War Paint and Purse Pistols


She floated above my desk with a grave, almost murderous look, war paint on her cheeks, blonde braids framing her face, the braids a frolicsome countertone to her intensity. The paint on her cheeks, not frolicsome. The streaks of it, dripping down, were cold, white shards, as if her face were faceted in icicles. I didn’t think much about the tape over her mouth (which is actually Band-Aids over the photograph, and not over her lips themselves).

For The Paris Review, Rachel Kushner writes about the images she used to trouble and inspire her as she wrote her novel The Flamethrowers.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →