Reading Frank Hinton is bracing, like stepping outside on a brisk, windy day freshly showered, contacts newly put in. I feel unsettled and unsure. An implacable menace hangs over these pieces like death every moment. The book is thematic at the language level. There is talk of physical and emotional bonds. There is meditation and joyless sex and animals in traps and death and death. Almost every piece directly or indirectly involves death. Hinton has spoken in an interview with Dark Sky about doing Osho’s death meditation.
Like waking from death meditation, sensory details are heightened: clementine juice filling one’s mouth; thick curls of hair crowning the base of a father’s penis; etiolated skin; a round, plump ass; the taste of one’s t-shirt collar.
In “A Medium Sized Mammal Native To North America,” to me a standout, the careful interplay between the action of the scene and the text Frank is writing seems impressive. Everything is deliberate; all correspondences, details, words. Frank by turn writes, says, and thinks the following phrase, a mantra maybe: “There are no entities, only processes.”
Another favorite of mine is “Fake Kiss,” some bits of which also appear in Hinton’s recently published piece at NOÖ Weekly (guest-edited by Richard Chiem). It has some great lines (Hinton has many): “I want to see if my nipple can touch the little drop of skin at the back of your throat”; “You couldn’t touch me if you tried”; “I wanted to watch the sculpt of your body become a non-shape like the wind.”
Hinton recurrently evokes a void, a hole, “a new hole in the universe that I’m supposed to create.” A loss, a traced path gone, a safe place now only remembered. This could be, as David Foster Wallace puts it, “the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.” Hinton’s characters seem to know this lack and to try to detach themselves from it. The emotional current in this book lingered with me after I set it down. I’m left with images of two bodies kissing to make a machine of revolving tongues and of one person who feels good and feels nervous and secretly wishes for blood when she blows her nose.
The first-person narrators in this book are female, but the gender of the main protagonist varies throughout. There is also a male character named Frank created in “Make A Man” and featured in “A Medium Sized Mammal […].” One could conclude that Hinton is a female author who creates a fictional male version of herself. But this could be partially or completely wrong, or a simplification. This play with author persona/author-character-interrelation accomplishes the tricky feat of simultaneously subverting the autobiographical reading of the work and insisting that the text is authored, even if the author’s identity is uncertain.
To the extent the question is rational in context, why? Is Frank Hinton fucking with me? a reader might ask. The work of this author is very interesting to me apart from the author’s identity and the play with persona/gender, but I am curious nonetheless.
Perhaps this is a Zen-like conception of author and text. The author exists and does not exist. The text is authored and not authored. It is autobiographical and not. It is, as Rilke puts it, “nowhere without no.” In her interview with Mike Young, Hinton says, “I think what I am talking about is the sensation of not exactly existing and doing things in that space of non-definite reality.” To me, Frank is as present as Frank is spectral, a smiling enigma, belly plump with words.
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Image macros by Omar De Col.