In October, James Franco released his first novel, Actors Anonymous. I was eager to review it immediately. I got sidetracked. I was going though the obligatory 2nd year Ph.D studies nervous breakdown, which I’d chosen to make worse by doubling up on theory classes and taking on more commitments than my brain could handle. My grades declined, I had no time to write (none, whatsoever), barely enough time to read assigned work, let alone a celebrity’s cute little parody. So I’m coming at this a year later, and from a different perspective. Instead of a book review, I’m offering a corrupted translation of the novel’s Preface.
Establish: A Digital Translation of the Preface to James Franco’s Actors Anonymous, Which I Exploit in an Effort to Smuggle in My Own Creative Non-Metafiction.
What James Franco did, essentially, was use AA’s two basic texts—Alcoholics Anonymous (known as “The Big Book”) and Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions—as a template for his fictional playground. He appropriated Twelve Step culture rhetoric, its worldviews, and its motivational clichés. He fashioned his characters in accordance to the recovery meta-narrative that defines the personal stories in the Big Book. The result of Franco’s playfulness is a novel—a gift to readers, really—called Actors Anonymous.
What I once did, essentially, was download Hamlet from Project Gutenberg, copy and paste it line-by-line into Google Translate, translate each line from one randomly selected language to another and another and another, and then translate it back to English before moving onto the next line. After many six-hour shifts, Hamlet: The Prince of Denmark had become Municipality: The King of Wombs. It’s un-publishable gibberish, but I hope my current aspirations to introduce a coherent and rational voice in the introduction and footnotes might redeem Municipality’s excessive drivel. I’ve been working on this text’s critical edition off and on since 2011, the year James Franco published his first short story collection, Palo Alto.
Here, I’ve subjected the “Preface” to Franco’s Actors Anonymous to the same treatment. I copied the text from my Kindle, entered it line-by-line into Google Translate, converted it first to a randomly selected language, then adhered to a consistent sequence of translations running from Punjabi, Spanish, Yiddish, Swahili, Creole, Russian, and then back to English. I’ve tinkered modestly with the final text’s syntax, adding a few commas and periods where I’d felt they were necessary. Following my translation is a brief analysis and defense of my methodologies.
A Translation of James Franco’s “Preface” to Actors Anonymous.
We actors have gone over fifty in minds and muscles. It is hopeless to restore women. We are in this book, in this modern society, and we lease identity in order to find work in the world, which is the way it experiences it. I am painful sometimes. It seems impossible to escape the actress. Life is boring, the island hurt me. The escape artist cannot go far if someone has too many people too far in that function. Some believe that loss is sufficient, maybe those who enjoy when the individuality of a vacuum does not swirl the roots. But others, such as the actors—have vanished. I believe there really is life between a float of art, privacy, and independent institutions. On these pages, in order, we present the incident of authority and other key players, like amateurs. This does not seem the right path in life. One hand has a contrarian psychological evaluation on, and the other is crazy on an arbitrary. We, as professionals in the world of actions that we staff, to remain secret is very important to me. There are centuries of hatred pill companies on a stack because it is important that one of us push the spotlight. (God knows some of us do not have enough vision as it is.) In the world we are professional, because of our actions, our money, and not people. And to attach a secret is very important. It is money magnification and scandalous officials, especially the photograph media who let the pen, the paparazzi, and a blog camera video suddenly crack our organization. This is a kind lesson, the purpose of which “actors” are the key, not forever a screen actor and a throat actor of life and wrath. Who wants to encourage this message, blessing, whatever you stole. We do not hold one requirement for merger; we will change the status of your work in a forbidden method. Anyone can do it well but not everyone can do it well. Not everyone knows that it is them. We do not have a man, and no leadership. We do not have the right of obligation, we are an us without a religion or performance driven nationality. We are not opposed to everyone, including those trained by an actor I_____ L_____ C______ or behavioral ____ the role of teachers or other blood-sucking liars expand in the dark in a classroom in Los Angeles. Our goal is simple: no education, but people who are up on a teaching practice, called parents, it is only modern life that can save what will be fed. The steps we join, a mysterious actor. The Twelve Traditions Twelve Steps as they were thrown down in the anger of study and dictatorship. We have to explain Napoleon’s expectations. We have no doubt the depleted supporters and critics have been high. They who claim to know what they write and talk about is but hard to make, throwing his snakebite when the animal is accurate that they have viciousness. Congratulations, you live with rules, and I’ve seen that I’ve lived in their blood, employed and tested for opening and closing the screen, on stage and backstage, increasing the proportion of the daily length of the area of dancing. You cannot just live in a world of air. Play with these traditions by balancing the material and the jealousy and the rest of the creativity of the world’s surface as it was located, and you will continue to lead the public and private degrading of the last vertebrae, teeth – teeth ringed in no. We are here to serve you. Let you support love. We say what we did.
I say what I imagine. A few days ago, James Franco was at a party in Manhattan. He sat on a couch designed for two, wedged between his longtime colleagues Kirsten Dunst and James Joyce. He stared at the coffee table, reluctant to reach for his wineglass. He’d taken several sips in the last hour, and each time, Kirsten and James Joyce had to reposition themselves, thereby forfeiting their comfort in order to accommodate Franco’s selfish little nips. The last three times Franco forced his friends to squeeze toward their armrests, Joyce had groaned. Franco was irritable too, but for a different reason. He wanted to lift his glass again not so he could cherish the wine, but to reveal the 300-page manuscript he’d placed beneath his drink earlier that evening. It hadn’t worked; his friends remained oblivious. Franco had written this tome—Moby Quasar—that same morning during downtime at an archeological dig for the lost city of Paititi. It was a retelling of Moby Dick from the perspective of Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Ishmeal) and Charles Manson (Ahab). Now, Franco considered just telling his peers about it, but his phone chirped. He plucked it from his shirt pocket and glanced. His publicist had sent a text message: “Read this immediately.” There was a link to my translation. Franco followed the link. As Kirsten Dunst and James Joyce debated over whether natural body odors are erotic, Franco began reading “Establish.” The sporadic chuckles bubbling up his throat evidenced mild commitment to my humor. He read fast, just like he writes. After finishing, he turned to Kirsten Dunst and James Joyce and said, “Dude. That was weird.”
Dunst slipped off her sneakers. Joyce winced. Franco, distracted, looked toward the kitchen and said, “Whatever they’re cooking, it smells great. Probably cheese balls?”
Kirsten glanced at Franco’s phone. She said, “What were you sent? Should I read it?”
Franco said, “Nah. It’s just goofy shit.” He put his phone away. “But maybe you should take a look at this…” He reached for the Moby Quirk manuscript. My job was finished.
Here’s a different scenario. It’s got the same set-up as the Manhattan party, but there are different characters and it’s in present tense because it’s better. Four people occupy the couch for two: James Franco, Flannery O’Connor, Harold Bloom, and Seth Rogen. Franco reaches for his bottle of Ensure. His phone chirps. He forgets about his #1 Doctor Recommended milkshake and clicks on the link. He begins reading “Establish,” but this time, he discards my translation halfway through. His friends can see that Franco’s miffed.
“Do tell,” says Harold Bloom.
Franco takes a swig of Ensure, leans forward, and laces his fingers together. He says, “There’s so much crap being published these days.”
“Agreed!” says James Wood, from the other room, where he enjoys solitary foosball beneath the ceiling-mounted speakers playing Yanni’s B-sides.
Franco continues, “This… this translation. No way. It’s not art. See, Mr. Peteroy wants me to experience vicariously his sophomoric insight. He probably imagines me thinking, ‘Holy Shit! I should have known this all along! Linguistic-conversion technology contaminates rather than democratizes all the world’s disparate discourses! That’s brilliant!’” He takes another sip of Ensure and wipes his milky lips on his sleeve. “He thinks I should be astonished. But I’m like, ‘I know this shit, you asshole, and I don’t fucking care about the corruption potentialities of digital translation software. Nobody’s interested in crap like this. You’re probably the world’s first moron to misconstrue Google Translate for an actual scientific tool designed to provide empirical results. Furthermore, you’re twice a moron for believing you’ve made a major contribution to linguistic theory and literary arts.’”
Harold Bloom agrees. Seth Rogen drinks the rest of Franco’s Ensure, then yells over his shoulder to James Wood, “Can you turn that 1990s middle-class yoga soundtrack shit lower? We’re trying to be intellectual in here.”
Franco continues, “I can tell that this writer—or word-shuffler—must have taken a required class in semiotics recently. He thinks he’s clever, having filled a page with ruptured signs and signifiers. Like nobody ever thought of that. But it’s not his naiveté that irks me. It’s his methodology. I mean, come on, a Google app?”
Rogen says, “Totally. He could have just hired some multi-lingual kids off the street, you know? Make it more personal that way. Like, ‘Here kids. See this crap I’m holding. It’s not really crap; it’s James Franco’s book. Now get the fuck out of here and translate it. You get it done in an hour and I’ll hook you up with some of dankest nuggets you’ll ever see.’ See what I mean? That’s personal.”
Franco says, “Exactly. But he chose Google Translate for a reason, and not just a utilitarian one. I haven’t figured out why exactly.” He stares at the scene for moment, grinding his teeth, then says, “Is this supposed to persuade me to abandon my idealistic hope for—what?— a corruption-free and universally-applicable—what?— linguistic conversion medium? Is that what this is about, an assumption that I look in hope toward a future filled with flawless translation technology? Truth be told, my real hope is that this dick-nose douche would go back to his former career as social worker because that was his real lot in life before he decided to become a writer.”
Flannery O’Connor says, “Hmm.” She takes off a glove and puts it somewhere.
Franco says, “I mean, look at this garbage! I see no discernible aesthetic quality, no vision, no concept or criteria for beauty. It does nothing for the audience; rather, it’s Don conflating his crude indulgence with art. And what really makes me crazy is someone published this! It’s like they’re enabling him!”
I’m ashamed to say it but my imaginary Franco is correct. He can see right through me. I don’t know how he’s arrived at such an intimate understanding of my motives, but he’s nailed it.
He’s right about everything. First off, Establish lacks that multivalent aura of integrity that characterizes great works of literature by, for example, Dickens, Austen, Lorrie Moore, James Franco, and Philip Roth. While these writers have spent weeks wrestling with single sentences, I’ve embraced the opposite set of practices. Establish showcases my imprudent and slothful work ethic. I’d believed that Establish was opaque; the humor and “innovation” would conceal the truth about my laziness and nobody would know that, in general, I spend no more than ten seconds per sentence and don’t revise. But Franco, so deeply attuned to my bullshit, announced a little later in the evening, “This guy shows no concern for offering a variety of methodologies, doesn’t even gesture at other translation mediums, or, like Seth said, real-life people. I mean, that could be interesting. But he’s too downright lazy to do the work.”
Admittedly, when I began encoding Establish, I refused to adopt the mindset and behaviors we’d otherwise expect from writers who take their art seriously. These artists are honest, self-critical, and their aspiration to transcend subjectivity is indicative of profound bravery and open-mindedness. I dismissed these characteristics not because I sought to interrogate common artistic practices; rather, I don’t have the patience for orchestrating some meticulous and graceful rebellion. Why labor endlessly over sentences when I can just type some shit into Google Translate and let it do its thing?
This all seems so hideous, but listen: I hadn’t rejected art completely. I knew I’d discover somewhere in the translated gibberish a beautiful accident, some startling incongruity. For instance, the narrator of Establish speaks of “depleted supporters” and “critics” who justify their universal truth claims about actors by acknowledging that they, too, understand the difficulties of articulation. The narrator approaches the critics with skepticism; he interprets their admission of empathy as bogus posturing. The narrator’s retaliation is subtle; he rhetorically undermines the critics’ authority by collapsing the plural “they” into a singular “he,” thereby transferring the power inherent to consensual truth to a vulnerable—and presumably erroneous—individual “throwing his snakebite when the animal is accurate that they have viciousness.” Furthermore, the narrator’s final statement portrays a comforting kind of nihilism. After lines and lines of absurdity, he says, “We say what we did.” The message is accidental: uttering nonsense normalizes and justifies it; articulation brings order.
This gives me satisfaction, a compulsive desire to translate everything. I’ve entered an enabling relationship with Google Translate. Its constant presence and easy accessibility (from my economically and socially privileged position) has engendered the persistence of my illusionary inventiveness. I’m trapped in gimmickry and ego. The consequence is Translate hinders my growth as a writer (I’ve tried to combat this by applying to using a multitude of programs). Translate is indifferent to how I cut corners to produce “literature.” The only winner here is Google. Every time I hit “translate,” I leave behind a record of use—data and statistics—which bolster Translate’s practical value; which increases the program’s public appeal; which augments advertiser income-generating potential.
I have no justification for why I do what I do. Welcome to the epicenter of my shame. I mentioned privilege a moment ago, and clearly, my “art” is a product of misused privilege.
It’s a Friday afternoon. My home office window is open and I’m listening to the chirping cardinals and sparrows feast on a $12.00 bag of birdseed I left outside. What I’m not doing is digging ditches for minimum wage. What I’m not doing is looking at a home foreclosure notice taped to my front door. I have my own computer, which allows me to transfer money from one account to another in order to make my worry-free monthly payments on lots of neat stuff. It consents to all of my literary activities. Even if I write garbage, my computer knows not to intervene by reviving that paperclip-shaped elitist crotch-waffle, Clippy the Office Assistance, from his sub-status bar slumber. I feel great solace knowing that Clippy will never appear with a note in hand saying, “Are you sure you want to submit this to a reputable literary magazine?” My computer cares about my pride. It wants to protect me, to insulate me.
My privileged path was paved for me in advance. It’s one of some 70,000 trails, roads, and highways in I Get To Write City. I wander along it so often that I know the entire lattice: where my path runs parallel to William Giraldi’s for a few blocks, where landmines obstruct my passage through the Huston and Iowa grid, where it gets tangled up in the Rejection Slum and then find a way out on Admire Me Because I Won The Playboy College Fiction Prize Years Ago Street, and, most importantly, where my path intersects with James Franco’s twenty lane highway. Mine is longer, his is wider, but they’re both composed of the same hard, white material. I can tell he doesn’t go sightseeing as often as I do, though he has scuffed up the Houston exit ramp with his nice shoes.
I used to camp out at the Franco-Peteroy intersection often. There, I conceived of a blog called letterstojamesfranco.com. I didn’t want to run one, but in 2011, when I was on AWP Street, a panel of street agents suggested that if I wanted to increase my chances of success (and build a superhighway) I’d need a platform, a catchy blog. Like most of my literary projects, I tinkered for a while and then put it aside.
And now I’m back again, not with a blog, but with this. A kind of “literature” often attributed to writers who cannot escape their grandiose delusions, who get away with—and are sometimes praised for—writing lazy, half-assed work of art. There’s no traffic and I sense I’ll be here for a long time. If Franco comes, I’ll show him Establish and find out for sure if it’s really art. Chances are, I’ll wait and wait and wait, and only when it nearly kills me, I’ll accept what I already know: the established are unlikely to appear on their own highways.
Dear James Franco,
I grew tired of writing to you, so I took a one-year vacation. I’m back now because you screwed up. See, I wrote a contract to myself three years ago when I started this blog. I agreed that I’d make your fortunes and misfortunes my opportunity. I’m heartless and shallow. I realized this a year ago, and stopped writing. I couldn’t live myself.
That’s a lie. The truth is I’m ambivalent about your literary career, and therefore have nothing to say.
I got dental surgery this week, I had an infection running from the nerves in my teeth all the way up into my sinuses. My brain has been altered because of the infection. The ethical and self-critical part of me, which has kept me away form this blog, has decayed. Now, without any shame, I’m back in gossip-mode, capitalizing on your woes in order to attract upwards of seven people to this blog.
Here’s what I have to say about you being creepy, and how to get yourself out of trouble. Show the world the diversity of your affections. You need to bang a senior citizen. Climb up in that ass, as they say. Hit that shit, as they say. No, I’m not being insensitive here, because I’m not talking about your normal senior, someone just recently over the hill, but, rather, an impossibly great-great-great-grandmother, a woman older than coal… she’s got to have a bent hairpin posture, her skin has to look like a sun-bleached curtain that’s been eaten up by moths over the last fifty decades. Someone who wouldn’t be offended by this post; instead, she’d say, “Thank you Don for enticing that fine young man to fornicate with me. He’s certainly the fountain of youth! I feel so much better about myself, and I want nothing more to stick around for another decade.”
You like the internet. Here are some hook-up-with-seniors websites:
I also suggest you do the rumpy-pumpy with a dude. Look, I can view the search terms that have led people to my blog. Some of them are outrageous and absurd, like, “What is the song that makes Kirsten Dunst fart.” I have no idea why my blog was suggested for that inquiry. But I’ll tell you this: I see many, many search terms that indicate male erotic fascination over you. Half of them have to do with dudes who have a James Franco foot fetish. So why not let a guy suck your toes?
See, widening the scope of your sex life will work better than claiming your recent activity was performance art or research for a role you’re going to play in a film. Nobody will believe that. If you apologize publicly for your behavior, people will immediately think it’s an insincere gesture. If you blame it on drugs (“I’d taken Ambien, and I don’t remember doing it”) and go to rehab, the world will wait for you to relapse (though, your familiarity with the 12-Steps and the Big Book of AA, as seen in your recent novel, have made me raise my brow). If you find Buddhism and denounce desire, we’ll think you’re a quack… that you’re going through a Madonna-finds-Kabbalah phase. These are all predictable, celebrity-in-trouble moves. What we wouldn’t expect is for you to go on a nation-wide fucking spree, one in which even the cows aren’t safe. Consider this hypothetical headline: “James Franco Sleeps with Everyone and Everything.” Case closed. You can’t argue with that. The people who voice moral outrage will be trumped by the hordes expressing their fascination. Everyone will think big-picture and ask one another, “What did James Franco fuck today?” rather than responding to an isolated incident: “I can’t believe James tried to hook up with a minor.”
Do it James. Open your legs for all of us.
If you’re going to dismiss my suggestion, at the very least I can offer some solace with a link to this old, old, rock video.
Dear James Franco,
This letter isn’t addressed to you in particular, but to all the literary journals and monthly magazines that offer book reviews.
If you’re not familiar with VIDA, they’re an organization that “seeks to explore critical and cultural perceptions of wring by women through meaningful conversation and the exchange of ideas among existing and emerging literary communities.” I pulled that off the VIDA website, which you can access here:
I don’t know the specific circumstances that led to the formation of VIDA, but I’m sure a lot of it had to do with many magazines’ overt bias toward reviewing books written by male authors, along with other acts of discrimination. For the last couple of years—and maybe more—VIDA has kept track of how women writers are being neglected in the literary world. They’ve scoured national magazines and periodicals, and have collected data that verifies these disparities. VIDA releases “the count” annually, at or around the time of AWP (AWP is an academic conference for writing programs. About 10,000 writers attend this yearly, and just about every publisher, press, and literary magazine has a booth. There’s a shit ton of readings, celebrations, panels, fucking, drinking, and schmoozing). The VIDA count consists of pie charts; each chart pertaining to a single magazine or venue that either publishes fiction/poetry, or offers book reviews. For instance, if you look below, at the bottom of this post, VIDA published this Harper’s Magazines pie chart showing that of the 65 books reviewed in 2012, 11 were books written by females.
Busted! Think that’s bad? The New Republic’s overall representation of gender was 389 males to 77 females. Magazines like Harper’s, The London Review of Books, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and on and on and on, got nailed for dismissing women writers. The Times Literary Supplement might as well print a full page spread that says:
“ Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22, New Testament (NIV).
You can take a look at the VIDA pies here: http://www.vidaweb.org/the-count-2012
And now it is time for me to switch gears. Listen, I have no sympathy for these magazines. I might be giving myself a bad name by attacking these powerful magazines. If I even write something that has the potential for a review in one of the said venues, they might—God forbid—group me with the women. But I’m a benevolent person, always willing to help out any male who feels like his penis is in danger. The New Republic’s dick is in danger. They’ve caught the literary equivalent of gonorrhea. The Times Literary Supplement’s collective cock has stage-three syphilis. Do you know what that looks like? Imagine cauliflower growing on a pecker. Who wants that? I just happen to have the cure for book review syphilis.
I’d like to offer all the literary misogynists a bailout. It’s time to even the playing field and recognize females of the opposite sex. I know this will be terribly difficult for you because you believe that women are innately worse writers than men. I don’t have the time or energy to convince you that you’re wrong, that Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest female writers of all time, but I can offer you a quick VIDA pie-chart fix. In a way, it’s a readymade recipe. I have written reviews for a number of books written by female authors. If you’re one of the guilty, and would like to see a more favorable pie chart representation next year, feel free to copy these reviews and publish them. These reviews are about as poorly-written as I can make them, but at this point, you should be more worried about quantity than quality.
The Days Are Gods by Liz Stephens (University of Nebraska Press): Stephens has crafted a definitive intertwining of prose and lyricism that only the most inviting of unorthodox memoir forms can achieve insofar as her personal recollections thrive on the fluidity of the controlling theme (laying down one’s roots) re-envisioned through multiple tonal valiances. Similar to Kevin Collins-Wavette’s detail-rich New Sentimentalism, Stephens takes readers to the next level, where self-discovery isn’t synonymous with cock.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner). This close examination of integrity resonates with our long-lost romanticism, and threatens—through the use of skillfully rendered dialogue—to incriminate readers who have banished their youthful ideals on the precept that passion is prosaic. Niffernegger is neither hostile nor aggressive; rather, she uses narrative as a vehicle for sympathy, and with an unconditionally loving sense of duty she walks side-by-side with her readers, ushering them back to the beautiful but often terrifying romantic world of abstractions.
Together Tea by Marjan Kamali (Ecco). And now that we know empiricism is no longer influential, we can either valorize the excess of life’s tenderness, or succumb to the tenacity of emotional obfuscation. Kamil boldly embraces tenderness, and it sometimes seems like no matter what she’s talking about, she’s come up with something to make what her characters talk about about. Before I began reading this, I was aware that the writer is a female woman; however, I’m glad she is because I was better able to grapple with the lack of dual-narratives. Together Tea is an exciting, well-developed journey about the subtextual non-journey that we’re all afraid of taking. We get there at least twice in the novel, and I assure you, we’re in good hands. What would otherwise have been dramatic indulgence were it written by Saul Bellow or John Updike, Kamil officers picturesque landscapes to compensate for the “unnoticeable despite” that intersects—perhaps even decapitates—the form’s necessity for trivializing the glimpses into personal lives we expect from a book about noticing things that happen to people in relationships when they’re going from one place to another
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingslover (Harper Perennial). This book will empower women who are searching for things.
The Mechanics of Falling by Catherine Brady (West Word Fiction). Brady’s award winning collection of short stories offers more than just a glimpse of life, impulses, and consequences. It discloses things that are irreversibly real, and then confirms them. There aren’t any paradoxes, either. This isn’t math-literature, it’s literature-literature, but with a twist. When you read this book in the comfort of your home, or in the discomfort of your home, you’ll inevitably escape your comfort, or your discomfort. And once you finish it, you’ll return to being comfortable or uncomfortable. It fucking does that.
The Earth is Not Flat by Katharine Coles (Red Hen Press). Cole’s poetry is about Antarctica because she went there and while she was there, she started to think about poetical things like life, death, and the meaning of life. You will not feel cold when you read these poems because her meditations are as warm as a match just seconds after you blow it out. If you like penguins and scientists and words, you’ll like poetry.
The Declarable Future by Jennifer Boyden (University of Wisconsin Press). Boyden uses sharp, poignant, sharp words in poetical arrangement in order to create poetry that both explores, interrogates, and meditates and interrogates meditations on the eager absurdities of alienation. Although doorknobs tell the daily news and an entire village has forgotten their children’s names, this isn’t so-called magical realism because in magical realism, you need reality to serve as the referent. Boyden, instead, tilts reality, so the referent and unfamiliar exist on the same plane. Clever. Alarming. Sharp. Poignant. This book will tip you over. Read it while slanting away from gravity’s pull.
Addled: A Novel by JoeAnn Hart (Hachette Books): Ever wonder what would happen if you killed a goose at a country club? This book tells you. Hart’s prose is whimsical and riotous while at the same time executing a sense of control that, were it goose killing instead of writing, would make for a slow, brutal murder. But this book isn’t a slow, brutal murder of the reader’s time; no, it’s a quick jolt of life. You will experience synergy with the plot.
Living Together: Short Stories and a Novella by Gloria Wheelan (Wayne State UP). If you read this book two times in one day, you might as well go for thirds. Each reading offers local pleasures, unlocks subtextual details that resonate from one story to the next with such great force that even your furniture will vibrate. Wheelan’s prose is like architecture, but I don’t mean to give the impression that it’s rigid; no, it’s like rubber architecture… rubbery without losing its beauty of integrity. What I mean is, if you look at it, it looks like normal fucking beautiful architecture, cement and iron bent in baroque patterns and shit, but if you poke it, your finger will leave an indentation. It’s reciprocal, really. Wheelan’s book approaches the reader, you, as if you’re ridged architecture. In a way, you are: we’re all like that when we open books. We’re tense and stiff and we’re like, “I fucking dare you to make me want to turn the page!” But then, after three pages, you begin to feel a bit elastic, and by the end, you realize that you, too, are rubbery architecture. At that moment, both you and the book are one. Only Gloria Wheelan can accomplish something like that.
Peter Never Came by Ashley Cowger (Autumn House Press). Cowger studies the tensions between adulthood and childhood by fucking the shit up. She whoops the crap out of things with inverted fairytales and contaminated recollections. Cowger provides the most pleasurable discomfort, kind of like when you take a hit of acid and your self-awareness breaks in two, and one is all chill, and the other is bugging out, but you can’t get the chill guy to talk the panicking guy down because they’re not on the same channel.
Fat Girl, Terrestrial by Kellie Wells (FC2): Small town, big woman, lots of mysteries, and false attributions of Godliness. Wells won’t settle for your typical domestic kitchen-scene argument fiction; no, she instead sticks a hose in each of her readers’ ears and then turns the fucking knob or dial or whatever, and the reader is flooded with good old fashioned fun shit that isn’t only fun, but important and meaningful fun, the kind that makes you think, yeah, people are nuts, but maybe I, too, lack a sense of scale; what I mean is maybe I fucking suck at weighing things. I don’t mean actually weighing objects. I mean choices. This book is about choices. Big ones and small ones, and how we often mistaken one for the other.