On “Phone by Darby Larson,” with digression

Posted by @ 12:11 am on April 16th, 2010

Phone by Darby Larson,” by Darby Larson, in the current issue of The Collagist, is one of the most refreshingly original pieces I’ve read in a while. The fading sequence of gray fonts mirrored at both beginning and end make the words, or ‘tips’ of the story, receed along an arc into visual space, as if the story itself were a giant sphere — a circular notion aptly mirrored in the jumpy, overlapping, entropic, and ultimately symmetrical narrative. Here, Larson (also per Abjective’s editorial fancies) is not just interested in telling stories, but writing them. In my mind, the two are different: the former merely a transcript of what one might say aloud to a spectator, the latter being actively aware, pensive even, of its ‘wordness’s’ function, capacity, limitation, and artifice. Oral history is fine, but I prefer writing that is seen, upon which, in this case, the structure looks like an almost palindrome, with wonderful tiny placed errors.

Larson’s short punctuated sentences act as a bridge between Zachary German’s and J.A. Tyler’s, both of whom represent extreme end-points of this tendency, for vastly different reasons. German’s is most ‘ironic’ and sophisticated, perhaps at once commentary and complicity regarding the new age (can’t believe I just said “new age”) of ADD-ridden fickle and/or disengaged beings; yet, there’s a detachment so extreme, to a point of linguistic excavation, one wonders if German is actually a monk in hipster disguise. Tyler’s compulsive ‘reminder’ few-word sentences (you’ll find them in a majority of his work) seem to point back to Beckett, in its conceit of cerebral abridgement, a kind of earnest bravery of words. Larson seems closer to Tyler in this regard, but with the self-awareness and cautious cynicism of German. As for his residency at HTMLGIANT’s comment section, he does seem a little too available, so it’s a good thing this isn’t dating.

Then there’s the Rocky mashup with borrowed “Yo Adrian” sound bite, all delicately balanced with another movie Edward Scissorhands — an unlikely pair, unless one considers that both are Jesus figures (most protagonists in mainstream film are). This intentional prism of authorship and narrative leads into the eponymous play of the title, the meta-author poking its head out. The impulse is to believe, simply, that Larson is somewhere inside this murky autobiographical story, whether he’s the boy or the man, or both. But I think that “Phone by Darby Larson” (not the title but the phrase) is meant to act as a gentle reminder — no matter how old the story is in the future — that this is being written, the present tense of the writing’s inception forever active and never in the past. Our timeline is simple, Larson is here, present; his writing, a present.