About Lillian Ann Slugocki
Lillian Ann Slugocki has been nominated for Best of the Web 2014 and 2016, a Pushcart Prize, winner of the Gigantic Sequins prize for fiction, and a finalist for the Glass Women Award. She's been published by Seal Press, Cleis Press, Heinemann Press, Newtown Press, Spuyten Duyvil Press, CCM, as well as Bloom/The Millions, Salon, Beatrice, THE FEM Literary Magazine, HerKind/Vida, Deep Water Literary Journal, The Nervous Breakdown, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, Entropy, BUST, The Manifest-Station, and The Daily Beast. She has an MA from NYU in literary theory, and has produced and written for Off-Broadway and National Public Radio. How to Travel With Your Demons, a novella, Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2015, was selected for the Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Book Club. Her other books are The Blue Hours, and The Erotica Project, with co-author Erin Cressida Wilson. Anthologies include Wreckage of Reason 2: Back to the Drawing Board and Dirty Girls.
I chose this project because it's a love story, but not one we're used to seeing. It doesn't turn on happily ever after. It's a risk in my business – especially for a female director, an auteur, if you will, because the audience wants and needs a happy ending to a love story, but I'm stupid enough or brave enough to want to try and change this perception. Love is many, many things but not, I think, what the culture teaches us. You can't wrap it up in a pretty bow at the end of the story, at least not in real life.
Clare and Max's marriage is strong, it lasts almost 30 years, but it's also very imperfect – photographing his wife, Clare, over and over, at the kitchen window, overlooking the air shaft, in exactly the same pose, the same time of night, the same lighting, the same expression on her face – she's like a butterfly pinned to his board, an insect wriggling on the dissection table. Beneath his gaze, who does she become, and away from his gaze, what will she do? These are the questions I'm interested in exploring in this film.
While I was writing the screenplay, I spent a lot of time at the Whitney, practically hypnotized by Zoë Heller's photographs. The images are human, yes, flesh and blood, but they are more than that – if angels and devils actually existed, this is how we might perceive them. Unearthly, but of this earth. Dead at 20. Suicide or murder. But today hanging at the Whitney. So at first, this was going to be a biopic, sensationalistic – but then the deeper I fell into the story, the more I realized I didn’t want to contribute another word to the female narrative, the one where she crashes and burns – the price she pays, the price Zoë paid, for having a voice, or a vision. It's the one we seem to like the best, but I'm sick of that, too.
Instead, I decided to tell the story of the apartment where Zoë lived and died, map out that territory, that space. Tell the story of Clare, too, the woman who took her place after her death. Because Clare succeeds, you see. In the end. Unlike Zoë. I don't know if Clare will ever exhibit at the Whitney, but she succeeds because she's still an artist, and she lives. My studio is expecting the biopic, a noir perhaps, but that is not what they are going to get. They are going to get the story of a man and woman, in a marriage, for thirty years, and the ghost of the woman who haunts them both. Because this is the poetry of life.
Copyright © 2017 Deep Water Literary Journal. All rights reserved.
Each month, the work of a featured Deep Water alumnus will appear here. Our featured Soundings creative this month is the writer Lillian Ann Slugocki, whose flash fiction: The Butterfly appeared in DWLJ 2015-Issue 1-February.