Monday, April 11, 2016

John Jodzio Cracks Wise on Sunset

By Nick Fuller Googins
Los Angeles 
March 30, 2016

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ annual conference, which ran from March 30 to Apr. 2, represented a rare occurrence in Los Angeles: a gathering of writers who were not primarily focused on treatments, scripts, screenplays, or pilots. As the conference began, one such author, John Jodzio, read from his story collection, Knockout (Soft Skull Press), at Book Soup, on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, a mere ten-mile, hour-and-a-half freeway jaunt from the Convention Center hub of AWP action.

Author Jodzio: "a trusting soul"
(photo by Brian Vernor)
Those of us who made the trek crowded into Book Soup’s narrow reading space, where Jodzio provided more than a few laughs when he read his story “The Piss Test Place.” Any one of Knockout’s seventeen stories would probably have produced a similar reaction. Jodzio's fiction falls somewhere between short and flash—all of it markedly zany. “The Piss Test Place,” at just under five pages, features three-dollar strip teases, laser light shows, a dysfunctional heavy metal band, cocaine fudge, and a drug-sniffing dog with epilepsy. Jodzio created the protagonist—a mildly corrupt, usually-stoned employee—with the help of extensive field research. He filled us in before reading: 
“I used to do a lot of temp work. And they always made me take a piss test whenever I changed jobs. The guy who worked the desk of the piss test place was clearly high. So I wrote a story about him.”
While reading, Jodzio wears a mischievous perma-grin (think Norm Macdonald) that matches the sensibility of his fiction. He had difficulty keeping a straight face, especially when delivering lines like these:
“Since I’d started working here, I’d heard many tales of woe and roofied hard lemonades. It was difficult to tell who was telling the truth and who was lying. All I knew was I’d accidentally eaten some cocaine fudge at a party a few nights before, and I knew how easily something like this could happen to a trusting soul.”
Jodzio’s reading seemed to be over too quickly, but thankfully, he'd invited author and friend Kara Vernor to read with him. Vernor, a middle school teacher by day, writes stories that take their titles from her sex-ed students’ anonymously submitted questions. The one she shared with us was “How Much Tongue While Kissing?” It isn't hard to see why she and Jodzio are friends. All in all, it felt particularly delightful to laugh in a cozy bookstore while, outside, the traffic on Sunset Boulevard inched along.