Dangerous Hipster Boys in Trouble (Or Not)

Sep 29th, 2014 | By | Category: Columns

Defenestration Magazine, along with Sara Rose Cosmetics, is proud to announce the future publication of columnist Jonathan Harper’s debut collection of short stories in March 2015. Said collection is the product of over three arduous years of labor and self-flagellation. However, despite the efforts of our covert agents, the author has remained somewhat quiet about these developments. The book’s actual contents and title remain a mystery. But thanks to our archivists, we can assume to call the book: “The Improbable Stories of J.H. Volume III.”

Ahem, let’s try that again:

Defenestration Magazine is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of columnist Jonathan Harper’s debut collection of short stories in March 2015 … we think. For three years he’s talked about working on this book, has had numerous breakdowns over editing and some self-flagellation may have been involved. But now, apparently it’s done and for some reason, he’s not talking about it. We’ve tried everything to get him to spill the details, but the book is totally submerged in secrecy. He did let it slip once that he Gillian Anderson is a character, but then he turned bright red and ran off crying. Therefore, we are at least giving it a title:

“The Improbable Stories of J.H. Volume III”

We realize that some readers will ask, “What constitutes an improbable story? Aren’t most stories improbable?” Well played, readers. It is true that the dramatic action of fiction often exists in the realm of the unlikely, coincidence and unnatural epiphany usually lost in the inertia of modern life. (Stories often favor the interesting over the realistic.) Even the tales we tell each other, under the guise of confession or gossip, are often changed (and made improbably) to elicit the desired response from the listener.

However, the more curious readers will be drawn to the serial “III,” which refers to this as the third work in a series. The real question becomes: how could this be a debut collection? Is this some cheap ploy of the author’s?

While the author has been less than helpful in clarifying this, thanks to the Defenestration Archives, we have already looked into the matter. While there are no surviving copies, scattered evidence shows the production of two earlier volumes.

The first, originally titled “Dangerous Hipster Boys in Trouble,” was apparently met with lukewarm peer reviews and poor critical reception. It is hard to note what specific stories the volume contained as the only major review available was a curt piece published by The New Yorker, in which the undisclosed reviewer (possibly the writer himself!) simply gave us one word: “Meh.” Archivists can only wonder if this critique was based on issues of plot, style or simply a cover-up for something more insidious. Another review, which recently surfaced in a defunct online forum, called the book, “a macabre view of the hedonism mixed with good old fashioned house cleaning.” Again, the reviewer was unnamed, but did quote other sources of criticism. Performance poet, Daphne Gottlieb, who was speculated to have read an early copy of the manuscript, had shown complete distrust in all inquiries, saying it was best to leave some things alone. When essayist Susan Orlean was questioned about the first volume, she simply laughed uncomfortably as if responding to an inappropriate joke while novelist Madison Smart Bell reportedly rolled his eyes while denying any knowledge of its existence in the first place.

Considering no copies of the book remain available to the public, the Defenestration staff had to assume that these first two volumes of improbable stories were all an elaborate hoax. That is, until we discovered Clark Phillips, a literary archivist who claimed to have acquired pieces of the manuscript. In his one published article on the subject, he mentions acquiring the first three pages of each story, but that was all.

In his article Phillips mentions, “It seems odd that while exactly three pages from each story are recovered, none of them conclude at the end of the third page. In fact, several stories cut off mid-sentence. After careful analysis (counting), I realized we had not in fact recovered the first three pages, but the first nine-hundred words of each story! Who the fuck does this shit?”

This discovery led to a comparison with Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter Night’s A Traveler, a novel comprised of the first chapters of missing books.

Of this, Phillips said, “If these delinquent pages of Dangerous Hipster Boys in Troubel” were intentional, then one could draw a comparison to Calvino. However, there is one main difference: Calvino had raw talent. I don’t know what to say about all this crap.”

And then we come to the second volume of “Improbable Stories: The Milkmaid Conspiracy.” It, too, is guarded in secrecy with no surviving copies. As with the previous volume, critical response was brief and sparse, though all reviewers seemed to ponder the same questions: in this day and age, what the hell is a milkmaid and what could they possibly have to conspire about?”

While there are no records of its publication, supposedly copies of the second volume were distributed in the form of printed note cards packaged in painted shoeboxes. These pseudo-books had indeed made the rounds between potential reviewers, critics, archivists and the occasional fan, but none can be accounted for. Yet, all of the recipients can still remember exactly where they were the moment they received their package.

Phillips was once again in possession of the last remaining copy, except that his was a defect. Instead of the actual stories, his note cards contained the scribbling notes and outlines of the stories. They seemed to culminate years of social research conducted in meth-riddled ballroom dances and fetish-themed coffee shops, entire character portraits of cartoonish villains. However, no milkmaids or conspiracies are mentioned anywhere in the notes.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know what to make of them,” Phillips wrote. “It was like an ill-conceived combination of The Wind in the Willows and Pineapple Express. Either this was the work of a genius or a madman, but probably neither. Something tells me this was just a writer with far too much time on his hands.”

Of course, we are left with wondering what actually became of these two original collections. It is possible that they were simply abandoned projects from a struggling writer with poor self-esteem. Or perhaps these stories were so improbable that the printed words themselves became unstable and began to self-destruct! And what does this mean for the third volume?! Is there really a book coming out? Is it even the third? We may never know … unless you read Jonathan’s spiffy new bio.


Defenestration-Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper’s short story collection Daydreamers will be published by Lethe Press in March 2015. This is his first book so show him some love, people!


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