I’m in my 30’s now, and recently had a nervous friend introduce me at a party like so: “This is my friend Fiona. She’s eccentric!” I knew what she was doing; she was purposely trying to lessen her culpability were I to introduce some weird topic into the conversation. (In the car on the ride over, I’d been talking about that horrible Vice article on the porn trend of “rosebudding.”)
Later, it hit me: an eccentric is just a weirdo grown up.
The following is a list of seven candidates for the Internet superlative of “Most Unique, 2014”:
1. Shaun Partridge:
On Shaun’s Twitter page, he describes himself as an “Anne Frank Activist – Vietnam Yoga – Second-Wave Moonie – Disney Radical – Flower Power Union Organizer of Opposites – Militant TV Viewer,” and a recent tweet of his reads, “‘I wish all pencils were made out of fudge,’ five-year-old Rosie O’Donnell thinks as she stares up at her Bobby Sherman poster.” A founding member of the Partridge Family Temple, a “Church of Fun” devoted to the worship of the TV family as if they were deities, a post attributed to Shaun on the Temple website stresses “Partridge makes perfect!” in a bold fluorescent yellow font. In an interview with him, also posted at the Temple website, he beseeches the interviewer, “Not to ask why, because why rhymes with lie.”
2. Jon Konrath:
Called “the White Richard Pryor,” by a friend on Facebook because of his hilarious status updates, Konrath’s Facebook feed reads like a warped chemist’s log of OTC drug cocktails, heavy metal appreciation, and satisfying bowel movements. His website and publishing imprint, Air in the Paragraph Line, publishes writers of a similar odd-ball bent. (A story I wrote, re-imagining the death of William S. Burroughs’ wife, Joan Vollmer, as a murder, is also up at the site.) The author of 10 books, his most recent novel, Atmospheres, “exploring a descent into chemical imbalance and sexual horror,” was released in March.
3. Janey Smith:
Taking his name from the Kathy Acker novel Blood and Guts in High School, Smith is a cultural critic, raconteur, poet, and general shit-stirrer. His support of Alt Lit has done much to elevate the writing beyond the realm of the modern- day passed note: completely understandable to you and your friends, but confusing to everybody else. His chapbook, Animals, takes the cute and cuddly and injects it with a dose of the sinister. Juxtaposing the dark with the sweet, Smith’s writing is like Gertrude Stein meets Frankenstein meets Hello Kitty.
4. Rev. Jen Miller:
A downtown New York City institution, Rev. Jen is one of the last fortifications left preventing the city from a total antiseptic yogurt bar apocalypse. A prolific painter, filmmaker, and writer, her many books, including Sex Symbol for the Insane and Live Nude Elf, document a life led letting her weird flag fly. Residing in a rent-controlled troll museum on the Lower East Side, Time Out New York finally got it right and put the real Jen on the cover, not the impostor (a model in the elf ears made up to look like Jen) that it put on its cover a few years back.
5. Kate Durbin:
One of the few writers today who will perform her work in character or in costume, Durbin has been called “pop culture’s stenographer,” by reality TV star and The Hills villain, Heidi Montag. In Durbin’s new book, E! Entertainment transcribes (often literally) the backdrops and story lines of female-driven reality television in a way that reveals the things we often miss while watching numbly. In an interview for xoJane, Durbin said, “I’m not interested in mocking people on reality TV, but I did want to draw attention to the way in which the shows set us up to mock them.”
6. Gea Philes:
In an interview with online site Agentlover, Chilean born, New York-based artist Gea Philes describes the kind of art she admires as having a “…balance of beautiful and grotesque, evil and kind, (sic) a good sense of humor is always welcomed too,” all qualities found in her own work. Often juxtaposing images of the innocent alongside the creepy, JonBenet Ramsey meets up with Andy Warhol, and we also learn that the two shared the same birthday, via the shirt she made for Unpop. (I love Gea’s drawing for this shirt so much that I bought two in different sizes, just in case I ever put on weight.)
7. Vince Ynzunza:
The little “About Me” section on Vince’s Google+ page says he works at “War, Semen, and Grooviness,” a place that sounds like it should have awesome Christmas parties. It’s really the name of the psychedelic-inspired zine that he edits. Vince also writes and produces short YouTube films, like “Vince Goes to The Price is Right,” and “The Far-out Cinephile.” Resembling a sort of twenty-something Tony Clifton on crack, Ynzunza loves cats and UFOs, and his Facebook statuses are often poignantly hilarious: “The human mind is a lot like a parachute – it only works if it’s open. And it also gets really messed up by all of the other kids in 4th grade gym class.”