DISCLAIMER: This book and my review will offend almost everyone.
Tool. is a hard go. That’s the short of it. In a culture where books are already often marginalized as entertainments or, when not entertainments, as “literature” (a term Sotos hates)—here meaning a kind of artful comment on or discourse with the world—where, at best, the book offers polite critique through lenses that are prescribed by the systems these books claim they challenge—in this culture Peter Sotos will be dismissed outright, both as a writer and as a person, a distinction that’s probably pointless because Sotos has been endlessly vigilant about claiming that, for him, there is no distinction.
That honesty also works to assure he has little footing to stand on in the larger literary conversation. And maybe it should stay that way. I won’t claim it shouldn’t. But all of this leads me to conclude that Sotos may be one of the only writers I can point to, perhaps the only one with so immediate a method, who has made a lifelong project of problematizing the existence of monstrous selves in relation to larger groups: societies, neighborhoods, families. He refuses to deny these selves, refuses to box them up, refuses to refuse access to the components of these selves that exist within his self. And this seriously pisses people off (check out this conversation on the Electrical Audio Message board for tangible evidence)
This reaction, though small, interests me in a number of ways. I’m always curious to encounter ideologies we’ve erected that seem to be beyond taboo. Sex with children, let alone cruel and fatal sex, is a supposedly clear line in the sand, one you do not cross under any circumstances. That Sotos seems interested in using his foot to not only smear that line, but to tunnel into the sand beneath it out onto the other end, elicits active hostility. But, more than this, I’m also curious about why no one seems interested in pointing out the empathy that exists at the bottom, and not just, haters would assume, for the perverts, pedophiles, child murderers, and monsters that populate his work. Certainly, at least in Tool. anyway, there exists a strong, obsessive desire to understand the victim, the impossible other that makes existence excruciating.
May 31st, 2013 / 11:00 am