Stripmalling: The Movie coming soon...er or later
Jon Paul Fiorentino says you should read more Mark Twain, for Christ’s sake
Evan Munday’s illustrations round out the comic book portion of Jon Paul Fiorentino’s Stripmalling.
Stripmalling is part-time Concordia creative writing teacher Jon Paul Fiorentino’s “incomplete coming-of-age” story.
Set partly in Fiorentino’s hometown of Winnipeg, where his like-named protagonist “Jonny” works for the shopping mall super-chain Hypermart, Stripmalling moves at a restless pace.
“It just needs to go to the next thing and to continually execute jokes, keep the laughs flowing,” said Fiorentino from his office in Concordia’s Webster library, which also doubles as Matrix Magazine’s headquarters. “That’s its mandate, that’s what it’s about.”
Jonny is not an entirely likeable guy, he said. “But you can identify with his desire to make something of himself, to make art, but at the same time going about it in completely the wrong way and ruining very important relationships as he selfishly tries to turn himself into a writer in every way except focusing on the actual writing.”
Fiorentino is obviously more successful than his counterpart, but still has to find the time to write.
“For a couple of days in a row I’ll be feverishly writing things down and then other days I’ll just be taking long naps instead,” he said, taking a few puffs of his asthma inhaler, recalling the subject of his previous book Asthmatica.
The Jonny featured in Stripmalling is the author of the fictional Asthmatronics. But that’s where the similarities end, he said.
“I’ve gotten into way too much trouble for both Asthmatica and Stripmalling and the perception that they’re close to reality, even though it’s highly, highly fictionalized,” said Fiorentino, who clarified that unlike his character, he’s not actually a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber and doesn’t sell drugs to his students—both shameful admissions if they were true.
“People who have traditionalist leanings generally don’t like meta-fictional texts because they think of [them] as just a postmodern trick,” he said. “As they level that criticism they fail to acknowledge the kinds of tricks they prefer.”
One of the hackneyed ideas Stripmalling skewers is the “Lame Teen Comedy Freeze Frame Wrap-Up,” which frivolously informs the audience of the fate of its characters prior to the end credits, making fun of those who crave additional closure.
“‘Okay, so you want everything neatly tied up?’” asked Fiorentino facetiously. “Well, here’s the way I’ll do it. I’ll do it as a freeze frame comedy trope and leave you unsatisfied.”
Fittingly, or maybe ironically, the rights to Stripmalling: The Movie were recently purchased by Philms Pictures Inc., which has a backlog of teen comedies.
“I’m a co-writer on the project and right now it’s just about getting the budget,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see if we can pull this off in a way that is funny but also smart.”
Fiorentino is still trying to figure out what direction the film will take, but he has some ambitious plans.
“[It’ll] be interesting to see how that all pans out, because some ideas can seem really brilliant but in terms of execution can completely tank.”
In response to whether he hopes to influence others with his writing, Fiorentino didn’t miss a beat: “I certainly hope not. That would be really tragic. It’s weird when someone tells you that ‘you’re my favourite writer.’ Like, have you tried Shakespeare? He’s pretty good. It might be cool if they read some George Saunders or some Mark Twain for Christ’s sake.”
Jon Paul Fiorentino