Beauty Talk & Monsters
Masha Tupitsyn’s Beauty Talk & Monsters is a debut collection of stories told through the movies. Equally influenced by Brian De Palma and Kathy Acker, Tupitsyn revisits the ruins of a childhood and youth nurtured on the fringe of the glittering lower Manhattan art world and the Atlantic haven of Provincetown in the 1980s. Moving fluidly through space, time, and a range of cinematic frameworks, Tupitsyn cuts through the cynical glamour and illusion of Hollywood to a soft, secret heart.
Her narrator, a female loner and traveler, is caught in the maelstrom of films and images, where life is experienced through the eye of a camera lens and seen through the light on the screen. In a precise and elegant style, Beauty Talk & Monsters embraces and confronts a lineage of familiar myths and on- and off-screen cinematic excess in order to challenge the silver screen’s century of power over our dreams and ideals. Intimate and intellectual, Tupitsyn’s stories play with the cinema’s most popular icons and images.
Masha Tupitsyn is the author of LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film (ZerO Books, 2011) Beauty Talk & Monsters, a collection of film-based stories (Semiotext(e) Press, 2007), and co-editor of the anthology Life As We Show It: Writing on Film (City Lights, 2009), which was voted one of the best film books of 2009 by Dennis Cooper, January Magazine, Shelf Awareness, and Chicago’s New City. She is currently working on a new book of essays on film and the star system, Screen to Screen. Her fiction and criticism has appeared in the anthologies Wreckage of Reason: XXperimental Women Writers Writing in the 21st Century (2008) and the Encyclopedia Project Volume II, F-K (2010), and in the journals BOMB, Puerto del Sol, 2nd Floor Projects, Vertebrae Journal, TINA, Venus Magazine, The Rumpus, Animal Shelter, Fanzine, Make/Shift, NYFA Current, Bookforum, Fence, Five Fingers Review, and San Francisco’s KQED’s The Writer’s Block. She regularly contributes video essays on film and culture to Ryeberg Curated Video.
“Masha Tupitsyn, a film critic and former assistant literary editor of BOMB Magazine, tosses her never-quite-named (but seemingly consistent) female narrator between ages, cities and especially men in this lovely, unconventional debut, but gives her an unalloyed solace in the form of cinema. As the book moves from vignette-like monologuge to monologue, the men vary in their words and looks-one is “many versions of earth tones,” another is “sneaky and bony…the color of a sweet potato”-but almost always do the same thing: leave. The narrator’s salvation and distraction are consistently found in film: she sees one lover through the prism of Mean Streets; wonders if her neediness equates her to the shark in Jaws; and riffs on the macho pull of Jack Nicholson or potential insecurities of Tom Cruise. She’s also fascinated with the idea of beauty and societal perceptions of women, famous and not, and shares her thoughts on cultural touchstones like Nicole Kidman’s aesthetic trajectory (once “a feral garden, now a sewing kit”). Other pieces here deftly blend real and imagined Hollywood, film theory and thematic narrative, as in “Kleptomania,” where the narrator looks on as Judy Garland, Diane Keaton and Tippi Hedren’s Hitchcock character, “Marnie,” compare notes on their lives in a bar. The more experimental pieces will be buttery popcorn for silver-screen junkies, but the more traditional, detail-rich stories (like “The Ghost of Berlin”) make a narrator who’s waiting for “someone or something to stick” memorable.
“The experience of reading Beauty Talk & Monsters is humid, intimate, and juicy; like spying through a window at a neighbor’s television set, it provides both the voyeuristic pleasure of watching a stranger’s activity and the familiar flicker of a well-known film, now playing in a stranger’s psyche.”
— Michelle Tea, San Francisco Bay Chronicle
“This stunning book is a reckoning with what it is to have been raised with the movies, to not be able to tell the difference anymore between what we’ve fantasized or dreamt of, what we’ve been frightened of, what may have been our own or no one’s life.”
—Rebecca Brown, author of The End of Youth and The Haunted House
“Here is a festival of meaning! Masha Tupitsyn does not meditate on the movies—she reactivates them in an uproar of image, desire, and identification. Her stories are acts of discovery, written under the sign of Kathy Acker, ambitious for literature itself, the prose pitched high.”
—Robert Glück, author of Jack the Modernist and Denny Smith
“In her debut collection, Masha Tupitsyn is at her best when recalling emotional disaster, and when she aligns herself to this end, with strategies of Kathy Acker and Chris Kraus.”
— Jeanine Herman, BOMB
“Masha Tupitsyn’s debut collection is a breathtaking mixture of tall tale and autobiography, film theory and lover’s lament, traveler’s diary and gender treatise. A novel-in-parts disguised as a bootleg memoir crossed with a Hollywood tell-all, Beauty Talk & Monsters dares us to ask if there is a point to reliability when a shifty narrator can provide so much obsessive insight…. Beauty Talk & Monsters has a shimmering intimacy.”
— Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Bookslut
“Beauty Talk is in part a meditation on the symbiotic pleasures and impositions of intellectual exile—at once an indictment and a celebration—a poetic expression of voluntary solitude which questions what it means to hole up inside yourself, to resist the roles you’ve been assigned and the thoughts you’re conditioned to accept as your own, and to willfully separate from the disappointment of other people without losing your engagement in and appraisal of the world around you…. The one thin line Tupitsyn maintains is that between on-screen and off-screen. Pop culture is subject, theme, character, and plot in her work, which takes American media as a narrative foundation.”
—Brian Pera, Fanzine