Peter Tieryas Liu reviewed Fun Camp by Gabe Durham last week (read the review here), and now, in addition, Peter Tieryas Liu with Angela Xu have made this cool video review using some great archival footage from a 1950’s YMCA commercial. Check it out:
by Gabe Durham
Publishing Genius, 2013
166 pages / $14.95 Buy from Publishing Genius
Summer camp as microcosm for society. Fun Camp by Gabe Durham acts as a strange microscope for the cabin of our lives. I used to go to summer camp and write journal entries every night detailing my experiences. Nostalgia overwhelmed me as I read through the letters, entries, stories, and logs that comprise Fun Camp. The bitterness and joy of the Bildungsroman is rendered as multiple epistolary works, the contrasts between the counselors and the students divvied up by metaphysical musings on camp life. The miracle is how much gets packed into that short period of time; falling in and out of love, friendships born and betrayed, philosophical schisms formed and patched:
“One week? So many sticky memories in such a disposal duration seems impossible. In seventy-five years, you’ll be grizzled on some hospital bed, leaning too hard on memories to divert you from a slow death, struggling to recall your husband’s name, hard-pressed to find a memory…”
The way the narrative flows is as much a character as the campers. The polylogic nature of the epistolary means the perspectives jump from counselor to students and back. Sometimes, satirical, other times, genuinely empathetic, the musings range from distantly sociological to sentimentally jarring. In some ways, it’s a novelized Chautauqua at a campfire set ablaze, albeit without the burnt marshmallows. Mosquitoes of doubt sting and the angst of hormones amplified to the nth degree adds to the quaint allure of story telling, parables meant to shed light on the madness of existence in a camp full of parent-less teens:
“Just as we once had slavery legalized, bees used to be carnivorous wasps. One theory has the wasps eating insects with pollen on them, acquiring a taste, then cutting out the middleman… Best to keep the bees at a distance like the sun and the ocean and trees and the sweatshops and my family and all the other things I’m told I need but don’t need close.”
From the “Sudden Imposition of Chores” to gossip about some of the attendees to water pistol fights to musings on the immoral morality of the evenings skits, it’s the collective nature of the narrative that evokes the sense of fun. In a sense, camp is the modernized rite of passage with its own set of obscure rules and invocations that would seem alien to outsiders. Liminality might seem less stringent than ancient days, and yet the pressure can often be just as daunting. Durham weaves dissonant threads together, reciting a chant of the whimsies, the trials, the intrigues, and the mini-epiphanies that characterize the ceremonies each of the kids undergo. Even the adults, who should know better, are oblivious, suggesting the disconnect between age and wisdom is wider than the students would like to comfortably fathom. The subdivisions are further split out into the days of the week like a Rolodex of memories on call. What binds them together? A communal swap of background sets:
“Human restlessness is such that I could slide open the door to the church Econoline, shout, “Who wants to drive around with busted AC looking for a no-ethanol gas station?” or “Who wants to go get free examinations from the unlicensed proctologist?”… and still I’d fill the van and leave a hoard of angry dust-kickers in my wake. Why? Because everybody knows the best camp activities are those rich with mnemonic potential, and memories remain longest when attached to changes of scenery. As in, ‘One time we piled into a van and…’”
Gabe Durham is starting up an incredibly cool new press called Boss Fight Books that will revolve around creating great books about classic video games. The launch titles will be Earthbound, Galaga, Super Mario Bros. 2, ZZT, and Jagged Alliance 2 with a great lineup of authors from a variety of backgrounds. These include Ken Baumann, Michael Kimball, Anna Anthropy, Jon Irwin, and Darius Kazemi. I recorded a two minute video short with short clips for each of the games to commemorate and celebrate the news, as well as a reminder of how cool each of the titles were. I got goosebumps just recording/playing Earthbound again! As their Kickstarter surpassed initial expectations, it’s happening for sure, though you can still get in on the action and help them reach their stretch goals by clicking the link below. The first of the books is coming out near the end of the year and there’s a lot more of the details on the link. The book covers look beautiful and you can check out what the press will be about directly from Gabe Durham and Ken Baumann on the Kickstarter page. And of course, make sure to check out the books when they release, as well as the games themselves!
Some info directly from the site:
Each of the books will take a critical, creative, historical, and personal look at a single classic video game.Some books will be about the history of the game’s creation, some will focus on particular elements like level design, story, and music, some will investigate the subculture that has formed around a game, some will bring in outside art, science, and media, some will have a strong autobiographical element. Many books will be a combination of all these things.
All the books will be available in paperback and ebook (all formats), and sold both directly from our site and from other major online bookstores. Each book will be numbered, collectible, and will look great on your shelf together.
Seven days ago HTMLGIANT received an anonymous review submission for Fun Camp by Gabe Durham. An anonymous review went live today around noon. However, the review had to be taken down today a little after five. Sometimes you get an email at 8:04 AM and then another at 8:08 AM and you just read the one from 8:04 AM and then that causes a blooper. This is perhaps irrelevant to the following:
Fun Camp has the skinniest low voice. Fun Camp has the most earnest eye width. Fun Camp is tall and kind and stalwart and genuinely funny, sweetly so, like the difference between a blackberry and corn syrup. If I could compare Fun Camp to a season, it would be early May, which is a problem, because most summer camps take place after that, and Gabe Durham wrote a novel about summer camp. It’s called Fun Camp.
The novel is made up of little frosted mini wheats of prose—”monologues, speeches, soliloquies, sermons, letters, cards, and lists”—thereby marking Fun Camp a deconstruction of a genre (the summer camp genre) that (let’s admit) is kind of addictive no matter how you shoot it. I mean, there are parts of this book that are literally better than Wet Hot American Summer. Yeah. For real. I’m not blowing watermelon relays up your ass. It’s not hard to read this book at all—this book is fucking entertaining. It’s sticky with zingers.
Gabe is someone you are like: how did that sweet young man just make it so funny? Because real funny is never sweet. Forget what I said earlier. It’s not even laughter we mean, exactly. Real true funny is the thin cotton sheet with the eye holes poked out that we wear over our totally freakiest cruelties.
In Fun Camp, there is free time, pig’s blood, sucky trees, Satanic goats. There is that tentative adolescent insanity we’re still getting over. Don’t take my huck for it. Get the book. $9 at PGP, early bird special. It’s the book of the summer. PeterBD, in fact, says it’s the “book of 2013.” Below the jump, I will shut up and hand over the sharing baton to some of what’s actually in this lovely young book. Continue reading “Gabe Durham’s FUN CAMP: “Anything that doesn’t send you to the showers isn’t worth laughing at.””