Fiction Fix: "Pinecone" by Michael Cera (plus bonus non-fiction by Matthew Derby!)

The Fiction Fix is your weekly dose of short story. If that’s not your drug of choice, too bad: consider it medicine. Every week, we’ll scour the literary magazines you don’t have time to read, online and in print, and let you know where to find one story worth reading.

This week, we’re recommending Michael Cera’s Pinecone in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #30. Yes, that Michael Cera. Although we love pointing you toward mostly-unknown writers in literary magazines that are not available on Amazon or in your local Barnes & Noble, we are endorsing this story because maybe you decided a long time ago you were over McSweeney’s, or maybe you roll your eyes when a movie star gets literary. If so, get over yourself.

Turns out Cera’s got the chops. “Pinecone” chronicles a few days inside the head of a Hollywood heartthrob who is just starting to notice he’s past his prime — so you know right away it’s not thinly veiled autobiography. The protagonist’s repetitive, anxious internal monologues and often cruel and unforgivable behavior are reminiscent of David Foster Wallace‘s characters, and Cera manages to make acting into just another job full of the tiny, daily humiliations we all suffer. Cera’s contributor bio is also endearingly self-effacing — all it tells us is that he was born in Ontario, now lives in LA, and that this is his first published short story. More, please, Michael!

We’d also like to take this opportunity to direct you to a piece by the awesome Matthew Derby, an online exclusive in McSweeney’s more serious sibling, The Believer. Derby attempts to satisfy his yearnings to attend SXSW by creating his own version of the festival and attending various shows in New England, where he lives. He is forced to admit that this “plan doesn’t make any sense” and that the truth about SXSW is that “waiting in a single club to see a single band at any other time of year, pressed against the sweat-slick nostalgic T-shirt of a young man with feral, Micky Dolenz hair, or, worse, a porkpie hat, is bad enough. But to travel hundreds of miles to do this again and again, end on end, night after night, seems like a freehand sketch of purgatory.” Well, we feel better just because some one else said it out loud. So to speak.