You can’t find the strands
of your lover’s hair
if you never said yes or
hum in the relative minor
if you never had a blood
to call your own. Later
is all the used to be
I ever wanted, after
some after I’d call down
if I had had breath.
You can’t haunt, haint,
if you hadn’t had
a have. If you never
had nary a name.
Last week I did a Nonfiction Shopping Guide. Now I’ve got this list of fiction titles published in 2012, for all you last minute shoppers.
Like the previous list, I’m going to select twenty titles. And I’ll present them in no particular order.
These obviously represent my own interests and therefore omit plenty of titles I’m sure were great.
Also, I omitted titles by HTMLGIANT crew, despite the fact that a bunch of us have really awesome works of fiction out this year.
1. You could just write a short summary of the chapbook, which is artfully arranged and darkly comic legal testimony of, no surprise, forcible oral copulation. You could mention that it’s part of Insert Blanc’s Parrot series, provide an excerpt like the one below, and write something to the effect of writing a review of Strict-Lift Conceptual Writing is sort of like writing a review of a rock: is it a good rock? Does it fulfill its implicit goals of being a rock? And so on.
When asked if he orally copulated his victims, appellant said he hadn’t; when asked if he’d forced his victims to orally copulate him, appellant said he hadn’t; later, appellant said maybe he had.
2. You could breeze through description and head straight into a discussion of Strict-Lift Conceptual Writing (henceforth SLCW), outlining the history and current state of it and then providing your opinion of it, writing maybe that unlike the more engaged conceptual writing found in great books like I’ll Drown My Book SLCW is sort of like the kind of joke that’s only funny the first time. The novelty wears off yet you keep hearing the same joke and you’re too bored to laugh so the joke-teller tries to confront you with titillating and/or shocking subject matter and you yawn because SLCW is SLCW is SLCW.
3. You could breeze through points numbers one and two and throw down a gauntlet maybe something like Forcible Oral Copulation would be right at home on Paul Ryan’s bookshelf next to his Rush Limbaugh books because SLCW is inherently neoconservative in its negation of creativity, complexity, and pleasure in favor of dumb objects. SLCW the opposite of Conceptual Art’s dematerialization, a fetishizing of the material and content-free vs. anything remotely avant or provocative, and you could maybe say that SLCW is not going to hurt you but it’s sort of like trying to swat a dead fly with a completely numb arm. You’d go on to shore up your dragging in of capital P Politics by paraphrasing Adrian Piper’s statement that all art is political, whether explicitly or implicitly, and you’d compare the production of SLCW unlike thrilling freeform conceptual writing as a shutting down of possibility, a reduction, conservatism in the literal sense and so in the political. Or maybe you’d avoid politics because SLCW is maybe the it-girl of the 21st century alt lit scene and knocking it would be like yelling back at the television in a room full of people who want you to shut up and just watch like a reasonable person or else leave quietly.
4. You could talk about your history as a rape survivor and wrap your discussion of Forcible Oral Copulation around its ability to do anything other than function as the outcome of an idea, simple curation that puts you on edge even though you’re supposed to be clinically distant and Over It anyway.
5. You could zoom through points one through three and go light on the politics in favor of discussing why conceptual writing, along with The New Sincerity, are relics of Bush-era willful ignorance because both SLCW and The New Sincerity are not sincere but naive in their fumbling mimicry of something past or lost and serve the purpose to present a literary angle of attack that reduces literature to something fundamentally unchallenging and unnecessary. You could maybe bring politics in at this point but maybe not.
December 17th, 2012 / 12:05 pm
The Parrot series, published by Insert Blanc Press, was much like its imprint started in a mess of pleasant confusion—my understanding is Insert was at first largely a fake press, that slowly became real—in that prior to the actual writing of each Parrot chapbook, they were simply descriptions of (fake) books by (real) authors to include in the entire fiction that is Insert Blanc; however, after a time, the authors of the (fake) descriptions of the Parrot books were asked to actually write them. What the real story is exactly I’m not particularly concerned. I received seven of the Parrot chapbooks—8-14—and for the past few weeks I’ve carried them around in my backpack, taking one out at random when a moment presented itself for a brief dose of whimsy and entertainment, and what follows will be my perceptions of each of them commingled with anything else I have inside my head upon reading.
Also, I’d like to note as an aside the mere pleasure of a well-made chapbook brought along with your other essentials day-to-day. These Parrots are very well-made, pleasing to look at, to hold, to flip through or to sit down mulling over as seriously as your favorite paperbacks. They call to mind not the muddled shelf of desperate/overwhelmingly-similar zines at any record store on the planet, but a sturdy, comfortable nook in a café where people actually give a shit about reading and are curious about the potentialities of language. Anyway, I digress, but really, I like these books a whole lot.
PARROT 8 ‘I Fell in Love With a Monster Truck by Amanda Ackerman’
As I was reading this, I began seeing a hunched decrepit figure in the periphery of my right eye, and it was terrifying so I stuck to the narrative at hand and by the time I was done the figure was gone, so that was good. I don’t want to use the phrase “prose poem” for as long as I live—quotations aside, I guess—so I’m not going to do that here but that’s kind of what this one is. These are chapbooks of poetry, in so many words, but this one reads like a brief Beckettian memoir of a young person who’s constantly being given workout advice at very inopportune moments and cannot fit through doors and constantly refers—as a Bartleby, of sorts—back to the phrase ‘I WILL NOT PROFIT FROM THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS’—and as a person on a couch reading this I realized that the title mattered in an indirect way but the guts and the language of the thing were compelling and confusing and intriguing and I kept reading—I like to think at the pace of the author while writing it, altogether manic and piling atop itself in fits of hilarity—and by the time it was done I knew I’d read a portrait of some life somewhere and that was good, too. Also, the Keith Haring-esque drawings throughout complimented the work better than most drawings throughout poems/stories tend to do; which is to say, they often don’t (do not) and perhaps only work 23% of the time…
December 17th, 2012 / 12:00 pm
THE LAST FIVE CENTURIES WERE UNEVENTFUL
The last five centuries were uneventful
the stitches that melted
from my ripped open cunt
tasted like mint and changed color
when I peed
I peed with the door open
because this is bounty
the universe has a fat lip
we put every cock from China
inside it and splash
in the slippery oriental jizz
you feel like seppakuing because your butthole is unretractable
you feel like seppakuing because your butthole is too determined
you feel like seppakuing because one time a man was rejected by a woman
she said, You’re creepy
and he got a gun
and wrote a manifesto
against bikram yoga
against women with great bodies
against women who want to have babies with other men
against women who want to have babies with men who are not allowed to be part of their lives after they have the baby
against women who know they are good looking
against women who have died for knowing they are good looking
against women who loved women and mocked men for jerking off to the idea of a woman touching a woman
I have jerked off to the idea of a man
jerking off to the idea of a woman touching a woman
and that idea bought a samurai sword from ebay
I wanted to have a baby
I wanted to carry my baby to term
I wanted to have milk oozing from my tits
I wanted to have bigger tits than the tits I have now
I wanted to drink my own milk and breastfeed myself
I wanted to breastfeed my mother and tell her I love her
I wanted to miscarry a baby by falling down the stairs
I wanted to toast to my own miscarriage with breast milk from my tits
I wanted to have bigger tits without having a baby
I wanted you to tell me I’m the reason why the world is going to hell
I wanted to give you the hell you said I was capable of creating
no one really cares but you do and I do
we take the relics of entire countries
and trash them in the sea
when we dive for the past
we find unearthed thoughts
the fertility of what you think could one day be
is just the honest desire to be remembered after you’re dead
so much that you focus on how to be great
so much that you focus on how to be new
so much that you forget to love your father
so much that you forget to love your mother
so much that you forget to love your children
so much that you forget to love your pets
so much that you would forsake the barren godforsaken twice
farted sea which gave rise to the queen and her queenly farts
and her princely kingdom
where she once told you and I and our children to fear everything
and we did
and we lived like that
and we still live that
and we still know nothing
hiding our big dreams in the invisible centers of roses
where we feel big and round and ready
JENNY ZHANG is the author of the poetry collection, Dear Jenny, We Are All Find (Octopus Books, 2012.) She writes for teenage girls at Rookie magazine, and teaches high school students in the Bronx. You can find her at www.jennybagel.com
This poem was inspired by The Empress card of the tarot deck.
The SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) has named one of my favorite writers, Gene Wolfe as the 2012 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. Which is like being the Chaos Lord of American sci-fi/fantasy writers.
by Sean Kilpatrick
Blue Square Press, 2011
85 pages / $12 Buy from Blue Square Press
“O you cancer victims, O you hemorrhoid sufferers, O you multiple sclerotics, O you syphilitics, O you cardiac conditions, O you paraplegics, O you catatonics, O you schizoids, O you paranoids, O you hypochondriacs, O you carriers of causes of death, O you suicide candidates, O you potential peacetime casualties, O you potential war dead, O you potential accident victims, O you potential increase in the mortality rate, O you potential dead.” – Peter Handke, Offending the Audience
Reading Sean Kilpatrick’s first full-length poetry book fuckscapes is an experience that brings to mind Hart Crane’s dictum to create “a new word, never before spoken and impossible to actually enunciate.” Sean Kilpatrick’s poetry gives me that feeling. It is the feeling of a new language. Of expression so impossible I can barely begin to put into words how it makes me feel. But I can tremble before it. This book is insane and suggestive. Its brashness smolders like a confluence of spirit. He says, “bitch I doggy paddle the stars,” and “motherfucker my stains dance.” No thought is too outrageous, no obscenity unspoken. “Did you get your hysterectomy at Toys R Us?” This is not just poetry with an edge – no, it is beyond all edges, from the other side of the abyss, like gazing into an obsidian mirror at your non-human self.
a carbon monoxide ballroom
dreaming public toilets in Sicily
I am the pauper of glows
fraught with bow wow
I am the furnace of every disorder
Saying Christ inside a toy”
What makes Kilpatrick’s poetry really outrageous is its annihilation of meaning. This is nothing new, but under Kilpatrick’s eye it is totally alive, and puts shame to the “half-assed English majors” and other beholders of vision. In lines like, “time for sanitarium gods to moisturize the day,” it’s like he’s sabotaging the nature of expression. Words like ‘absurd’ and ‘surreal’ come to mind, but they are historical commodities, and in no way adequately describe the wild violence Kilpatrick demonstrates.
December 14th, 2012 / 12:00 pm