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Mcsweeney's Literary Arts Fund

At 26, Dom Contreras has already spent a decade jobbing through the minor leagues of professional wrestling as Hack Barlow, a 300-pound axe-swinging lumberjack. As his body breaks down and his star power fades, he must invent a new gimmick before he loses the only job he’s ever known. Meanwhile, Dom’s 17-year-old sister Pilar is eager to make her own pro wrestling debut. Dom is determined to keep Pilar under his wing, away from the predators of a business infamous for eating its young. At the same time, he has a vision for her meteoric rise to the top—not just of his own outfit, the middling Mid-Coast Championship Wrestling promotion outside of Charlotte, but all the way to stardom (and a big payday) in the WWE. The siblings are close, spending much of their time packed into Dom’s ancient Honda Civic en route to shows across the south, but as Dom craves privacy and Pilar reckons with her brother’s conflicting roles of roommate, father figure, manager and coach, their relationship quickly begins to fray.

After Dom loses his temper in a match and Pilar injures herself preparing for her big tryout, Bonnie Blue, the eccentric owner of MCCW, spots an opportunity. She is poised, after years of scheming, to unveil her life’s handiwork: an underground, guerrilla-style pro wrestling network with bouts climaxing in real, premeditated injury. To save his career—and his sister’s hopes of breaking out—Dom must become Bonnie’s new star and take on the one persona he swore he’d never embrace.

KAYFABE is a window into life on the fringes of a uniquely brutal American pastime and an intelligent, self-aware commentary on modern identity, artifice, and violence. In the vein of National Book Award finalist Chris Bachelder’s The Throwback Special, KAYFABE explores the boundaries of sport, spectacle, entertainment, and exploitation. Like Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, it centers a strange family seeking connection in an even stranger world. Evoking Sam Lipsyte’s whip-smart humor and Lauren Oyler’s biting insight, KAYFABE challenges readers to consider the truths that fakery can expose.

Author Bio

A University of Michigan graduate, Koslowski holds an MA in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Cincinnati and an MFA in Fiction from the University of South Carolina. His fiction has been published in Blue Mesa Review, Front Porch Journal, and Amazon’s Day One. Koslowski lives with his wife in Columbia, South Carolina.