Can’t say it with love? Try hate

For anyone who has ever been tongue-tied in a moment of humiliation, wronged but shamefully silent, despair not. You can still have your say.

For anyone who has ever been tongue-tied in a moment of humiliation, wronged but shamefully silent, despair not. You can still have your say. Hate Mail, a debut collection of short stories by author and soon-to-be PSU graduate M.M. Garcia, demonstrates the truth of the old adage, “better late than never.”

Who hasn’t wished they had thought of a timely comeback? We’ve all been there, dated someone special only to discover their twisted family, endured a difficult co-worker, lived with a bad roommate, or taken the “walk of shame.” Garcia fearlessly faces them all (albeit, after the fact), filling the raging gap left by the greeting card industry.

Understanding that anger and displeasure are often more uncomfortable to express than love and friendship, Garcia offers us Hate Mail, a collection of short stories of flawed relationships complete with appropriate greeting cards that set the record straight. Providing a voice for the angry soul, Garcia give us the hope we need to repair our shredded dignity.

Although Hate Mail is written in the first person, Garcia insists it is not a memoir and that the stories are not autobiographical. There are “definitely aspects of real life in there,” but overall, Garcia, in her attempt to create stories that are both personal and universal, uses the first person to help the reader access the mind of the wronged. Garcia explains, “When you are trying to be cynical and sarcastic you have to embellish significantly.” Garcia tries to express what people really feel, not our socially acceptable facade. “We all feel that way, but we can’t always express ourselves.”

Garcia says she believes there is a growing societal frustration that stems from an increasing inability to connect on an honest level. Difficulties arise out of our inability to say what’s on our minds. “There is less and less human interaction in our society, with the self-scanning of groceries, the internet, cell phones, etc.”

Hate Mail seeks to acknowledge the growing lack of honest communication. Garcia admits that she herself has had a problem telling people when they are overstepping their bounds. She hopes Hate Mail will help others stand up for themselves. “There are times when speaking up is just the right thing to do.”

Written in the vein of de-motivators, Hate Mail is hilarious and empowering. Garcia demonstrates a firm handle on human relationships, succinctly summarizing things many of us can relate to, such as: “Ending a female friendship is worse than breaking up with a boy,” and “asterisks don’t lie.”

When asked how she is able to control the sympathy of the reader, Garcia says, “In each of the stories, the narrator is making a huge mistake. You see it coming. The narrators acknowledge their part in each bad situation.”

Garcia wrote Hate Mail the summer before she entered graduate school at Portland State. The book started as a rant about her job on Craigslist. All of a sudden there was an outpouring of interest, and Garcia decided to put her stories down in a zine. She started with a “ridiculous hand-bound thing.” Then Susan Applegate, an adjunct faculty member in the PSU English Department, helped with the redesign. Soon Garcia was ready to take the work to the Portland Zine Symposium. Pricing her zine at a hefty $10 a copy, she was amazed when her 30 copies sold out.

Shortly thereafter, a friend who was a PSU publishing student working at the Ink and Paper Group convinced Garcia to let her present Hate Mail to her associates. Meanwhile, Garcia shopped the book around. It wasn’t too long before the Ink and Paper Group called Garcia for an interview. After a meeting that lasted an hour, Garcia struck a deal with the publisher.

Garcia says she thinks finding a home for her book was partly attributable to the legwork she had already done with the design and the greeting cards. Currently targeting independent bookstores, Garcia hopes that her “hating cards” may one day be available to the public for individual sale.

A native Oregonian and self-described overachiever, Garcia will graduate this term with a master’s in professional writing with an emphasis in book publishing. Garcia’s book publishing background is evident in the creative yet professional design of her book. One of her original design goals was to create an “adult pop-up.” She has come very close to doing this. Each story of interpersonal strife is followed by an appropriately hateful greeting card that the reader must take out of an attached envelope to read. Garcia makes the most of the space in the book, sprinkling her margins with grounding reminders or words of advice: “Jesus doesn’t want you to fake it,” “Ramen is quite possibly the worst food on the planet,” “If you wake up next to a pimp, run away,” and my personal favorite, “Friends don’t let friends call them a fucking bitch.”

Although she doesn’t whole-heartedly agree, Garcia is playfully referred to by her friends as “the hater.” In her other life, Garcia books bands on campus for the Popular Music Board. While at PSU, M.M. Garcia wrote news for the Vanguard as a graduate student and, as an undergraduate, worked as the paper’s production manager from 1994-96. Somewhere in between graduating and looking for a job, Garcia is working on a second book.

Edgy, bold and pointed, Hate Mail is just the thing to help one get in touch with one’s true feelings. If you can’t say it with love, why not say it with hate?

Dame Rocket Press will release Hate Mail: A Collection of Short Stories and “Anti-Greeting” Cards on Wednesday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at The Someday Lounge, 125 N.W. Fifth Ave. Portland bands Yoyodyne and Pocket Parade will play. M.M. Garcia will give a special reading.