September 2005

Melissa Fischer

features

Jill Soloway is a One-Man, All Girl, 80s Punk Rock Band

Jill Soloway is a pioneering influence, immediate and scathing, and prone to short blasts of intensely energetic ranting. With her new book, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, Soloway has aligned herself with some of pop culture’s most comically violent femmes. Here are some of her greatest hits.

1. My Hungry Box.
Cunning and contagious, Jill’s e-mail inbox is one of her favorite things: “My inbox is like a hungry dragon lurking behind my screen. I have to feed him every ten seconds. If I write one line I go back to check my e-mail as a reward.”

The extent of Soloway’s technophilia isn’t bound by her box, however: she is a self-confessed, constant and compulsive Googlebator and writes, “Even better is this site that tracks how people get to my website. The websites that link to me are fascinating, but even better are the search strings. Nine out of ten people have found me because they put something like Courteney Cox’s (some body part) into Google. And I don’t mean my short story, "Courteney Cox’s Asshole." People want other stuff about her. I get the words ‘Courteney Cox’ paired with ‘baby,' ‘naked,' ‘fat,' ‘pussy,' and ‘topless.'”

Nevertheless, the woman knows when to call it quits. “When I’m really rocking, I write on a schedule -- only in the mornings. Like six to ten and then I’m done. I get to spend the rest of the day pining for contact with whatever I’m working on, like it’s my lover. That works better than having my computer on 24 hours a day and knowing I ‘should’ be writing all the time.”

2. Teleholica.
Fuck antiquity! “I don’t read old books, just like I don’t watch black and white movies.” Jill prefers doses of reckless abandon in the form of America’s postmodern anesthetic: Reality TV. “I must watch America’s Next Top Model, American Idol, Survivor, The Starlet, Project Runway, Showbiz/Sports/Showdogs Moms and Dads.” A self-described starfucker, Jill says she “saw Michaela Gordon (the young jewy Barbra Streisand chick from the last Idol) at the mall and ran up to her like she was Mickey Mouse. I had to hug her.”

3. Massive Swellings.
At Jillsoloway.com, a list of links to “sisters 4-ever and girls who write kinda like me” includes the similarly celeb-obsessed Cintra Wilson. Where Wilson gazes sneeringly at celebrity culture, Soloway stares with awestruck curiosity: “My love for Paris [Hilton] is like my love for pageants -- a Media Representation research project all jumbled up, with purse-puppy envy instead of ermine envy.”

4. My Many Smells.
Jill’s version of this timeless classic from '80s punk gods the Dead Milkmen hoists her into the upper echelons of literary shit-talking. Many whiffs are to be taken through the pages of Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, which overflows with fecal references. For example, in “Why Jews Go to the Bathroom with the Door Open,” Soloway drops the following bomb: “right now, like right right right now, my little booty is a’ callin’ me to run to the can and deliver unto it a big ol’ heaping pile of shit…”

5. Backdoor Trouble.
The author describes herself as “Obsessed with the fact that on his show, Bobby Brown announced to the world that he had pulled a ‘dootie bubble’ out of Whitney’s ass. Obsessed with the fact that when the New York Times reported it they used the spelling ‘dootie’ instead of ‘doody.’ Why? Who knows. Perhaps the correct spelling isn’t in their usage dictionaries yet. It’s about time to pick one, I say -- DOODY, NOT DOOTIE!”

6. Calling Miss Vagina…
…and Miss Nipples, and Miss Asshole, or better yet Miss “Courteney Cox’s Asshole,” the short story Soloway wrote and reportedly “double submitted it to zzyzyva and Andrei Codrescru's Exquisite Corpse and they both got mad at me and fought over it. It was like being gang raped by two of your professors, but in the fun way.”

Jill’s writerly presence first emerged through the theatre, and of her Not Without My Nipples, Variety’s review wrote that “Jill Soloway’s Joyce DeWitt borders on brilliance.”

1991’s The Miss Vagina Pageant was a parody of the very phenomenon she so enthusiastically beholds -- the beauty pageant. As described in a section titled “The Porno-ization of America” (the second of three introductions to Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants), “I wanted to prove that women could rule the world, yet I refused to stop watching Miss America. I couldn’t help treating a Miss America broadcast like a national holiday -- I’ve always loved me a beauty pageant and always will.”

7. Bitches and Bedfellows.
While Jill has earned a somewhat “blue” reputation -- what with her inclusion in two of Susie Bright’s erotica collections and various titular references to nipples, vaginas, and assholes -- she contends that “for me, talking about sex in the TV shows and stories I wrote and the plays I produced wasn’t to turn people on or to be shocking or inappropriate. My original intent was something much nobler: inciting feminist revolution.”

Given Soloway’s list of literary and political influences, this seems only fitting. “[Lisa Carver’s] bravery challenges me to match hers, like guys playing pick up basketball -- these women who peel away all the layers of how women are ‘supposed’ to be push me to shoot higher -- in the writing version, that means exposing more, admitting to even more humiliation than makes sense. I also was very politicized by the writings of Susie Bright, Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, Katha Pollitt, Daphne Merkin, Naomi Wolf and Carole Vance.”

Other writers Jill admires include Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Ames, Alicia Erian, and Aimee Bender. “Oh, and did I say whoever writes People, Us and In Touch? I love those writers.”

Jill seems to nobly frame her career with her strong beliefs, saying “Everything I do is basically the same -- fiction or non, tv or movies -- trying to expose what’s behind the artifice of the objectified ideal of the so-called attractive woman. Busting open the unspoken rules, and then trying to close the great divide between the Madonna and the whore, good girl and bad girl, loved or despised.”

8. Living Splendor.
Truly, only real life is better than Six Feet Under, the award-winning HBO series. Jill joined the Six Feet crew for the show’s second season and stuck around for its denouement. “For season five I'm a co-executive producer, which is the fanciest title I've ever held. It's a great job, that's for dang sure.”