25 Points: Ozma of Oz

by Debbie Urbanski

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Ozma of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
HarperCollins, 1989
272 pages / $6.95 buy from Amazon

1. This past year, my 5-year-old has been obsessed with me reading The Wizard of Oz to her over and over and over. While I have loved that book for decades, I reveal to her it is a series – there are more!

2. So we begin book two in the Oz series, The Marvelous Land of Oz. Which turns out to not be marvelous. “Where is Dorothy?” my daughter asks. In fact, Dorothy is nowhere to be found. Instead of Dorothy, there is a sorceress who is trying to force her ward Tip to drink a potion that will turn him into a statue. The sorceress is kind of scary.

3. Though the sorceress is not why we stop reading the book.

4. We stop reading when the ridiculous all-girl Army of Revolt storms the Emerald City, making the men mind the children and do the housework, only to get scared off by mice.

5. We move onto Treasure Island which I realize, early on, is not appropriate for a 5-year-old because of large quantities of murder and rum, finally settling upon Pippi Longstocking which, despite the heroine’s coffee habit and dead parents, appears a good fit. Then it is back to The Wizard of Oz.

6. Then instead of rereading The Wizard of Oz again, I suggest why don’t we try book three in the series (Ozma of Oz). The book is #83 on the School Library Journal’s list of the best children’s novels ever. Unsurprisingly, The Marvelous Land of Oz is not on the list. Still, I am nervous, making my daughter nervous. Reading bad books is an awful experience, but reading bad books aloud to your child is much worse, as it takes longer and skimming is difficult to do.

7. In the case of Ozma of Oz, There was no need to be nervous. It turns out I love this book. I have loved this book. This is the book with the lunch-box tree. “The tree seemed to bear all the year around, for there were lunch-box blossoms on some of the branches, and on others tiny little lunch-boxes that were as yet quite green, and evidently not fit to eat until they had brown bigger. The leaves of this tree were all paper napkins, and it presented a very pleasing appearance to the hungry little girl.” Inside the lunch-box was, “nicely wrapped in white papers, a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese and an apple. Each thing had a separate stem, and so had to be picked off the side of the box…”

8. But the tin dinner-pail tree is even better. The dinner-pails grew on another tree and inside each pail was a thermos of lemonade, plus “three slices of turkey, two slices of cold tongue, some lobster salad, four slices of bread and butter, a small custard pie, an orange and nine large strawberries, and some nuts and raisins. Singularly enough, the nuts in this dinner-pail grew already cracked, so that Dorothy had no trouble in picking out their meats to eat.” I remember these trees. These trees are one of the most vivid memories of reading I can recall as a child.

9. I think it was a tragedy of extreme proportions to the child-me that such trees were nowhere to be seen in my Chicagoland home. The lack of such trees was proof that there had been some mistake and that I was living in the wrong world.

10. This is also the book with Princess Langwidere who has a room full of velvet lined cupboards and, inside each cabinet, is a different head that she can put on or take off whenever she likes. Unfortunately, when Dorothy is visiting, the princess puts on the mean head. Continue reading

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I Don’t Want to Want to Win: A review of Mathias Svalina’s Wastoid

by Natalie Eilbert

Wastoid
by Mathias Svalina
Big Lucks Books, 2014
166 pages / $12 buy from Big Lucks Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Berryman wrote in a letter to Allen Tate, “I don’t write these damned things willingly, you know,” an exclamation that fits the vertiginous, character-addled world of The Dream Songs. Certain writers demonstrate this possessive spirit effortlessly, and Mathias Svalina fits in among them in perfectly discordant harmony. Wastoid, his latest collection from Big Lucks Books, has crawled inside the desiccated body of the Sonnet and formed an impenetrable shell from its remains. Like The Dream Songs, Svalina absorbs the personal into a visionary metamorphosis of the real. They both discard tight form to maintain the bare mechanisms of the sonnet. In Wastoid, men swamp to and from the path to gaze into mirrors, open doors into other doors forever, tell their shitty dads to fuck off, and eviscerate themselves to gift themselves to the lover.

Early on, Svalina gives us two aesthetic choices—substance or form—on how to “tame the unrammable will,” a nod that feels self-conscious, an impossible promise. The unrammable will, like Berryman’s immutable drive for substance and form, is a concept that gains traction from isolation. And isolation, more than in any other poetic form, carries a potent smell in the sonnet. While I don’t want to convince anyone that this early moment is manifesto’s sneaky thread, it points to a duality that is signature in these poems, a duality also signature for the sonnet. The lover is the volta sluicing the flood, spilling the guts, trapping the speaker between water and whale. Any other feature of the sonnet falls to the wayside, because, in this heightened realm of lovers all called “Wastoid,” it is only the slaughter of arguments that count for anything.

Most of the poems organize themselves around the lover’s growing imperialism, fame, opposition, deterioration. Pick your poison, the lover seems to say, as their agency bloats into objects while the speaker flattens under the power of decorum, becoming more and more corporeal. The lover is an obstacle when the speaker is crushed beneath doors. The lover is a window when the speaker is only skin. The lover is a trampoline when the speaker is a “canyon killing a praying man.” The lover is a tinfoil quilt when the speaker splits into two writers. Steeped in the logic of the poems, such declarations make perfect sense. We know that the subject-predicate is at war with itself, and the battle is pathetic and terribly effective. Take this poem in full:

My lover has an enormous name. It only just fits in the minivan when we go to Home Depot. We used to fold the name up neatly for travel when our relationship was new & he wore all the jewelry that were gifts from me. But now my lover’s name has such strength & such wealth that it is impossible to fold. There are so many things that command the attention of men—for instance, I love prizes. But my lover looks at photographs of horses online & looks at how much they cost & imagines what it would feel like to purchase a horse. He drags his name from one room to the next & rarely can I edge my way past it.

Continue reading

25 Points: The Pedestrians

by 

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The Pedestrians
by Rachel Zucker
Wave Books, 2014
160 pages / $18.00 buy from Wave Books

1. The ‘Once upon a time…’-style tone of the beginning of this book reminded me of the short story ‘Clay’ in James Joyce’s Dubliners and what he or someone called the ‘marmaladey-drawersey’ tone it was written in.

2. I really like the phrase ‘sublet bed.’ Sublet properties and the whole poetry of the rented house concept are so often commented on but not sublet beds. Hurray for this.

3. To return to the style and tone for a moment, if we may…(hey that was really formal for a moment wasn’t it, cool) I really like what I’m going to call the circumlocutory descriptions here such as ‘She had a small copper wire inside her. This made conception highly unlikely.’ when she could have said ‘coil’ or ‘intrauterine contraceptive device.’ This starkness really makes me laugh for some reason. In England, there used to be books called ‘Janet and John’ books for small children that used this kind of tone to help the kids learn how to read. They didn’t mention coils or IUCDs but I really think that style transplanted to adult life is cool.

4. ‘Every day she watched the UPS truck come toward her up the/road, make a three-point turn into the driveway before hers,/and pull away’

This is beautiful, man. I can’t say more about it than that.

5. ‘They had not known each other when they were teenagers but/when the radio with the human genome played Phil Collins it/was 1985 bar mitzvah season all over again.’

I have no idea what a radio with a human genome is but the imagery is fantastic that’s just my point I suppose, that’s just my point about this book, the imagery is delicious throughout.

6. Such juxtapositions. Babysitters, Buddhist monks and pole dancing competitions. The world and this book are full of such juxtapositions.

7. Another reviewer worried about this book. They worried about how the main character who lived in the most expensive city in the world (New York) and had trips to Paris and an apparently idyllic bourgeois life with husband and children and so on and yet complained all the time. They worried how this might be taken perhaps. Whilst my own working class proletariat background could go probing into this with my bullshit-detector, instead I was reminded of DFW and his thoughts on his, albeit slightly earlier, generation and how despite all the opulence everyone was still so lonely and miserable and how much of an interesting question this still is (even now the middle-classes have discovered Occupy in their gap year).

8. I’m defending it but it’s ok to worry about that too, I think it’s a valid point. Marxism is one of the better lines of enquiry for me.

9. I have a real affection for the poem called ‘Real Poem’ because it neatly and concisely parodies Poetry (that’s poetry with a capital P) and all its big profundity and arrogance.

10. Reminds me I haven’t had babies yet. Continue reading

25 Points: Sprezzatura

by Richard Brammer

sprezzatura-cover-front640
Sprezzatura
by Mike Young
Publishing Genius Press, 2014
132 pages / $14.95 buy from Publishing Genius

1. Deep down he thinks he’s too much of a redneck to have got into Husker Du.

2. Syntax 1: His syntax is fascinating. Someone – can’t remember who – once said that ‘a poem should be a machine for re-reading’ and that’s what you do here. You read, you skate across the surface and then you re-read and it’s different the next time and you can’t get bored.

3. Syntax 2: Because of this, it sometimes seems like he’s put a real long scroll of paper into a typewriter emulator and just kept on Benzedrine-typing until he was finished.

4. Don’t get carried away with the Benzedrine though. There’s something else going on here:

“Often I throw a tennis ball against the wall and hope

the people downstairs believe more people exist

above them than really do…”

There’s a bit of craft at work here. Don’t get carried away with the Benzedrine. This isn’t just typing.

5. ‘On the bus, I pass through unobtainable wi-fi’ might be one of the best lines I’ve heard to sum up now, right now.

6. There are things here in this book. Things everywhere. Nouns.

7. There are unfashionable adjectives with fashionable nouns and fashionable nouns with unfashionable adjectives everywhere here.

8. Mike Young is a poetic phrase-maker in a way you don’t see too much in contemporary literature/Alt-Lit etc. He’s bringing phrase making back and making it cool.

9. I want to make a phrase now but you know you can’t just make a phrase just out of the blue as easy as you might think, it’s hard. If you plan it too much and try to think of a noun and an adjective and put them together the only noun you end up thinking of it ‘sea’ and the only adjective is ‘blue’ (or if you’re feeling revolutionary ‘green’) and that was all well and good 700 years ago but now it’s just some blue or green sea that isn’t even good enough for a corporate advertising slogan advertising shower gel let alone a book of writing/poems. So, it’s hard making phrases. It’s an art form. It’s easier to consciously make a bad one. This book is full of none-bad phrases. Here’s some:

10. ‘…imported mango soda’ Continue reading

The Space Reserved In Every House For Emptiness – A Review of Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox

by Meghan Lamb

doesnotloveDoes Not Love
by James Tadd Adcox
Curbside Splendor Press, 2014
275 Pages / $14.95 Buy from Curbside Splendor

I recently married someone. We drove to Vegas to get married. This is to say, we drove together through the desert.

We drove together through the desert to a city filled with neon signs, designed to distract from the fact that on all sides, the city’s surrounded by emptiness.

We drove together through the desert, and we got into an argument. I don’t remember what started it, but I remember driving down the strip at 1am, me squinting and crying, him slamming his fist on the wheel.

I looked at him and thought, how did this even start? He looked at me and said something that made the fight feel finished.

I felt an overwhelming warmth. I thought, this is the man that I love and the man I am going to marry. We’re staying together through strangeness, and that is what matters.

I also felt an overwhelming corresponding chill. I thought, he could have left me. I too could have left, in a burst of adrenaline.

We could have left each other standing in each other’s emptiness. Instead, we stayed together in the desert.

Every marriage is built of moments where two people stayed, but could have left. And all the moments in between. And all the emptiness between them.

*

James Tadd Adcox’s novel Does Not Love is a beautiful compendium of these moments within the fictional marriage of Robert and Viola. It is a study of ways that the couple makes meaning—and, trying and failing—attempts to make something. Appropriately, Adcox sets the novel within an alternate reality Indianapolis—a city which, to me, has always felt like something akin to a giant parking lot. Robert and Viola live in a blank space where people put new things. I feel that Does Not Love is about their unease with this space, and what they do to live with that unease.

Does Not Love analyzes this uneasy landscape in a tone that is—in many ways—redolent of Don Delillo’s White Noise. Just as White Noise describes an unfolding relationship drama against the background of a more literal “airborne toxic disaster,” Does Not Love is—in Adcox’s own words—“a domestic novel about domestic terrorism.” The imagined fears of Robert and Viola commingle with the worldly terrors of gun violence, secret service interrogations, and inhumane pharmaceutical drug tests. Continue reading

25 Points: Matt Meets Vik

by Richard Brammer and Victoria Brown

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Matt Meets Vik
by Timothy Willis Sanders
Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014
164 pages / $13.95 buy from Amazon

Or ‘Rich Meets Vik’ to review ‘Matt Meets Vik’ as Richard Brammer teams up with his girlfriend ‘Vik’ (Victoria Brown) to review this book.

1. Vik: At the end of the book, I didn’t expect it to be the end and kept turning (scrolling) the pages thinking there would be another chapter. When I realised that it was the end I was pleased at the way it ended.

2. Vik: I’m a woman so I don’t often get to hear a man’s raw thoughts. I liked that this book put me in the position to see male thoughts. I assume that they are real-ish male thoughts.

3. Rich: Shit! I haven’t started reading the book yet. I’m going to read it and find out. I’m not sure but I think I have real-ish male thoughts to compare them to, as a scientific  control.

4. Vik: The book is set when Snake was a big deal on Nokia phones. I never had a Nokia, but I remember the enthusiasm Nokia owners had for Snake.

5. Rich: I had one of those Nokia’s. Before that I had a Nokia 5410 or something (in about ’95 and this was before my impoverished dispersed family had a house phone even). I loved Snake though. I was as addicted to Snake as I could’ve been to anything 2-dimensional at that time. I used to commentate to myself about my own performance on Snake like it was a sport and I was a great renowned competitor.

6. Vik: Actually I did have a Nokia phone but it was such an early Nokia that it didn’t allow you to access your address book when typing a text message so you would have to memorise the phone number of the person you wanted to text when texting. Which was terrible.

7. Rich: Shit! There’d be v apathetic riots if technology was designed like that now. My first phone had a text facility but the network ‘didn’t support it’. Should we review this book now?

8. Vik: I read this book in about 4 sittings; it is 177 pages long. I read it really quickly.

9. Vik: I’m a woman named Vik but I didn’t identify that much with the character named Vik, in fact I identified as much with the character named Matt as I did with Vik.

10. Vik: There are other characters, Chantelle, Ralph, Lucas and Esme and maybe some more. Continue reading

Sport and Prose in Kerry Howley’s Thrown

by Josh Cook

Howley7Thrown 
by Kerry Howley
Sarabande Books, Oct. 2014
288 pages / $15.95  Buy from Sarabande Books andAmazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Gravity forgot me. I was the goalie in a pick-up soccer game in high school. My friend kicked a beautiful curling shot from just beyond the eighteen meter line; a quality of kick that elicits sharp breaths from attentive spectators. I jumped, deflected the shot over the cross-bar, and then. I was just. In space. Weightless. Drifting. Orientationless. Or rather, what orientation I had shuffled realms of sensing, considered foreign methods of angle and duration. I couldn’t tell you where I was or how I got there.

My back slammed onto the ground. The angle of my jump, the force of the shot, my singular focus on making the save, and my lack of expertise in such moments combined to turn me horizontal in mid-air. My body dispersed, but a bound self persisted enough that I vividly remember this instant of free-fall.

Many people, through many routes, have pursued similar fleeting moments; moments when nothing needs to make sense and nothing needs to be sensed because we have been removed from the mundane requirements to sense and make sense. Depending on the tenor of your philosophy, you might call this phenomenon “enlightenment,” “nirvana,” “losing yourself,” “bliss,” or any permutation, step towards, or variant thereof. Kerry “Kit” Howley might call it “ecstasy” or “ecstatic experience;” a specific usage of the term drawn from Schopenhauer and phenomenology.

Thrown, Howley’s chronicle of the pursuit of this “ecstasy” is The Great Gatsby from Gatsby’s perspective, but instead of a beautiful woman with whom the fresh potential of young love was shared, Howley courses an experience of hyper-aware ecstasy that Kit stumbled into first while escaping a beigely debilitating “conference on phenomenology, where a balding professor stunningly wrong about Husserlian intentionality dominated the postconference cocktail hour.” (p3) Kit, “[h]aving nothing to do in Des Moines beyond explore Husserl with nonsmokers who did not understand him[…]walked the conference hallways,” until she encountered this moment of ecstasy in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) match featuring Sean Huffman. Soon after, she encountered that experience again through the martial efforts of Erik Koch. Then Kit pursued that ecstasy through thousands of miles of travel, months of stagnation, and unsatisfying moments, even abandoning her own philosophy degree. And she pursued without waver, without doubt, and with a rare prose confidence. I’ll say this now because other themes and ideas will pull me away from this moment, because there are questions of narration and “fiction” I will not answer, because I’m a person and so will grapple with the ideas that connect to my emotions, because there will not be another chance, and because it is thrilling to say this; very few works of contemporary anything compare to the opening chapter of Thrown. Continue reading

25 Points: Sorrow Arrow

by Alex Manley

sorrow-arrow
Sorrow Arrow
by Emily Kendal Frey
Octopus Books, 2014
92 pages / $12.00 buy from Octopus Books

1. I read Sorrow Arrow in June.

2. “What was the last book you read/what was your favourite, lately?” A friend of mine who was out of town for the summer sent me this text message. I told her it was Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey. When she got back into town a few months later I loaned it to her.

3. If you’re like me, once a year or so, you read a book that makes you rethink the way you’ve been writing entirely and you come away from it sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only way to write is the way that writer does it.

4. Sorrow Arrow was one of those books. When I was finished with it I just felt the entirety of all the poetry I’d ever written pass into obsolescence.

5. My first exposure to Emily Kendal Frey was when we both had prose poems published in Issue 6 of Banango Street in January. I felt privately certain they only published my poem because it was a prose poem roughly the same length as hers and together the two felt like they were kin somehow — cousins of about the same age who look just like each other but only met for the first time in their late teens. Hers was the more successful cousin by far.

6. I added her on Facebook and a few weeks later she posted as a status the sentence “She is born!” and the book’s cover, a faceless blankness wrapped in a green wreath, whirling, encircling sheaves of grass.

7. Two weeks later she posted that the book was available for order and I ordered it immediately.

8. Here is one of the poems: “A radiation plume is making its way to us/We write it down so we won’t think/Lap dogs sprinkled with acid snow/I got on the plane and sat back/Out the window I regretted complaining/I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get inside your color/The sky was cobalt, deafening/I die so I can live/Outside category” (p. 57)

9. At the centre of Sorrow Arrow is a tragedy. There is a tragedy at the centre of every great book of poetry, I imagine.

10. Frey’s tragedy runs through the poems—none of which have titles—like a skein of gold, a vein you can see just beneath the skin, a tungsten wire that glows bright and hot to the touch. Continue reading

25 Points: Man Alive

by Matt L. Rohrer

Man Alive: A true story of violence, forgiveness and becoming a man.

by Thomas Page McBee

City Lights/Sister Spit 2014

172 pages. $11.17 Buy from: City Lights

 

  1. This is a memoir of transitions, journeys, and radical love/forgiveness.
  2. In this memoir, Thomas’ tells the story of his transition to manhood alongside his account of being robbed at gunpoint.
  3. I’m so glad this book exists. I’m so glad Sister Spit’s new imprint under City Lights exists. I’m so glad Thomas Page McBee exists to have written it.
  4. There is a very palpable danger in this book. Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena’s names  flicker in the background as Thomas traverses the middle of the country, anxiously hoping that he passes as male during every interaction with surly bartenders and gas station clerks.
  5. Thomas and I were in the same writing program at SFSU eons ago when he was a poet. He has always been a kind, thoughtful chum.
  6. Thomas was the “masculinity expert” for VICE and writes the column “Self Made Man” for The Rumpus.
  7. This book gives a nuanced look at male privilege and gender constructs: Thomas acknowledges his male privilege within his terrifying robbery. The mugger gives directions to him, trains his eyes on him, points his gun at him. Thomas’ female companion, Parker, is a shadow, her words are ignored by the mugger, who eventually, reluctantly takes her credit card. I think this moment is a nice metaphor for the privileges and pitfalls of masculinity. Thomas, the man, is taken seriously, is heard and seen. Thomas, the man, is thrown to the ground, is expected to absorb violence and keep his composure. When Thomas speaks, his voice still high and feminine, as he has not yet started taking hormones, the mugger lets him go.
  8. Parker is such a lovable character (and great person in real life). She is supportive and honest and tough and sassy and smart and blurts out things like “wherever you are, whoever you are, you have a right to be here.”
  9. You get a sense of the strain that Thomas’ transition, all the societal implications that go with this change, the mugging, take a serious toll on he and Parker’s relationship, and that’s super sad, because these people are clearly so much in love.
  10. This book is filled with men doing awful things: There’s the robbery. A murder. The racist and vengeful court system.  There’s Thomas’ father molesting him, when he was a young girl. There’s a dark family history full of incest and abuse.
  11. Anger is like the one sacred emotion that traditional gender norms have allowed men. Vengeance is the medium of expression. Thomas’ memoir rejects this construct and refuses to turn men into “monsters.” Again and again, Thomas refuses to succumb to vengeance. He acknowledges that a fistfight or a drunken argument is the prescribed remedy for men who’ve hurt each other, yet he does the best he can to SEE the men who’ve injured him. He refuses to reduce men to their worst acts by acknowledging their transgressions alongside their suffering. He tries again and again, as best he can to forgive them.
  12. Thomas used to edit a fashion blog called The Ironing Board Collective where he wrote about his style sense, his ideal body type (essentially Paul Newman at his hottest), Kanye West, etc.
  13. Here are two little sections I love:
  14. I looked so much like a teenage boy that I’d mostly forgotten my difference. It was only at odd moments that I’d pass a mirror and see shapes that shouldn’t be there, a stranger who looked like me but wasn’t me at all, a stranger like a kick in the chest.
  15. You’d have to be pretty destroyed to hold a gun to another person’s face and shoot it, I thought.  And you’d have to have abandoned yourself to the core to want to annihilate a child.
  16. You know the particularly joyful, cathartic, queasy feeling of removing a frighteningly long ingrown hair, snipping out old stitches, squeezing pus out of a weeping wound? That’s what reading this book is like.
  17. I’d recommend this book to: Survivors of abuse. Men who aren’t satisfied with mainstream or even so-called alternative portrayals of masculinity. People who are in relationships with people who are transitioning. White people who feel confused/guilty about gentrifying their neighborhood. Victims of violent crime. Perpetrators of violent crime. People with violent dads. People with neglectful moms. People who do their best to love them anyway. Everybody else.
  18. With all the stories people are sharing around sexual violence/coercion/rape within the “alt-lit” scene, I keep thinking about restorative justice ( defined as “a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.”)  The 6-12 school in Brooklyn where I work tries it’s best to use restorative justice models to address behaviors that range from mundane (talking in class) to horrendous (sexual predation/violence/etc.) Restorative practices compared to more traditional punitive approaches (which exclude victims and offenders from the justice process) take a great deal more resources: time, energy, follow through, patience, humility, generosity, self awareness, etc.  Man Alive displays the work restorative justice requires: the difficult conversations between the abuser and the survivor, the soul searching Thomas must do to come to a place that resembles forgiveness, the pain Thomas bravely faces in order to move forward into a new gender identity, a new place, a new life…
  19. Men are committing most of the raping, abusing, acts of intimate violence. Therefore it’s critical that men are educated around these issues. This book is an important piece of that discussion.
  20. Now that I’m almost done writing about Thomas’ book, I plan to give it to this one trans student I have who I hope will enjoy reading it, although I fear she’s not a skilled enough reader to make sense of it all. Are there good books about transitioning for teens with low reading levels? LMK!?
  21. Here’s some more stuff from the book I liked:
  22. “Court is now in session,” the bailiff announced… “Please rise,” he said; and I thought of church as we, as one, did.
  23. A wedding had seemed the perfect opportunity to dress up like adults, and somehow magically become them.
  24. This book ends in the ocean as all things should.
  25. I ❤ Man Alive.  

Continue reading

Ed vs. Yummy Fur by Brian Evenson

by Anonymous

ed fur
Ed vs. Yummy Fur
by Brian Evenson
Uncivilized Books, 2014
128 pages / $12.95 buy from Uncivilized Books
Rating: 10.0

A comic like Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown isn’t one that’s easily discussed in polite company. It’s replete with scatology, hyper violence, and vomiting penises that look like Ronald Reagan. “[I]t’s hard to recommend Yummy Fur or Ed the Happy Clown to just anyone without offering a few caveats/qualifiers/warnings,” writes Brian Evenson. Nonetheless, the book is worth talking about—even more specifically, the journey from mini-comic to “a graphic-novel,” which is what Brian Evenson does with incisive detail in Ed vs. Yummy Fur or What Happens When a Serial Comic Becomes a Graphic Novel.

Brian Evenson is the perfect critic for the first installment of Uncivilized Books’s Critical Cartoons series (which also promises a book of criticism on Carl Barks’s work on Donald Duck comics—now available for preorder). As an author renowned for fiction and scholarship that bridges the gap between high- and low-brow cultures—after all this is the author of both Altmann’s Tongue and two Dead Space novelizations—Evenson lends a sense of legitimacy to Ed the Happy Clown as he meticulously examines Chester Brown’s work. Comic books—especially alternative mini-comics—are seldom the subject of serious literary criticism. I can go on and on about the injustices of the Ivory Tower-ensconced literary elite, but Evenson does this with far more aplomb throughout the work, deploying asides questioning the very nature of a “Graphic Novel” versus a comic book or “a graphic-novel” as well as quotations from other critical greats such as Douglas Wolk (although Evenson’s dissection of Wolk’s previous criticism of Chester Brown also becomes a point of contention in Ed Vs. Yummy Fur).

Brian Evenson contends that Chester Brown’s early work—albeit as crass as possible—is important because it redefines an entire genre of sequential art. Evenson places Brown within the same pantheon of deconstructive, comic book auteurs Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, but what’s even more notable than Evenson’s thesis is his own redefinition for what literary criticism can do. Criticism encourages a level of scrutiny that, ultimately, raises the original work up, regardless of its individual merit, and this is exactly what Evenson has done.