Layers of Story – Jeff Jackson, 2018 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship

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By Michael J. Solender 
This is novelist Jeff Jackson, who draws inspiration for his novels from “grunge” music venues and gritty industrial settings. His new novel was partially inspired by Charlotte’s historic Milestone Club (c 1969) on Tuckaseegee Road. These photos were taken there. Photo by Nancy Pierce.

Readers of Jeff Jackson-authored works are quickly immersed into nuanced character-driven stories where his protagonist’s emotional wounds and fractured souls strengthen their resolve and ironically serve as scabbards in insulating them from the darkly dystopic realms they occupy.

“Since college,” says Jackson, “I’ve been drawn to fiction for its ability to explore characters on the margins of society and to tell propulsive stories that combine fantastical elements and stark realities. I have developed a style of heightened realism that infuses recognizable situations with dream logic. I’m interested in creating immersive literary spaces that refract our current lives in unexpected ways.”

Jackson says he likes to create an open text in his work for readers to make their own connections and emotional reactions.

“I want to give readers reasons to turn the page,” he said.

And turn the pages they do.

Jackson’s 2013 debut novel, “Mira Corpora,” was a finalist for the prestigious Los Angeles Times Book Prize and landed on several of that year’s national “Best of” lists. The book gained local kudos from Charlotte Magazine, earning Jackson a Best of the Best award for Best Author. He followed “Mira Corpora” in 2016 with a related tale “Novi Sad,” a novella that won Best Book acclaim from Vice, Entropy, Lit Reactor, Pank and Volume One Brooklyn.

Jackson’s second novel, “Destroy All Monsters,” releases this fall from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The book carries the tagline “The Last Rock Novel” and has both “A” and “B” sides with separate – yet interrelated – stories. The format mimics that of old-fashioned 45 rpm vinyl records and is one Jackson believes will resonate with readers.

“The novel examines this country’s epidemic of gun violence and concerns various rituals involving music,” says Jackson. “I’ve become increasingly interested in narratives that have mythic undercurrents and address contemporary historical realities from unusual perspectives.”

Jackson’s talents extend to the stage, where he is a playwright and founding member of the New York City-based and Obie Award-winning Collapsible Giraffe theater company. He also works as an editor, extending his talents to helping other writers. Jackson’s passion for film and jazz led him to found and program the NoDa Film Festival and the New Frequencies performance art series at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.

Jackson looks to his ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship to feed his passions and hone his creative craft. Gaining exposure to the work of masters is on tap as Jackson plans to travel abroad and work directly with those he sees as mentors.

“This fellowship will allow me crucial access to two master artists whose work addresses myth and narrative from different perspectives and in different mediums,” says Jackson. “My plan is to seek fresh creative inspiration by traveling to Paris to study with acclaimed fiction writer Dennis Cooper and immerse myself in the rare films of Philippe Garrel, which are only available in France.

“I’m attracted to the work of both artists because they find startlingly new ways to tell stories, conjure dreamlike moods and address historical situations from unexpected angles. I’m excited about being able to immerse myself in the work and am hopeful this fellowship will impact my own work in profound ways.”

His expanding fan base is eager to experience his forthcoming work.