E.T.; . . . 'The Elizabeth Taylor Puzzle' by Wayne Kostenbaum takes apart and puts back together the body of Elizabeth Taylor; 'Hysteresis' by Elizabeth Hatmaker develops around the film Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff by Marvin J Chomsky; and 'Behind the Scenes' (1982) by Masha Tupitsyn focuses on John Travolta in Grease and Blow Out. . . . A cross-genre work to consume without restraint." — Tina Magazine, France

January Magazine

"This is a vibrant collection that uses all of the mediums available to it to tell its vigorous tale. The contributors here pull out all the literary stops: poetry, fiction, essay: you name it. At the heart of things, though, there is a philosophical question at play here. 'Thus, the genre of assemblage and insertion, fictions about fictions, fiction from fictions, or more specifically, fictions affixed and inserted into already existing fictions . . . might be an interesting and useful way to describe what the writers in this collection are doing.' . . . A thoughtful exploration on the art and the influence of film."
— David Middleton

The Blak Sheep Dances

"Life As We Show It is a unique collection of essays, imagined scripts, and personal reflections by more than 20 writers on how film has shaped much of their lives and their opinions. Not all of the cited films are blockbusters, and the influential titles are not meant to gather a 'best of' collection like you'd find on A&E. Rather, these movies are personal touchstones, relevant in ways that are unique and sometimes perplexing."

—Amy E. Henry

Midsummer madness
Jul 29, 2009

"Finally, Life As We Show It: Writing on Film (City Lights) is an audacious compilation of stories, essays and other pieces whose writers willingly — in a phrase by co-editor Masha Tupitsyn — 'plummet down the black rabbit hole' that lies between our lives and the movies that colonize our imaginations. That volatile space is most memorably explored in Dodie Bellamy's memoir about E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and the death of her mother and Wayne Koestenbaum’s confessions about his obsession with Elizabeth Taylor."

- Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly

October Country
Jul 14, 2009

Contributor Donal Mosher's film, October Country, recently won the Sterling Competition US Grand Jury Prize at Silverdocs, the most prestigious US documentary award.

- October Country Film


"Life as We Show It is everything that being published by City Lights suggest it will be: a diverse range of voices from New Queer (mainly West Coast) writing, including fan favourites Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, Rebecca Brown, Lynne Tillman, Robert Glück, David Trinidad and Abdekkah Taïa. . . The finest pieces in the book – by Bellamy, Killian, Brown, Taïa and poet Fanny Howe – step beyond that Gen X campness, practised to the highest order in a sonata pathetique on Elizabeth Taylor by Wayne Koestenbaum. . . Not so much Life as We Show It as Cinema as It Shows Us." —Sophie Mayer

The Making of Life As We Show It: Writing on Film
Jun 24, 2009
The following is an excerpt from Masha's introduction to Life As We Show It. "The untitled issue of Lowblueflame, which I refer to as the 'déjà vu issue,' was an exercise in cinematic hearsay. Tracing his own celluloid obsession, a curiosity informed in equal measure by movies seen and unseen, Brian asked each writer to describe a film based on what they'd read and heard about it. If I'd been able to participate, I would have recounted my own movie déjà vu (a word that literally means 'already seen'), Don't Look Now, which I'd seen on TV but didn't remember seeing until years later, when I overheard someone describing what I thought was a private terror: a red-cloaked monster-dwarf haunting Donald Sutherland in the catacombs of Venice." - Masha Tupitsyn, Fictionaut


". . . this isn't just a book on film and feelings, it's actually kind of haunting in strange and lingering ways, like a silent, but heavy presence in the room. . . It's all very surreal, and equally disconcerting and concrete. The pieces move like scenes and vignettes themselves, flickering and shimmering in the dark, shining in and out until one can almost hear the lead frames of the film monotonically whipping against the takeup reel in an otherwise silent room." —Michael Louis

Mine for yours: A mid-year round up . . .
Jun 20, 2009

"Dennis Cooper has written up a list of some of his Best of 2009 Top Ten Lists, includingLife as We Show It: Writing on Film."

- Dennis Cooper

A History of Movies: Part 1
Jun 18, 2009
"In Provincetown in the 1980s, drag queens would stand on Commercial Street dressed as diner waitresses, hollering, 'Showtime! Showtime!' A form of ballyhooing leftover from vaudeville and traveling carnivals, it was the show before the show. The act before the act. 'Showtime!' was also a small preview of a drag queen's personality and it revved up both the performer and the crowd, often rounding up the most unlikely of spectators (American families) into the theater and into the performance." - Masha Tupitsyn, Booktin

Wednesday Evening in SoHo: Masha Tupitsyn, Lynne Tillman, Wayne Koestenbaum . . .
Jun 17, 2009
"There was an introduction of Masha Tupitsyn, co-editor of Life As We Show It (along with our good friend, the brilliantly original filmmaker, novelist and critic Brian Pera). Masha is an amazing writer and an astute cultural critic. Her book Beauty Talk & Monsters from Semiotext(e) Press, is a collection of film-based stories, and she's currently working on Star Notes, a new book about our favorite actor, John Cusack and the identity politics of the actor... Her reading gave a look at what Life As We Show It is all about. As the book's publicity stuff says, it's 'a dynamic cross-genre collection that uses short stories, essays, and poetry to explore the cinematic experience. In these innovative writings, the movie-viewer relationship is positioned as protagonist, theme and plot, and most importantly, as a new genre in its own right. The texts play with the trope that life imitates art by asking: If movie-watching has become a primary way of experiencing the world, what kind of movies are our lives imitating?'" - Richard Grayson, Dumbo Books of Brooklyn

Film Comment
"Life as We Show It, an anthology of essays, screenplays, and stories about watching movies. . . has the virtue of not treating life and cinema as obvious antagonists. . . One of the pleasures of this collection is that writing about movie viewing produces a cheerful and salutary indifference to conventional judgements of a film's 'importance'. . . 'Phone Home,' [is] Dodie Bellamy's story of her preoccupation with E.T. when her mother was dying of lung cancer. To watch as cinema’s most famous stranded alien becomes by turns a figure for the narrator’s alienation from her mother’s body through illness and age, the alienation of the able bodied from boys like Matthew De Meritt, the boy with no legs who helped bring E.T. to life by walking on his hands, and finally an opportunity to reflect on what alien technologies like cinema can do to repair these rifts—is to have one’s own ideas about how and why films matter to us completely and productively overturned. " —Nicola Evans

The Forgotten Movie Screens of Broward County
May 21, 2009

"This four-screen theater, in a small strip shopping center at the corner of Pines Boulevard and University Drive, was where Mom and Dad took us to see Kramer vs. Kramer one night during Christmas vacation in 1979. Our family had just moved to Broward County the month before. We drove down University from our town house in Davie, passing orange groves and cow pastures. In the dark we couldn't see any cows or the creatures Mom called their mascots, the ducks who would sit on their backs. Soon after the scene where Dustin Hoffman throws the little boy’s French toast into the garbage, Edward got up and went out of the theater. We assumed he was going to the bathroom, but when he didn’t come back, we started getting worried. Finally Dad went out to look for Edward, but he wasn’t in the men’s room or at the candy counter or in the tacky little lobby. Eventually Dad found Edward watching Steven Spielberg’s 1941 on another screen. Later I’d think that as young as he was, Edward knew that something was up between Mom and Dad. He didn’t want to see a movie about divorce. It was easier for him to watch something from the past."

- Richard Grayson, The Rumpus

After Watching Klimov's Agoniya
May 2, 2009

"The peasant crosses from the farm to a train/ And enters a tunnel to the palace./ The future watches him coming/ Like a child whose doll falls from her hands when the living approach./ Ultimately he will be autopsied by nihilists/ Who act like God and photograph his corpse./ The state goes on with its grim task of arresting its critics./ "Find me a person, any person, and I will find a way to discredit him."/ What was alcohol for a peasant was heroin for Stalin."

- Fanny Howe, Jacket Magazine

The Man with the Movie Camera
Apr 10, 2009
"A new cover design for City Lights publishers features a still from Dziga Vertov's 1929 film, The Man with the Movie Camera. Life As We Show It will be coming out around June of this year. Vertov believed the camera could go anywhere and he pioneered cinematic techniques such as stop motion, freeze frames, double exposure and jump cuts. The collected writings on film that Brian Pera and Masha Tupitsyn have gathered, explore how movies become part of our own biography and personal history, as we absorb and digest the powerful images on screen. The editors located this stunning photo of an eye seen through the camera’s lens, and I used it to make a rich tritone, a perfect image for a book that examines the life of the imagination as embodied in cinema." - Stefan Gutermuth,