You remember Paul Shirley. We once described him as a "onetime baller, sometime music critic and all-around man of letters." At the time we were discussing his controversial freelance piece on post-earthquake Haiti, and certain points like asking them to "use a condom once in a while."
His statements weren't necessarily wrong in an objective sense, but it was something of a dick move anyway. Which is to say, Paul Shirley isn't a dumb person, but he sometimes writes dumb things.
But we really aren't sure what to make of his latest piece for FlipCollective. A well-written account of an overweight woman eating and breathing loudly in a movie theater, I'm calling you a wizard if you guessed the piece was about farm subsidies.
Here are the closing paragraphs, and keep in mind, he has already written 500 words on fatty without even a hint that this is going where it goes.
You smile, turn and face forward. You girlfriend is right. You can't do anything about it. The woman behind you is fat and lazy and inconsiderate and it was always going to be that way because of choices she made and choices her parents made and because of farm subsidies and cheap corn syrup and a lack of emphasis on physical education in schools and even though it's disgusting that she's five-foot-four and weighs 279 pounds it isn't really your place to pass judgment because it could very easily have been you if things had gone a little differently and anyway let her enjoy the few years she has on Earth because there probably won't be many more and just because she's making enough noise for a roomful of toddlers doesn't mean…
Jennifer Aniston waits for a kiss. Pierce Brosnan leans in.
More cellophane. New cellophane. You turn.
She's holding a bag of Twizzlers. On the side of the package, in red, it reads, "1 LB!" She tears off the first piece of licorice and stuffs it in her mouth.
Your eyes go wide. You reach your left hand under your seat. You feel for the metal handle. You unscrew the cap. You look at your girlfriend and shrug. You stand up, the handle digging into your hand. You take a step into the aisle, go up one row, and lean across two seats.
You pour the kerosene on her head, in her lap, all over the bag of licorice. You open a lighter. You set her on fire. You run from the theater, laughing like a maniac.
Your eyes go wide. Your blood pressure rises. You vote Republican in the next election.
Paul Shirley writes about his life. He also writes works of fiction. He also doesn't vote Republican, we're fairly secure in stating. So what we've got is a provocative piece of writing by a guy who, intentionally or not, has a track record of writing provocative things.
The feedback on this one should be fascinating and reveal more about the reader than Shirley, as anyone who's dared to touch the third rail of politics would attest. Four comments into the comment section, and someone's namedropped John Galt.
Theater Fire, By Paul Shirley [FlipCollective]