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Todd James Pierce
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    Book Description:

    News is "one of the few things that connects us as a nation" observes the protagonist in the title story ofNewsworld, a new collection by Todd James Pierce that explores America's obsession with news and entertainment culture. The characters in "Newsworld" seek to design realistic theme park attractions, such "OJ's Bronco: The Ride" and "Seige at Waco," that allow park guests to experience the complexities of contemporary news events for themselves. In the story "Columbine: The Musical," high school students stage a musical written as a means of discussing school violence, while their vice principal wrangles a 10 percent discount on a school security system in exchange for corporate sponsorship of the play. In "Wrestling Al Gore," a national wrestling federation uses costumed wrestlers to cast the Gore/Bush election recount into the ring. In an ironic twist, fans become sympathetic to the underdog Gore, champion his cause, and ultimately reflect on the fate of the real politician. In "The Yoshi Compound: A Story of Post-Waco Texas," the followers of the Dalai Yoshi amass weapons and riot gear in hopes of attracting media attention in order to spread their message of love and world peace.

    The characters inNewsworld, like many Americans, are engulfed in a life-imitating-art phenomenon caused by the hyperreality presented in the media, and they struggle with this overwhelming influence trying to understand whether their own lives fall within or outside its domain.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-9114-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Columbine: The Musical
    (pp. 1-20)

    On Wednesday morning, between math and PE, I learned that Robbie Fenstermaker, who was set to play Dylan Klebold in our school’s production ofColumbine: The Musical, had wrecked a driver’s training car and fractured his collarbone. “Collarbone?” repeated Mr. Baxter, my PE teacher. He combed his fingers through his sparse, aluminum-toned hair. “We’re talking a good two months’ recovery. More if it was a nasty break. When’s this play set to open anyhow?”

    “In a week and a half,” I told him.

    “Better scratch him off the program. He’s not doing any acting for some time.”

    Here was my...

  2. Wrestling Al Gore
    (pp. 21-36)

    We had seen him as The Assassin, The Mongrel, and Diamond Eyes Malone, yet only when he became Al Gore did we notice the prophetic nervousness that shook his thin, freckled body. He appeared in a brilliant hoop of light, dressed in a blue wrestling singlet intended to look presidential, but for us—all of us, I believe—we were not reminded of Vice President Gore, but of the young Al Gore, the teenager who grew up a few miles from here, in Carthage, Tennessee. He carried only a single prop, a scuffed briefcase that he deposited on the announcer’s...

  3. Arise and Walk, Christopher Reeve
    (pp. 37-58)

    I first heard the news from William, gardener for the Reeve family, as we sat on my back porch drinking port wine from the small glasses my wife Edna liked to save for orange juice. William was a tall, thin man, his hair as black as mine was gray, and was in the custom of wearing overalls even during the warm summer months. He was a little drunk, as was I, and had a toothpick set in the corner of his mouth. We sat, quietly watching the moon hover like an ornament above the Collinses’ wooden gazebo, when he turned...

  4. Newsworld
    (pp. 59-86)

    Every time I saw Thom Jenks, fellow employee at Newsworld, my heart flapped around in my chest like a fish. I forgot to breathe he looked so good—tall and casual, hair so thick women would come up to him and say, “I’d kill to have hair like that.” I was twenty-one that year, and Thom was twenty-one as well, a college kid on break. We worked the afternoon shift at a ride called Watergate Hotel: The Break-In. He’d stand in the hot Georgia sun, dressed like a White House intern, starched shirt and thin maroon tie. “How many in...

  5. Studio Sense
    (pp. 87-100)

    Early on I recognized my gift. In T-ball, the other children suggested I play shortstop, even though I had a slow arm and weak eyes. In both third and fourth grade, each candidate for class president asked me to be his running mate. For three consecutive years the drama teacher pushed lead roles my way. I refused them all. I wanted no part in such a life. I’d seen its effects all too clearly on my parents.

    My father, a foreign investment banker, first met my mother while she was filming an episode ofFantasy Islandthat was financed in...

  6. Day of the Dead
    (pp. 101-121)

    I suppose I should start with Mary. Mary Collier, who worked in the college bookstore. Mary with the lovely brown eyes. I met her the year after my parents died. I was twenty-eight and living under the belief that I was about to turn a corner and start my life over as an adult. But I never seemed to find that corner, nor was I able to shake the feeling of aloneness I felt in the world. Though I’d grown up in California, I was now living in Florida, the panhandle, to be exact. And this is where Mary comes...

  7. The Real World
    (pp. 122-144)

    For a couple of weeks we had peace, more peace than you’d expect here atThe Real Worldhouse, New Orleans. The reason for this peace was that my boyfriend found out his mother had breast cancer, a small lump under her left armpit. Malignant, she told him over the phone. Shortly after their conversation ended, our segment director, Sanchez, emerged from the basement control room, along with a cameraman and a sound guy. He stood in the kitchen, confused, and ran his hands through his short, black hair. “Listen, Jason,” he said, “I’ve never made this offer to anyone....

  8. The Yoshi Compound: A Story of Post-Waco Texas
    (pp. 145-173)

    For weeks we’d been waiting for the ATF to arrive. Like most religious compounds in the Texas/Oklahoma area, we were hoping for a sizable show of force, two dozen federal agents done up in Kevlar/Spectra vests followed by media crews from all the networks, Fox in particular. But like every morning, as I drove to work I saw nothing but the cheery brown slope of the Texas foothills and Corporate Sano employees filling up the land with dried sewage shipped in from New York. I was doing my best to tune in my inner peace but was distracted by the...

  9. Sirens
    (pp. 174-193)

    Still I think about her. Jackie Stevens, a fellow grad student. Jackie, with shoulder-length rust hair, high cheekbones, and large eyes that gave the impression she was slightly disappointed in the world no matter how good things got. She was in the theater department, while I was in English. One might think we’d have a number of classes together, but we only had one, Renaissance Drama, which I took to satisfy my Pre-Eighteenth-Century Brit Lit requirement.

    She sat on the opposite side of the room, near Dr. Hobson, our seminar director, and rarely looked my way, though I was aware...

  10. Newsworld II
    (pp. 194-201)

    We watched it in Social Studies, then in World History. That Friday, September 14, we saw it again in a class called Life Studies. When the jet slammed into the north tower, Mr. Stolz, our teacher, squeezed the bridge of his nose pensively just like he did when he lectured about the dangers of credit-card debt. He shifted his eyes to us, his class of eleventh-grade boys, and asked how we felt about the attack.

    We weren’t good at talking about our feelings, though Mr. Stolz had made us read a book calledThe Emotional Life of Men. Our emotions...