Can’t understand reality: thoughts on & excerpts from The Sugar Frosted Nutsack.
This is probably just me, but I keep misreading the title as, ‘The Sugar Frosted Nutshack.’ Feels like my brain is trying to auto-correct, ‘Sugar’ and, ‘Sack’ into, ‘Sugar Shack.’
What I had read from Leyner before TSFN: a used copy of My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist ordered from Amazon for a penny plus shipping, two-three interviews, an unknown but not particularly high amount of tweets, a page and a half at random from Et Tu, Babe which came in by mail in the same package as TSFN.
The prose in (what I’ve read from) Leyner’s books seems to have the kind of rare intensity that apparently can only be described using zany hyperboles, something like, ‘MCMG makes me feel like I am skinny-dipping at three am in a shark-infested pool of lava at the center of a volcano while high on bath salts and cough syrup’ or, I don’t know. ‘Most current fiction is as well-made and as exciting as floral wallpaper, but here is a writer willing to decorate the room with the contents of his own dynamited head,’ reads a spectacle blurb on the back of ETB. Even TSFN, whose prose, in comparison, seems, to me, much calmer (though not exactly, ‘calm’ or ‘calming’), coherent (though still pretty off-the-wall) and structured (still wild), is described on the back of the book (by John Cusack) as, ‘synapse-shattering.’
I don’t know if Leyner’s work teaches me, ‘how to be’ or whatever (though TSFN has some moments that felt, to me, very concrete and meaningful and human), but I definitely feel like it teaches me, as a whole, how to identify, articulate and coexist with the absurd around and within me. After finishing TSFN, I kept seeing things around me that felt like they could have been randomly plugged into a Leyner sentence or exploited by him as a meme.
What We See by Stephen A. Goldsmith & Lynne Elizabeth, Editors.
Honey Nut Chex.
Zumba Fitness Downtown with Mark Vicente, to sexy Latin Rhythms & World Beats.
TSFN is, more or less, a recursive narrative, the novel trying to figure out how to tell the eponymous tale using mostly short chapters that seem to iterate on previous ones. Leyner plays with different text modes (chat, online comments, demented celebrity gossip-style headlines, etc) and repetition a lot, sometimes for comedic effect, sometimes to a vaguely baffling lack of effect. TSFN is structured in a way that makes anything that takes place around the tale a part of the tale itself, which also means the text is constantly probing itself, analyzing itself, canonizing itself. Though some if it is entertaining, some of it is also tedious. It’s like if I took time right now to express concern about this blog post being somehow worked into a later version of TSFN by Leyner, wondering if the blog post will end up being quoted out of context, or if, ‘end up being quoted out of context’ will itself end up being quoted out of context, or if, ”end up being quoted out of context’ will itself end up being quoted out of context’ will itself end up being quoted out of context etc.
Though as an epic TSFN seems to fall flat a little, it has scenes or bits of dialog or even just sentences that felt, to me, very imaginative and inspired and stimulating and purposeful.
Some parts I liked from TSFN, but not all the parts:
And this last enigmatic event – the flushing of a toilet – was followed by the most inconceivably long hiatus of them all, a sepulchral interregnum of several trillion years. And, as time went on, it began to seem less and less likely that another event would ever occur. Finally, nothing was taking place but the place. There was a definite room tone – that hum, that hymn to pure ontology – but that was all.
It wouldn’t be unusual for a God to use Ningdu Chinese, Etruscan, Ket (a moribund language spoken by just five hundred people in central Siberia), Mexican Mafia prison code, Klingon, dolphin echolocation clicks, ant pheromones and honeybee dance steps – all in one sentence.
‘The rice pudding’s on me. Just remind your server or the cashier that Doc Hickory – the God whose static-charged back-hair became the template for the drift of continental landmasses on earth – is treating you to a rice pudding, and they won’t charge you. But you have to use those exact words, that exact epiphet.’
‘I decided that I’d try to become gay, because so many of my favorite songwriters were gay, like Cole Porter and Elton John and the Pet Shop Boys, and I was thinking that might sort of jump-start me creatively. So I went to one of those Christian therapists who ‘cure’ gay people, and I asked him if he’d take whatever he says to them, y’know, whatever secret incantation, and say it to me backward, so I’d actually become converted to being gay.’
‘But I really think that when you become habituated to someone, it can actually do completely the opposite – totally anesthetize you, totally numb you out and blind you to the other person. But then you’ll be somewhere completely random or you’ll just be reading, and you’ll come upon something so abstract, like, I don’t know, an equation in a math book or some mask in a museum or a comment by a complete stranger on YouTube, and suddenly you’re just flooded with all this raw emotion.’
He likes to fillip the soul’s mind with his index finger so that it oscillates back and forth trillions of times a second between, what he called, ‘its regular state and its antimatter state.’ This hyperoscillation, XOXO explained, is that state of mind called ‘going into the forest to gather wild garlic.’
‘You know how they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Well, I’m like an apple that Vladimir Guerrero picked up and threw as far as he could. That’s how far from the fucking tree I fell.’
‘I like the bodies of women who don’t like their bodies,’ he says.
‘Radiation isn’t so bad. I think it makes men better at sex.’