Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels: Featured Author #2 - Rax King

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

In the weeks leading up to the release date of Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels, I'll be featuring some of the pieces and authors here on the blog! Our second feature is Rax King and her CNF piece "Bruce Springsteen is my new dad--ask me how!"

Rax King is a dog-loving, hedgehog-mothering, beer-swilling, gay and disabled sumbitch who occasionally writes poetry and works as assistant editor for Sundress Publications. She is the author of the collection 'The People's Elbow: Thirty Recitatives on Rape and Wrestling' (Ursus Americanus, 2018). Her work can also be found in Catapult, Autostraddle, and Barrelhouse.

Which Springsteen song(s) inspired your piece?

My essay was less inspired by a song than a mood, one which I associate with most Bruce Springsteen songs -- the mood of wishing desperately for something other than the hand you've been dealt, while knowing that you're never going to get it. In this case, the thing I wanted (and still want) was for my dad to be alive again, which is obviously impossible. So I found myself inhabiting that impossible mood while writing this, and working back from that fantasy into others that are equally fantastical. Like, if my dad could be alive again, what else could be true? Could Bruce Springsteen be my dad? Could my dad visit the two of us as a ghost? All of which seemed equally possible to me, or I guess I should say equally impossible -- so I wrote a little fairy tale about it for myself.

What is it about these songs in particular and/or Bruce’s music in general that inspires you?

Bruce Springsteen's music has always been important to me because, as I've said before, he makes an honest effort to write for everybody. He's not just writing his own life and desires into music. He writes songs that ask what the world looks like, and what its inhabitants wish it looked like instead, and the sorts of things that people wish for when they have very little. And I think it speaks to his perceptiveness that he's been able to write successfully in this idiom for so long, when he's been a millionaire for decades -- the things his characters dream about, he's had those things for years, and yet he can still speak convincingly to how it feels to want. He writes from a place of exceptional empathy, which is something that I aspire to do in my own writing.

What five Springsteen songs do you think everyone should listen to? (This list can include the song(s) that inspired your piece, but doesn’t have to.)

Only five?! Okay, okay:

  • Racing in the Street

  • Thunder Road

  • Atlantic City

  • I'm On Fire

  • The Promised Land

But I had to leave off so many favorites -- I listen to his first six-ish albums, like, every day and rarely skip any tracks! Everyone should listen to all those albums, all the time.

What’s your favorite line/section from this piece?

At one point in my essay, I imagine visiting a restaurant with Bruce Springsteen (who is, at that point, my dad) and running into my real dad there, and how my real dad would acknowledge me. It's the quickest little thing, but I actually agonized over how I wanted to have my real father interact with me in that scene. I didn't want to write a sugary ode to how much I love and miss him, though I do. Because ever since he died, I keep seeing him everywhere, and I wanted our interaction to be awkward, and unsettling, and a letdown, like I suspect it would be if I really were able to run into my dad one last time in real life. And like I suspect it would be in the Bruce Springsteen song of my father's death.

Anything else you’d like to say, either about Bruce or about your piece?

Bruce, I love you, and I've stayed hungry my whole life at your expert direction. Looking forward, as always, to seeing what sort of trouble that hunger gets me into next.

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