Formerly Anonymous Review: Zone

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Zone
by Mathias Énard
Open Letter Books, 2010
517 pages / $16.95 buy from Open Letter Books
Rating: 8.0

A French-born Croatian boards a train in Milan. He stows an overfull suitcase beside his seat. He’s hungover, buzzed on amphetamines, and pursued by ghosts. Outside, it’s raining and cool. As the train leaves the station, this Croat, Francis Servain Mirković, an analyst in the French Intelligence, begins to mine the incriminating documents he carries. And as he does, he begins to melt into the Zone. The following ten chapters, spanning 500 odd pages, unravel in a single breath.

 

The Zone

 

Mathias Énard, the brilliant French novelist, and winner of the Prix Decembré, employs no periods or paragraph breaks in his astounding Zone, published in 2010 by Open Letter Books. And while the novel is framed by this train ride (Milan to Rome), the inevitable plotlines recall the desperate noir of Jim Thompson, with more than a hint of László Krasznahorkai.

Énard’s  “Zone” is vaguely the territory between Tangier and Beirut, (“Ceuta, Oran, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Benghazi, Alexandria, Port Said, Jaffa, Acre, Tyre, Sidon,/ or else Valencia, Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa, Venice, Dubrovnik, Durres, Athens, Salonika, Constantinople, Antalya, Lattakiyah,/ or else Palma, Cagliari, Syracuse, Heraklion, Larnaka”) otherwise called the Mediterranean world, “A complex of seas…broken up by islands, interrupted by peninsulas, ringed by intricate coastlines” (Fernand Braudel); and definitively a landscape of despair, “here the mud is made from our tears.”(Charles Baudelaire)

As the spy retrieves his documents, Énard charts the history of twentieth century authoritarian violence across the Mediterranean/ Middle East. And from Ustashi’s, to Falangists, to the Baathists of Aleppo, this history is brutal.

Although Énard lays down boundaries and identifies this Zone of despair, he does not presume exceptionalism.

Instead, he emphasizes the extent to which the violence across the Zone conforms to a global system of violence, specifically highlighting the wars in the Balkans, Lebanon, and the occupied territories.  Like J.G. Ballard’s terrific War Fever, he identifies these proxy wars as a predictable symptom of the current world order. Its no coincidence they play out far from the centers of global power. His observations echo Baudrillard, who famously suggested the prisons complexes of the United States obscure the inherently carceral character of contemporary American society.

When you knock around a lot of libraries, you end up reading a lot of the same. Zone is not that. Like Krasznahorkai, or Danielewski, Énard moves in darkness and depth, and he comes up with something exceptional.

25 Points: If I Really Wanted to Feel Happy I’d Feel Happy Already

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If I Really Wanted to Feel Happy I’d Feel Happy Already
by Jordan Castro
Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014
162 pages / $13.95 buy from Amazon

1. This book and it being read by me results in me saying that Jordan Castro is like a really cool stand-up comedian sometimes.

2. A thoughtful, off-beat, occasionally philosophical stand-up comedian who plays to small audiences of people who are ‘in the know’ but could sell out bigger shows but perhaps wouldn’t want too but might think about it a little bit but wouldn’t want too.

3. The title is another one of those fucking ace, long titles isn’t it. Have you read it (see above)? Good isn’t it. Becoming something of a tradition isn’t it – the long, good, title.

4. Castro is…no, no I’m not going to call him that. Not going to just call him by his surname like they do in reviews. It feels a bit like a teacher talking about a pupil or a factory owner (A factory owner? Fuck! What century am I in?)  talking about a worker in a slightly patronising way. So, yeah. Jordan Castro is a fan of circular reasoning, it pops up throughout the book. He gets all circulus in probando (Wikipedia) on our ass all the time.

5. Or maybe he’s not a fan of circular reasoning. Maybe these things trap him and impede his life like they do with all of our lives and he finds it’s best to try and write about them to circumvent this trap slightly and if we read him we can slightly circumvent our own circular traps. Just slightly. I don’t think he’s trying to write a miracle cure.

6. This book isn’t a miracle cure. Never believe in miracle cures. They don’t exist. They’re all scams. This book isn’t a scam. This book is upfront about things, about everything that’s going on in the minutiae of everyday life. It’s not a miracle cure but it might help. Plus it’s really funny and entertaining too, which helps.

7. The tale of a character named ‘Sarah’ that starts on p.95 is the tale of everyone nowadays who is under 40 and many over 40 and soon everyone in the western world and later everyone in every other type of world (this latter depends on a few things that are currently, to put it politely, ‘in flux’ in global affairs) but they won’t all be named Sarah.

8. In this one:’got a lot of allergies/been thinking about literature/for maybe five hours’, he’s secretly thinking about the sounds of words at the end of lines like an old fashioned poet but is hiding it even though he’s made it really subtle and really good.

9. Pages 115-119 make me realise that social media is so bedded-in in America that people really do view it as part of their real identity and really do agonise about what statuses they type and how they’ll be perceived and how many ‘Likes’, ‘Comments’, ‘Notes’ or whatever it will/should get in a way that is only really just starting to happen in the UK and in a way which sometimes depresses them.

10. I read somewhere in an interview with Noah Cicero (it could’ve been from ages ago, he might have changed his opinion by now, I don’t know. Anyway, he’s entitled to his opinion) that he didn’t really rate David Foster Wallace as being too much to do with Alt-Lit type of stuff but point number 9 makes me want everyone to read this essay by David Foster Wallace on television and then for someone else, someone who is still alive, and someone who, like me, doesn’t have to work full-time  to re-write that essay, updating it for today’s social media landscape and for us all to see how prescient it was in the first place.

Continue reading “25 Points: If I Really Wanted to Feel Happy I’d Feel Happy Already”

Felix In Furs: Review of Dandyisms by Leopold Brant and Leopold Brant at the Poetry Project

Dandyisms by Leopold Brant (gausspdf) and Leopold Brant at the Poetry Project (YouTube)

“I’m not used to circumstances like this,” says Leopold Brant, observing the walls. He’s wearing a purple dress coat and a cravat maybe one size too large. His curls of dark hair have been artfully clustered towards the top of his head, with very little spilling over to the back or sides. His voice isn’t quite disdainful but only because the stronger impression it leaves is of carelessness, lassitude. He has come to the Lower East Side to read at the Poetry Project and it’s evident that his surroundings are beneath him.

His poems, as he reads them to an audience whose responses alternate between credulous, jaded, amused, and bemused, are not quite “beautiful” but also not quite not. For the most part they chronicle, wistfully, a intermittent series of gay affairs carried out amidst the costly art galleries and penthouses decked out in costly avant-garde art for which Brant’s attire serves as a kind of synecdoche, though frequent jolts of humor (one especially large laugh comes in response to an epigram that wonders why John Cage’s advocates can’t shut up and be silent about him) and occasional hints of family trauma (a younger brother in need of guidance, a father whose extreme wealth enables the poet’s luxurious existence even as his parental neglect cripples the poet’s emotions) leave little doubt that there’s a method and a mind behind Brant’s fatuous self-presentation. When he finishes, the audience applause is sincere and loud enough to indicate high levels of interest.

Continue reading “Felix In Furs: Review of Dandyisms by Leopold Brant and Leopold Brant at the Poetry Project”

Reading the B: A Review of Peter Grandbois’ “Double Monster Feature”: the novellas The Glob Who Girdled Grandville and The Secret Lives of Actors

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The Glob Who Girdled Grandville &
The Secret Lives of Actors
by Peter Grandbois
Wordcraft of Oregon, October 2014

 

There’s both a blessing and a persistent sense of cursed lack to ignorant reading, as when the reader has little or no foothold in the allusionary worlds that propel a given story, but, likewise, when the narrative doesn’t require any specific referential knowledge for engagement. Peter Grandbois’ “Double Monster Feature” of two, short novellas, The Glob Who Girdled Grandville and The Secret Lives of Actors, is such a collection, operating on a parodic platform while also completely rewriting this platform. Grandbois’ two main characters are B movie icons of the 50s—The Blob and The Thing—but rather than relegating these creatures to the shadowy sidelines, Grandbois explores them from the inside out, divulging their confusions, desires, and inchoate pathos. And even for those readers like myself, who are mostly unaware of the works’ cinematic histories, both stories unfold quite nicely on their own, doing so by cluing the reader via references to their filmic origins through tacky tropes and déjà vu moments of cliché, touching on our timeless and cheesy yearn for kitsch, for that passé sentimentality deeply ingrained in some collective pop-culture consciousness. Of course, and necessarily, Grandbois explodes these frameworks even as he builds upon them, breathing a new, complex literary life into both narratives, so that the thrill is one of uncanny insight and surprising tenderness.

A Rilke epigraph lifts the curtain on these features—“Oh, this is the animal that never was…,” which speaks to the troubled paradox of Grandbois’ project—humanizing the monster; as from The Glob:

Let us stand clear now and let the troubling story unfold, as we know it did from the newspaper accounts that came after. Of course, we don’t have all the details. We don’t need them. We know in our hearts what happened, what had to happen given the circumstances … Of course, even with our strong storyteller’s sense of empathy, we’ll never fully understand the mysterious life cycle of such a creature. All we really know is that he arrived here on a meteor, a mere babe of an amoeba fourteen short years before. His first experience of life one of hostility as that old man who discovered him poked him with a stick.

Grandbois’ two protagonists, as Rilke suggests, attempt to fashion the real through the unreal. Instead of letting his monsters remain ineffable, opaque, and struggling against nothing but impulse and base survival, Grandbois rescripts these creatures; even as their forms pervert physical paradigms, they are hyper-effable, all too finite, and this is their doomed struggle: the greatest monstrosity is being unable to grasp, only analytically mimic, human motivation and relationship. In The Secret Lives of Actors,

He walks out of the parking lot and down the street, unaware of where he’s going. Maybe she’s right, he thinks. Maybe I am the fraud. I’ll bet that bastard Hawks made me up for the movie. I’ll bet he invented the whole idea of a walking carrot … Who’s afraid of a giant vegetable, anyway? You can’t even love a vegetable because a vegetable can’t love … He wanders down Sycamore until he stumbles into the community garden … then he stops and sits among the carrots and green beans. “You’re right. I don’t belong here,” he whispers to himself. “I’m nothing but a Hollywood invention. Not even an interesting one. What would Nikki ever see in me, anyway? An actor who can’t feel. It’s like some sort of bad joke” … He spends the rest of the afternoon digging a hole for himself … Anything is better than this. This in between place. This place somewhere between life and death.

Continue reading “Reading the B: A Review of Peter Grandbois’ “Double Monster Feature”: the novellas The Glob Who Girdled Grandville and The Secret Lives of Actors”

25 Points: Gamine

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Gamine
by Emily Sipiora
forthcoming from Pink Finger Press, 2014

1. This book often has a cut-up and and collage kind of feel and sometimes reminds me of Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Pierrot le Fou’ in a way that I can’t fully explain.

2. I don’t really like rhyme or half-rhyme and some of this is rhymed and half-rhymed but somehow it manages to avoid that cloying feeling that rhyme and half-rhyme gives to too much poetry. This is an achievement because most who attempt this don’t manage to accomplish it so well.

3. She’s also doing something with meter, I think, which is brave if so (I haven’t scanned it properly obviously – partly cos scanning is so subjective and party because I didn’t want to).  I gave up meter myself, I didn’t like how it mangled my syntax, same with rhyme and the need for a lot of what more traditional poetry bods call masculine endings (stressed syllables at the end of a line). Maybe this type of stuff is due a return. I don’t know. Emily pulls it off pretty well, though.

4. Elliott Smith is a welcome presence in anything that I experience and he pops up here. Sometimes directly quoted and  sometimes in bit like ‘Mr Amiability’ (although while I was writing this my girlfriend was asking me to put the HDMI on the TV and it made me think how Elliott Smith could’ve even sung HDMI and made it sound amazingly melancholic.  I know the writer likes him and I think he’s a good person to like which is contrary to the way in which a British tabloid recently managed to somehow implicate him from way beyond the grave in the death of British celebrity Peaches Geldolf. After seeing his legacy trotted out in such ridiculously absurdist tabloid terms, it’s nice to have him back and rehabilitated into something real and artistic and appropriate.

5. Ian Curtis pops up now. He joins Elliott Smith. There’s a theme here.

6. “Anyone up at 3am was either in love or lonely” is a great line.

7. “I live in your voicemail now” another great line.

8. There are a lot of great lines here.

9. This author is pretty young, like 17 or 18 or something, I think. This isn’t her first book which is pretty impressive in itself. I was going to say she’s ‘pretty mature for her age’ until I realised it made me sound like an old ageing aunt or something. Maybe this is how it is these days but if she’s getting this kind of thing out there now already, what can we expect in years to come? I’m looking forward to it, whatever it is. All you other Alt-Lit writers, you’re getting old, man! (That was a joke mostly on myself, to be fair).

10. There’s stuff in here that is kind of cut-up image macros of Wikipedia. I read somewhere that someone ‘advised’ Emily to stop putting photos in her books because it makes it seem more like a blog. I think she should put whatever she likes in and perhaps this person maybe hasn’t been looking to closely at the alternative literary scene of the past 5-8 years.

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Ed vs. Yummy Fur by Brian Evenson

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Ed vs. Yummy Fur
by Brian Evenson
Uncivilized Books, 2014
128 pages / $12.95 buy from Uncivilized Books
Rating: 10.0

A comic like Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown isn’t one that’s easily discussed in polite company. It’s replete with scatology, hyper violence, and vomiting penises that look like Ronald Reagan. “[I]t’s hard to recommend Yummy Fur or Ed the Happy Clown to just anyone without offering a few caveats/qualifiers/warnings,” writes Brian Evenson. Nonetheless, the book is worth talking about—even more specifically, the journey from mini-comic to “a graphic-novel,” which is what Brian Evenson does with incisive detail in Ed vs. Yummy Fur or What Happens When a Serial Comic Becomes a Graphic Novel.

Brian Evenson is the perfect critic for the first installment of Uncivilized Books’s Critical Cartoons series (which also promises a book of criticism on Carl Barks’s work on Donald Duck comics—now available for preorder). As an author renowned for fiction and scholarship that bridges the gap between high- and low-brow cultures—after all this is the author of both Altmann’s Tongue and two Dead Space novelizations—Evenson lends a sense of legitimacy to Ed the Happy Clown as he meticulously examines Chester Brown’s work. Comic books—especially alternative mini-comics—are seldom the subject of serious literary criticism. I can go on and on about the injustices of the Ivory Tower-ensconced literary elite, but Evenson does this with far more aplomb throughout the work, deploying asides questioning the very nature of a “Graphic Novel” versus a comic book or “a graphic-novel” as well as quotations from other critical greats such as Douglas Wolk (although Evenson’s dissection of Wolk’s previous criticism of Chester Brown also becomes a point of contention in Ed Vs. Yummy Fur).

Brian Evenson contends that Chester Brown’s early work—albeit as crass as possible—is important because it redefines an entire genre of sequential art. Evenson places Brown within the same pantheon of deconstructive, comic book auteurs Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, but what’s even more notable than Evenson’s thesis is his own redefinition for what literary criticism can do. Criticism encourages a level of scrutiny that, ultimately, raises the original work up, regardless of its individual merit, and this is exactly what Evenson has done.

25 Points: Man Alive

Man Alive: A true story of violence, forgiveness and becoming a man.

by Thomas Page McBee

City Lights/Sister Spit 2014

172 pages. $11.17 Buy from: City Lights

 

  1. This is a memoir of transitions, journeys, and radical love/forgiveness.
  2. In this memoir, Thomas’ tells the story of his transition to manhood alongside his account of being robbed at gunpoint.
  3. I’m so glad this book exists. I’m so glad Sister Spit’s new imprint under City Lights exists. I’m so glad Thomas Page McBee exists to have written it.
  4. There is a very palpable danger in this book. Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena’s names  flicker in the background as Thomas traverses the middle of the country, anxiously hoping that he passes as male during every interaction with surly bartenders and gas station clerks.
  5. Thomas and I were in the same writing program at SFSU eons ago when he was a poet. He has always been a kind, thoughtful chum.
  6. Thomas was the “masculinity expert” for VICE and writes the column “Self Made Man” for The Rumpus.
  7. This book gives a nuanced look at male privilege and gender constructs: Thomas acknowledges his male privilege within his terrifying robbery. The mugger gives directions to him, trains his eyes on him, points his gun at him. Thomas’ female companion, Parker, is a shadow, her words are ignored by the mugger, who eventually, reluctantly takes her credit card. I think this moment is a nice metaphor for the privileges and pitfalls of masculinity. Thomas, the man, is taken seriously, is heard and seen. Thomas, the man, is thrown to the ground, is expected to absorb violence and keep his composure. When Thomas speaks, his voice still high and feminine, as he has not yet started taking hormones, the mugger lets him go.
  8. Parker is such a lovable character (and great person in real life). She is supportive and honest and tough and sassy and smart and blurts out things like “wherever you are, whoever you are, you have a right to be here.”
  9. You get a sense of the strain that Thomas’ transition, all the societal implications that go with this change, the mugging, take a serious toll on he and Parker’s relationship, and that’s super sad, because these people are clearly so much in love.
  10. This book is filled with men doing awful things: There’s the robbery. A murder. The racist and vengeful court system.  There’s Thomas’ father molesting him, when he was a young girl. There’s a dark family history full of incest and abuse.
  11. Anger is like the one sacred emotion that traditional gender norms have allowed men. Vengeance is the medium of expression. Thomas’ memoir rejects this construct and refuses to turn men into “monsters.” Again and again, Thomas refuses to succumb to vengeance. He acknowledges that a fistfight or a drunken argument is the prescribed remedy for men who’ve hurt each other, yet he does the best he can to SEE the men who’ve injured him. He refuses to reduce men to their worst acts by acknowledging their transgressions alongside their suffering. He tries again and again, as best he can to forgive them.
  12. Thomas used to edit a fashion blog called The Ironing Board Collective where he wrote about his style sense, his ideal body type (essentially Paul Newman at his hottest), Kanye West, etc.
  13. Here are two little sections I love:
  14. I looked so much like a teenage boy that I’d mostly forgotten my difference. It was only at odd moments that I’d pass a mirror and see shapes that shouldn’t be there, a stranger who looked like me but wasn’t me at all, a stranger like a kick in the chest.
  15. You’d have to be pretty destroyed to hold a gun to another person’s face and shoot it, I thought.  And you’d have to have abandoned yourself to the core to want to annihilate a child.
  16. You know the particularly joyful, cathartic, queasy feeling of removing a frighteningly long ingrown hair, snipping out old stitches, squeezing pus out of a weeping wound? That’s what reading this book is like.
  17. I’d recommend this book to: Survivors of abuse. Men who aren’t satisfied with mainstream or even so-called alternative portrayals of masculinity. People who are in relationships with people who are transitioning. White people who feel confused/guilty about gentrifying their neighborhood. Victims of violent crime. Perpetrators of violent crime. People with violent dads. People with neglectful moms. People who do their best to love them anyway. Everybody else.
  18. With all the stories people are sharing around sexual violence/coercion/rape within the “alt-lit” scene, I keep thinking about restorative justice ( defined as “a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.”)  The 6-12 school in Brooklyn where I work tries it’s best to use restorative justice models to address behaviors that range from mundane (talking in class) to horrendous (sexual predation/violence/etc.) Restorative practices compared to more traditional punitive approaches (which exclude victims and offenders from the justice process) take a great deal more resources: time, energy, follow through, patience, humility, generosity, self awareness, etc.  Man Alive displays the work restorative justice requires: the difficult conversations between the abuser and the survivor, the soul searching Thomas must do to come to a place that resembles forgiveness, the pain Thomas bravely faces in order to move forward into a new gender identity, a new place, a new life…
  19. Men are committing most of the raping, abusing, acts of intimate violence. Therefore it’s critical that men are educated around these issues. This book is an important piece of that discussion.
  20. Now that I’m almost done writing about Thomas’ book, I plan to give it to this one trans student I have who I hope will enjoy reading it, although I fear she’s not a skilled enough reader to make sense of it all. Are there good books about transitioning for teens with low reading levels? LMK!?
  21. Here’s some more stuff from the book I liked:
  22. “Court is now in session,” the bailiff announced… “Please rise,” he said; and I thought of church as we, as one, did.
  23. A wedding had seemed the perfect opportunity to dress up like adults, and somehow magically become them.
  24. This book ends in the ocean as all things should.
  25. I <3 Man Alive.  

 

25 Points: Sorrow Arrow

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Sorrow Arrow
by Emily Kendal Frey
Octopus Books, 2014
92 pages / $12.00 buy from Octopus Books

1. I read Sorrow Arrow in June.

2. “What was the last book you read/what was your favourite, lately?” A friend of mine who was out of town for the summer sent me this text message. I told her it was Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey. When she got back into town a few months later I loaned it to her.

3. If you’re like me, once a year or so, you read a book that makes you rethink the way you’ve been writing entirely and you come away from it sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only way to write is the way that writer does it.

4. Sorrow Arrow was one of those books. When I was finished with it I just felt the entirety of all the poetry I’d ever written pass into obsolescence.

5. My first exposure to Emily Kendal Frey was when we both had prose poems published in Issue 6 of Banango Street in January. I felt privately certain they only published my poem because it was a prose poem roughly the same length as hers and together the two felt like they were kin somehow — cousins of about the same age who look just like each other but only met for the first time in their late teens. Hers was the more successful cousin by far.

6. I added her on Facebook and a few weeks later she posted as a status the sentence “She is born!” and the book’s cover, a faceless blankness wrapped in a green wreath, whirling, encircling sheaves of grass.

7. Two weeks later she posted that the book was available for order and I ordered it immediately.

8. Here is one of the poems: “A radiation plume is making its way to us/We write it down so we won’t think/Lap dogs sprinkled with acid snow/I got on the plane and sat back/Out the window I regretted complaining/I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get inside your color/The sky was cobalt, deafening/I die so I can live/Outside category” (p. 57)

9. At the centre of Sorrow Arrow is a tragedy. There is a tragedy at the centre of every great book of poetry, I imagine.

10. Frey’s tragedy runs through the poems—none of which have titles—like a skein of gold, a vein you can see just beneath the skin, a tungsten wire that glows bright and hot to the touch.

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Sport and Prose in Kerry Howley’s Thrown

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by Kerry Howley
Sarabande Books, Oct. 2014
288 pages / $15.95  Buy from Sarabande Books and Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Gravity forgot me. I was the goalie in a pick-up soccer game in high school. My friend kicked a beautiful curling shot from just beyond the eighteen meter line; a quality of kick that elicits sharp breaths from attentive spectators. I jumped, deflected the shot over the cross-bar, and then. I was just. In space. Weightless. Drifting. Orientationless. Or rather, what orientation I had shuffled realms of sensing, considered foreign methods of angle and duration. I couldn’t tell you where I was or how I got there.

My back slammed onto the ground. The angle of my jump, the force of the shot, my singular focus on making the save, and my lack of expertise in such moments combined to turn me horizontal in mid-air. My body dispersed, but a bound self persisted enough that I vividly remember this instant of free-fall.

Many people, through many routes, have pursued similar fleeting moments; moments when nothing needs to make sense and nothing needs to be sensed because we have been removed from the mundane requirements to sense and make sense. Depending on the tenor of your philosophy, you might call this phenomenon “enlightenment,” “nirvana,” “losing yourself,” “bliss,” or any permutation, step towards, or variant thereof. Kerry “Kit” Howley might call it “ecstasy” or “ecstatic experience;” a specific usage of the term drawn from Schopenhauer and phenomenology.

Thrown, Howley’s chronicle of the pursuit of this “ecstasy” is The Great Gatsby from Gatsby’s perspective, but instead of a beautiful woman with whom the fresh potential of young love was shared, Howley courses an experience of hyper-aware ecstasy that Kit stumbled into first while escaping a beigely debilitating “conference on phenomenology, where a balding professor stunningly wrong about Husserlian intentionality dominated the postconference cocktail hour.” (p3) Kit, “[h]aving nothing to do in Des Moines beyond explore Husserl with nonsmokers who did not understand him[…]walked the conference hallways,” until she encountered this moment of ecstasy in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) match featuring Sean Huffman. Soon after, she encountered that experience again through the martial efforts of Erik Koch. Then Kit pursued that ecstasy through thousands of miles of travel, months of stagnation, and unsatisfying moments, even abandoning her own philosophy degree. And she pursued without waver, without doubt, and with a rare prose confidence. I’ll say this now because other themes and ideas will pull me away from this moment, because there are questions of narration and “fiction” I will not answer, because I’m a person and so will grapple with the ideas that connect to my emotions, because there will not be another chance, and because it is thrilling to say this; very few works of contemporary anything compare to the opening chapter of Thrown.

This is Howley’s ecstasy from Erik:

This moment lasts for days. We can only open our mouths in a united wordless moan. We are each of us simple tools of perception, free of the cloudying intellect, allowed a thinking of the body only accessible when men like Erik can[…]lead us outside ourselves. (p175)

And her ecstasy through Sean:

You’re not supposed to be able to live here, at this pitch, for more than a moment. But Sean, again and again, finds a way to stretch that single moment of ecstatic bliss into minute upon minute of blood-borne release. He is escaping through the slice in his forehead, the knuckle-cuts, the rip down the line of his nose, and it is possible to believe for fifteen short minutes, that we’ve found a way out. (p155)

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25 Points: Matt Meets Vik

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Matt Meets Vik
by Timothy Willis Sanders
Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014
164 pages / $13.95 buy from Amazon

Or ‘Rich Meets Vik’ to review ‘Matt Meets Vik’ as Richard Brammer teams up with his girlfriend ‘Vik’ (Victoria Brown) to review this book.

1. Vik: At the end of the book, I didn’t expect it to be the end and kept turning (scrolling) the pages thinking there would be another chapter. When I realised that it was the end I was pleased at the way it ended.

2. Vik: I’m a woman so I don’t often get to hear a man’s raw thoughts. I liked that this book put me in the position to see male thoughts. I assume that they are real-ish male thoughts.

3. Rich: Shit! I haven’t started reading the book yet. I’m going to read it and find out. I’m not sure but I think I have real-ish male thoughts to compare them to, as a scientific  control.

4. Vik: The book is set when Snake was a big deal on Nokia phones. I never had a Nokia, but I remember the enthusiasm Nokia owners had for Snake.

5. Rich: I had one of those Nokia’s. Before that I had a Nokia 5410 or something (in about ’95 and this was before my impoverished dispersed family had a house phone even). I loved Snake though. I was as addicted to Snake as I could’ve been to anything 2-dimensional at that time. I used to commentate to myself about my own performance on Snake like it was a sport and I was a great renowned competitor.

6. Vik: Actually I did have a Nokia phone but it was such an early Nokia that it didn’t allow you to access your address book when typing a text message so you would have to memorise the phone number of the person you wanted to text when texting. Which was terrible.

7. Rich: Shit! There’d be v apathetic riots if technology was designed like that now. My first phone had a text facility but the network ‘didn’t support it’. Should we review this book now?

8. Vik: I read this book in about 4 sittings; it is 177 pages long. I read it really quickly.

9. Vik: I’m a woman named Vik but I didn’t identify that much with the character named Vik, in fact I identified as much with the character named Matt as I did with Vik.

10. Vik: There are other characters, Chantelle, Ralph, Lucas and Esme and maybe some more.

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