This story might be one of my favorites I’ve ever written. Came out of me during the pandemic when I was sitting with big thoughts about the future and reading W.G. Sebald and my spouse and I would pass the time taking long drives down to the port and back home.
Los Angeles is known for its film studios and Hollywood glamour and media production, but one of the largest drivers of the economy is actually the Port of Los Angeles, which straddles San Pedro and Long Beach, and is the largest port in North America. It has 25 cargo terminals spread across 7,500 acres and handles over $270 billion in cargo a year. It is also a port of call for multiple cruise ships.
This story is partially about my fascination with the port, partially about my frustration with what I have seen some peers do to fit in, beat back loneliness, and lose a part of themselves along the way.
My new short story MOTION SICKNESS is out now from the Northwest Review. It isn’t currently available to read online, but if you want, you can order a print copy of the current issue here.
When I wrote it, I was thinking a lot about the writing of W. G. Sebald, and what it means to tell multiple stories at once. More specifically, I was thinking about how to treat the elements of a story as worthy of their own threads, so that place, feeling, movement, character, and voice operate almost separately while still moving forward together into what feels like an essay, but grows into a loose plot, before resolving at the end. Readers of Sebald’s non-fiction and fiction may recognize why I bring him up; he is a master at this kind of webbed and associative storytelling. Conceptually, such fiction has more in common with Coltrane’s Giant Steps than the traditional plot shape of a shark’s back. An acquired taste possibly, but one that can lead to obsession.
Short stories and novels — that is, written fiction — can do so much that other story mediums like film and photography and painting can’t, and I find myself leaning into those particular qualities of writing; they are what excite me the most. Written fiction can put you directly inside someone else’s head; it can move between past and present and future and the events and thoughts that exist across that whole timeline all at once; it can collapse the real and unreal into mirrors of each other; it can create a conversation between author and story and reader that is simultaneous while all are, in actuality, separated from each other by literal space and time. It’s magic. Playing with these pieces is why I keep doing this. It’s what matters to me the most.
Anyway – I hope you check out MOTION SICKNESS by purchasing a copy of the review. Holla if you read it, and let me know what you think.