Columns > Published on October 9th, 2017

What is Gutter Opera? 'Absolutely Golden' Author D. Foy Is Here To Explain...

After D. Foy's stunning debut Made to Break sparked some serious noise in literary circles, I knew I wanted him to teach for LitReactor. We chatted a bit about the possibility of a workshop and he asked me if he could do it on Gutter Opera. 

I had no idea what he meant, but of course, I wanted to know more. So I asked him to explain it, and what he came back with was so thoughtful, so concise, so electric, I knew we had the makings of an excellent class. 

Don't take my word for it. This is what some of D.'s former students have said about the experience: 

"I expected this class to be a bunch of writing exercises. It was much more than that. In four weeks, D. enabled me to change my approach to reading, writing, art in general, and my own thought process, allowing me to break through walls in my writing that I'd had no idea were there. It was deep shit."

—Olivia S.

"If you're looking for a new philosophical angle to writing, if the words trickle onto the typewriter because you're bogged down with fear and uncertainty you're desperate to be done with, if you long to expand beyond the A to B to C linearity of tale telling, or if you're intrigued to see how writing can be more than putting words on paper, more than mere narration, but a creation of art through self-expression, then this is the place to start. Gutter Opera was a catalyst for me. It gave me the permission I needed to write the way I felt I should've been writing all along, it called me out for my false motivations and said, look, jackass, you've got this all wrong."

—Steve K.

So... what is Gutter Opera? Here's how D. describes it:

I reached a place as a writer where a single form or style or technique felt insufficient to my needs. I didn’t want just this or that, but, to borrow Lee K. Abbot’s expression, all things all at once. And every time I found myself slipping into one mode or other, I felt like a liar. So rather than keep to just one way, I began to meld approaches derived from influences as disparate as film script, allegory, jabberwocky, slang, doggerel, yarn, tale, poetry, journalese, profane street talk, criticism, lyric essay, theory, philosophy, and history, to name a few in a giant list. The term I created to describe this mode of working, together with its result, is Gutter Opera.

Put another way, gutter opera is an amalgam of principals, techniques, strategies, and perspectives deployed singly and in unison to achieve a vision that couldn’t otherwise be achieved. For me, Gutter Opera manifests as euthanasia with a sledgehammer, confession with a bullhorn, epic in a dumpster, redemption through a needle’s eye. For you, though—because it isn’t just my technique, my state of mind, but every bit yours, as well—gutter opera is sure to assume a completely different view and form. That’s the good news, and it’s what this class is all about.

By the time you’ve completed this four-week workshop, you’ll be well on your way to creating worlds with materials and influences you hadn’t thought permissible—the principles of krump, the tropes of Kubrick, the chops of DJ Cheb I Sabbah, the sensibility of Virginia Woolf—if that’s what sends you sighing. But whatever sends you sighing, all in one, as one, it’s what you’ll use to make Gutter Opera all your own, and to send your readers sighing, too.

* Please note that over the course of our weekly seminars, we will intentionally avoid discussing such basic elements of literary craft as character, theme, POV, structure, setting, and the like. With Gutter Opera, these things are implicit and derive, as it were, holistically.

D. continues to wow readers with books like his latest, Absolutely Golden. Sunshine State author and LitReactor instructor Sarah Gerard said it "encapsulates everything that is sexy, irreverent, absurdist, and hilarious about America. It's a mid-life check-in, a stripped examination of identity, a self- and social transformation. D. Foy is an American hero—or should I say, anti-hero—and this book is for all of us, all of you, even as it is wholly and singularly his own."

Seriously, if you want to step up your game, if you want to think about your writing in new and exciting ways, this is the guy you want to work with.

Class starts in just a few days. There are still a few slots available. Want in? Then click the banner to learn more. 

Get Absolutely Golden by D. Foy at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at

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