What would you do if your partner was in love with their deceased ex boyfriend, who has returned as a ghost? Have you ever wanted to take a hookup road trip through the Maritimes? In his short story collection Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person, Daniel Zomparelli explores grief, romance, friendship and family through awkward dates and in-app text convos. The collection is like Sex and the City featuring young gay men in Vancouver and a self-deprecating narrator whose laugh out loud punchlines give Carrie’s wistful one-liners a run for their money.
Everything is Awful follows Zomparelli’s 2012 poetry debut Davie Street Translations and 2015’s Rom Com, a book of poetry co-authored with Can’t Lit podcast cohost Dina Del Bucchia. He has been working on poetry since he was accepted into SFU’s Writers Studio for the genre, though he originally intended to focus on fiction. The stories in this collection have been in the works for six years, during which time he completed his two poetry books and worked as editor in chief of Poetry is Dead magazine.
Twitter, Facebook and Grindr conspire to build and break relationships in this collection. The hand of technology is ever-present, mirroring the ghostly specters of relationship baggage and dead loved ones, but Zomparelli’s take on modern love is far from cheesy. Instead, social media acts as a window into characters’ hangups and emotional baggage. He investigates the anger and loneliness behind the actions of an internet troll and the motivations for the harsh words of an impatient Grindr match.
“You come into play with people’s psychology very quickly in apps,” says Zomparelli, “I wanted to portray this idea we have that ‘We’re the fine ones, everyone else is crazy,’ and it’s like: why are they that way? Are they going through something?” Throughout the book, the motif of ghosts, memory and death loom through the sardonic narration and humourous romantic comedy-esque interactions. Zomparelli attributes this dichotomy to his experience contending with the death of his mother while looking for love. “I had to relay that I was going through grief a lot of the time. People would be like ‘Why are you not responding?’ and I would have to tell them that I hadn’t even responded to my own friends in a week.”
The themes of grief and depression are also explicated through the image of the ghost, which lends the collection a feeling of magical realism. “There are ways in which we allow things to haunt us, and those things aren’t necessarily people,” he says. “The ghost could represent the baggage that’s hurting your current relationship but I [also] wanted mental health issues to have magical qualities, I feel like magical realism always associates heavily with psychology. ”
Though the stories in the collection take place in different cities at different times, the narration seems consistent and connects each story like a series of vignettes. A running narrative told through small paragraphs throughout the book ties the collection into a neat package. Everything is Awful concludes, after all its heartbreak and humour, with the simple line, “everything was okay. you were here.” And this is the feeling the reader is left with: that even though love and humanness are difficult, witnessing, relating and empathizing can be the catharsis that does indeed make everything okay.
Pick yourself up a sexy little copy of Everything is Awful at Daniel's book launch on March 25th at Cartem's Donuterie in Vancouver. Find more deets here.