Author-Artist Myriam Gurba is a Bettie Page-Susan Sontag Hybrid

[Editor’s note: One of Gustavo’s all-time favorite academics is San Diego State English professor William Nericcio, who wrote the legendarily scabrous Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America, perhaps the funniest academic book you’ll ever read. He’s a true-blue Weekly fan, having read it back in the 1990s when we somehow were distributed in San Diego. Nericcio insisted we let him profile awesome author-artist Myriam Gurba, arguing only he could give her justice…and here we go. Take it away, Nericcio!

By William Nericcio

Where are you going to be Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 10am? No clue?! I tell you where you NEED TO BE! You are going to be at Gallery 211, 211 N. Sycamore St., SanTana, CA 92701.

Why? Because you read. Because you think. Because you are tired of lazy prose, and mind-numbing poetry, but you are also addicted to literature—you are the kind of person that screams at the sight of an Edgar Allan Poe Modern Library hardback on sale for 4.99 at a used book store. You love the New Yorker—even though you have never read one cover to cover. But you are also a rebel inside, a James Dean channeling Romantic who happens to love the Ramones, the Clash, and yearns for the dreamy vibe of Mazzy Star.

So this fine Saturday, you go to Gallery 211 for a reading/signing event with Long Beach’s finest, Myriam Gurba, who is there for a “book club meeting” shilling her new tome, Painting Their Portraits in Winter. But I suspect this won’t be your typical “book club” meeting—less Oprah than Chuck Palahniuk, less Reader’s Digest than Juxtapoz. In short, fasten your seatbelts ‘Murica, (or Mexico North, it is SanTana).

I’ve known Myriam Gurba for years, having inflicted her singular fictions on my undergraduates and graduate students at San Diego State University for ages. But I am dying to see her again at the SanTana meeting because of her recent online metamorphosis. The longtime high school teacher (by day) and avant garde queer artiste/activist (by night) has evolved into some alluring mix of supermodel and Laura Mulvey, channeling Bettie Page and Susan Sontag (in one fell swoop), morphing her looks daily whilst meditating the deep logic of the psyche in the age of the selfie. Oh, and she’s Chicana and a Catholic school survivor—which no doubt drew me to her in the first place. We sat down virtually the other day to have a conversation, and this is what happened.

Bill Nericcio: I bought your new book of stories online yesterday, what am in for?

Myriam Gurba: Death. A lot of death. Death is the creature that (LOL) breathes life into the stories and death is always a lady. Other things that you will encounter include fairy tales, folk tales, lesbians, nursery rhymes, tamales, raccoons, clams, and ass kickings.

BN: Authors don’t always make great performers. And great live acts are not always the best of writers. I’ve seen you dazzle 200 undergraduates who are NOT English majors at SDSU and I am curious, what’s a Myriam Gurba Gallery 211 “reading” going to be like? What are the visitors of the space in for?

MG: Thank you for the flattery. I am not immune to it. My readings are very particular. I have a particular way that I read that is intended to be read as a PERFORMANCE. I hate when writers get on stage to share their work and think that their words alone are strong enough to sustain interest. Sorry. Usually, they’re not. The performance needs to contextualize the work and add to the art of it. At least, that’s what I think and I’m kind of bitchy about it. That said, I guess one might characterize my way of reading as deadpan. I don’t have any problem projecting. My audiences tend to stare, laugh, and cringe at me.

BN: Ok, last question! What has happened to the writer Myriam Gurba as a result of social media?! Old Fart English Professors love to tell the story of what happened to William Faulkner when he “went Hollywood,” turning his back on the novel form for the delights of Tinseltown. Has Gurba been changed by smartphones or “the internets”—is the author of Dahlia Season a changed writer in 2016?

MG: I love the internet and I hate the internet. It’s like Mexico, an infernal paradise. Um, I use the internets a lot in my “work,” especially the ‘grams. I do a lot of digital collage and post it to my IG, pukelele666. I also screen shot quite a bit of my writing and post works-in-progress there. I blog as often as a I do my laundry, once a week, and am currently working on an ambitious multi-media performance piece titled American Abject. It’s a hexploration/sexploration of the male gaze, a way of looking at the masculine architecture of visual culture, and this piece has led me to create visual art, highly tailored performance pieces, and improvisational/guerilla performance pieces. As a consequence of American Abject, I now own more bikinis than I ever thought I would as a teenage goth. I’m documenting all this crap at and also working on a memoir called MEAN. That’s “mean” as in “mean girls.”

Contributors: Dr. William Nericcio is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University where he also runs the MALAS Cultural Studies MA Program and directs SDSU Press. Myriam Gurba is a writer and artist who lives in Long Beach, California. She is the author of several collections of fiction and poetry. She is a also a visual artist whose work has been shown in galleries, museums and freezer doors.

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