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June 13th, 2011 / 1:21 pm
Author Spotlight & Presses & Random

Book and Beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon and Tongue Party

Whether corporeal or euphemism or just name for a Tuesday evening out with some new friends, Tongue Party is something you would want to attend. It is also a book by Sarah Rose Etter. It is the winner of the 2010 Caketrain Chapbook Competition. To glow this award is a good thing, and when Deb Olin Underth is the judge, I’d go ahead and say great thing. Also has anyone else noticed Caketrain’s chapbooks look and feel better than a lot of people’s book books? Just saying.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a beer from Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a town where people will stab you in the back as you are climbing a ladder. PBR has a taste sort of like rain, rain gutter, corn and a hint of pale malted irony. Develops a bit of a yeast flavor as it warms. What is irony? I’m not totally sure but Kenneth Rexroth’s third wife left him for their marriage counselor. Bon Jovi plays the radio. A bird hunter pal of mine asked a bird watching pal of mine for advice on binoculars. In the last 5 years PBR has ironically doubled in price. Etc.

I was wondering if Sarah Rose Etter was being ironic in her opening of the first story, Koala Tide, as she seemed to mimic certain Hemingway devices, especially the use of the word “very.”

“The sun was very big and very hot that day.”

“The sky was very blue.”

“Fred wore blue swim trunks and had a very hairy chest.”

But then Etter took us away from this tone, spun us into something detached, this Koala Tide, tide of actual Koalas or again a euphemism or local jargon or objective correlative or perceptive lens of a child during that age, that Bildungsromanian blur, where childhood bleeds [emphasis on bleeds] into adulthood, where pain is introduced as possibility, where we learn not only are adults not Gods, they are slow, aging, stupid, stumbling sub-gods, mumbling who-knows-what into their lipsticked cans of warming beer? This story is evocative and disturbing and badass. You can read it here, and should.

Pabst Blue Ribbon’s appearance is usually a gold yellow; depends on what kind of light you’re in. Like damp corner of bar trough, it might shimmer like a cow’s fat pupil. Or on the front steps at dawn it will be a bit darker. And certainly if you are on a downtown Memphis balcony consuming the sun during midday, you might get a feathery saffron, like with your pal Jennifer’s big scarf look. But mostly gold.

Tongue Party is divided into two parts, and so much of this is about men/women, like maybe how we consume one another, like maybe relationships, or how we force each other to “eat” each other. In compromise you are, by rendering and cough, going to do something you’d rather not. These things accumulate. It seems to me that PART ONE the female is put upon, forced to do a thing, often erotic (and PART ONE is where we will locate the Tongue Party). PART TWO the woman character often takes control, with wit (or more so true intelligence), with an understanding of the power of the mind. In Men Under Glass (which sounds like the name of a band), a woman picks up “Tim, Brad, Tom, Sean, Mike.” She then leads them home and locks them downstairs, behind glass:

It is bullet-proof glass, thick like ice, dustier than frozen water, murkier. It splits the basement in two, clears a room.

Once she has them locked in glass, the woman takes full control. And Etter takes full control of language. She seems to use word-twist-and-play to add layers to her immediate situation. In this scene, the woman is at work.

At work I write their names in the margins of my day planner: Tim Brad Tom Sean Mike.

During meetings I think of their gestures, the way they read the books I painstakingly picked. Affection seeps from my heart to my limbs, making me moist between the legs.

“Cassie,” the work people ask, “do you have the monthly reports?”

“I do,” I say, holding forth a sheet of last month’s numbers transposed into this month’s template.

“We’re holding steady,” the work people say.

“Very steady,” I say.

I like the words I do here. The word painstakingly. The word, steady. Relationship words, bent and rent to new effect. Names of men, lists really, numbers to be transposed.

In Chicken Father, a man in a chicken mask says:

Ha Har lehkes cun chold

translated by his daughter to:

Her hair looks like spun gold.

Words as not what they mean. Not in a man’s mouth, not in a woman’s. Not in our language. Not as words. The book ends on two structurally interesting texts, Cures, and the rising action and yet another spiraling turn into devouring: Husband Feeder.

This book is an odd look at relationships, a bit of mirror, a bit of shattered mirror glass, I mean to say a sharpened edge that might just hold our own face.

Speaking of faces, the mouth-feel and drinkability of Pabst Blue Ribbon is out of this world. I could sip 42 cans in a night easy, as long as I eat a good meal and stay hydrated and toss 32 into my eyeballs. Ping Pong players say it’s good for drinking competitions. People who volunteer for psychological experiments are more mentally stable than those who do not. Sometimes sea birds will see the heat waves rising off the street and just fucking dive right in. Etc.

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