3/25/11

Michael Cisco – An army is a horror: a festival of unrealities, and entrancing body of hallucinations mutilated with surgical precision

Michael Cisco, The Narrator, Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2010.


“THE NARRATOR—the new novel by Michael Cisco, author of The Traitor and The Divinity Student—is also his most sophisticated. Cisco’s prose, by turns phantasmagorical and exhilarating (reminiscent one moment of Robbe-Grillet, the next of Artaud, with a tinge of Thomas Ligotti, the imaginative virtuosity of Gene Wolfe or M. John Harrison), is like a stark sequence of strong iron bars, brimming with dark ambiance. Combining unmatched craft with masterful storytelling, this is literate fantasy unlike any other, intricate as the most elaborate dream, in which the narrator himself is the most ambiguous thing of all.”

“If William Burroughs was helping Cormac McCarthy rewrite Blood Meridian as dark fantasy, it might look something like this. The Narrator is wonderfully grotesque and slippery book, a meditation on the nature of violence chock-full of palpable, haunting and shocking strangeness.” — Brian Evenson

“Cisco wields words in sweeping, sensual waves, skillfully evoking multiple layers of image and metaphor… a gem of literate dark fantasy, concisely illustrating the power, both light and dark, of words and meaning." —Publisher’s Weekly

“A festival of unrealities, and entrancing body of hallucinations mutilated with surgical precision by a masterful literary maniac.” —Thomas Ligotti

"Michael Cisco’s meticulously imagined new-goth dreamtime is a somberly menacing thing conjured by Borges channeling Kafka channeling Browning that teaches us again and again just how continent the universe really can be. Duck and cover." — Lance Olsen

“Few writers within the realm of nonrealist or "weird" fiction has more right to feel unjustly neglected than Michael Cisco, who over the course of several novels, including his critically acclaimed debut, The Divinity Student, has forged a singular path in creating visionary, phantasmagorical settings, uniquely alienated characters/anti-heroes, and genuinely creepy happenings. Cisco is, at this point, sui generis, and brings a healthy absurdism and dark sense of humor to his fiction as well. Following on his incendiary and utterly stunning The Traitor, Cisco now offers up The Narrator, a novel that would have made my top 10 of the year if I had encountered it soon enough. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the novel has only been reviewed in a handful of places to date.
In the novel, the narrator Low is conscripted as a Narrator (a recorder of events) into an army to fight against the "blackbirds," who possess lighter-than-air armor. But first, our hero must play a waiting game in a city of cannibal queens and uncanny dead things, with priests for both the living and the dead, and the strange remnants of a mighty imperial power that must be avoided at all costs. Once mobilized, Low sets off on a journey that is by turns absurd, surreal, deadly, and one of the great feats of the imagination thus far in this new century - and one that includes scenes and moments I've never experienced in any other work of fiction.”
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“In Michael Cisco’s The Narrator, the narrator Low is conscripted into an army to fight against the “blackbirds,” who possess lighter-than-air armor. But first, our hero must play a waiting game in a city of cannibal queens and uncanny dead things, with priests for both the living and the dead. The Edak, strange remnants of a mighty imperial power, must be avoided at all costs. Once mobilized, he sets off on a journey that is by turns absurd, surreal, deadly, and one of the great feats of the imagination thus far in this new century. The novel is possibly also the most neglected of the year. Michael Cisco, the Amerikan Kafka, deserves your attention.
1—As a Series of Brilliant Scenes, Paragraphs, and Sentences.
I’ve rarely come across so many instances where I was simultaneously in the moment of the novel but also recognizing that I was encountering images, snippets, set-pieces unlike any I’d ever read before. Sleepwalkers that bruise the surface of reality as they glide past, assailants who skim the surface of the water in armor that’s lighter than air, conjurings with unexpected consequences, refugees from an insane asylum who assemble as soldiers. “It’s as if a giant were pushing us along the road, blithering to itself.”
2— As the Nightmare Answer to a Question From a Film. Bonant looms like a cliff out of the water, “projecting suddenly above them, too high to see. It’s like a black egg with an opening in the front—it sweeps toward them, as oblivious to them as a passing god, but the men are suddenly quailing and dizzy. They vomit, collapse clutching their chests and abdomens. Blood drips from their skin, smears their teeth as the gums burst, and they die under the influence of that black ship’s mere proximity.” …And inside, the answer to the riddle of a giant skeleton in the captain’s chair in A—-, “naked with long heavy white limbs. His massive body sits, like a sack of grain, on a marble cenotaph… bleached muscle, wanly shadowed with a lace of veins and arteries.” There are connections that make no sense at all and yet by dint of the power of the imagination and the communicative property of art…make sense. (G + A + MC = absurd heresy)
3—As an Extended Treatise on the Negation of Meaning that Is War. “An army is a horror. It’s a horrible thing.” There are many battle sequences in The Narrator, and they all translate as action without meaning, sometimes so chaotic that even individual action is hard to discern within the movements. As near as is possible in text, Cisco conveys the jerky, roving, incomprehensible experience of men on foot shooting at each other across broken, often hilly ground. The individual meaninglessness of it and the group rationalization of it. (Group rationalization undercut by the lack of an Order from On High later in the novel, which would’ve driven the point home better.) The result is to come close to conveying the derangement required to wage war… while simultaneously demonstrating that the more a writer repeats battle scenes, the more the result becomes boredom and skipping of pages. That the more you invest in too many similar scenes, the more the meaninglessness recedes and the more purposelessness closes in on the reader, until what was pointed before seems like kids playing with rifles in the backyard. To retreat from purposelessness would mean to advance toward tighter editing. But where to cut?
4—As a Series of Experiments in Narration, Eel-Slippery. The narrator of The Narrator may not be the narrator of the entire novel. Where does his narration really begin and end? What to make of the asides between chapters? Of meeting another narrator, who in a sense begins to narrate the tale in a different way. What of the accounts of others, which the narrator narrates by adding notes like “an unhurried, slow inhalation” and “Her voice dropped there.” And “She caressed the air by her knees with stiff old hands, seeming to coax the guillotine blade out of the sparkling air so that I for a moment saw it.” Should we be worried? Should we care?
5—As the Most Surreal Science Fiction Novel Ever. A place that alters all who enter it. Flying things that seem intelligent. A cathedral like a science lab or…something else? The drone of a tower, that can kill. “Those aren’t people. Their guns aren’t guns.”
6—As the Tale of the Ride of the Valkyries, Through the Exploits of Saskia. “Here comes from somewhere behind the asylum, a woman all in armor. She has a short sword with a basket hilt on her right side and a flapped holster on her left hip… A pleasing, and weirdly familiar face. I could say she looks like da Vinci’s ‘Lady with Ermine’ if there had ever been such a thing. Strange thing to think.” If there’s a hero of The Narrator, it is this battle-tested woman who joins the narrator’s army and never falters in her bravery under fire. She’s a deliberate counterpoint to the senselessness of war—an entity with a tactical purpose who brings order by simple focus. “From the window I see Saskia herself darting across the water. The [soldiers] are shooting at her. She zig-zags with astounding speed and in the next moment is right alongside them. She whirls around toward the rear of the boat, gesticulating wildly, then suddenly hurtles back toward us in fantastic back-and-forth curves, her legs pumping.” Saskia is perhaps the only character who remains consistent from beginning to end, and in a sense she gains her own agency as narrator because of it.
7—As an Extended Dream From Which You Will Not Awaken. “In the distance, a white something bobs in the water asleep. It slobbers and mutters… Its slobberings wriggle through the water like black eels. In a vision no one present can see, the ocean turns to fluid mirror, like mirage, where it crashes over the white figure, the mirror froth rolls away across the surface of the water like mercury and Low’s outstretched hand draws the black saliva from the glistening antiseptic mouth of the sleeper to form elegant, calligraphic loops and ornate signatures of unreal sharpness on the reflecting surface. A down of phosphorescent ash spins from them as they move, forming glowing coils that sink into the black below the silver, whirring and snapping like whips. They seem to drag Low’s arm to and fro. Who is narrating this?”
Saskia. Makemin. Low. Nardac. Punkinflake. Thrushchurl. You’ll remember all of them. By the end, the book will be buried in your skull.” - Jeff VanderMeer

I feel as though I am going towards war, that towers vastly above around and behind its pawns, the enemy soldiers and us. War fashioned the interior. The war story is waiting to be lived again and to make all of us its own characters. We will step into our places while the overture plays a melody of themes that will play out in full and in order later on. It’s magic, because I do what I don’t want to do, and there’s no power that I can feel being brought to bear on me. If a hand had me by the collar, and I were being dragged away, I could struggle. If Makemin or Saskia would only point to me, order the others to catch or kill me, or even only threaten me, I could run. But there is no power here to resist. I simply go along. Hating, and rebelling at heart. Something like the sweeping power of the tides sets everything all too smoothly in motion. I feel war’s unreal presence, like blank mindless insanity shining happily from these rocks, watching us bring ourselves to it, for its delectation. We’re going to kill and die at war’s fiat in this beautiful place, nothing more.
What can I say about Michael Cisco that I have not said before? He remains one of our best and also one of our most underappreciated, and with his newest work, The Narrator, he once again proves how vital his work is. It reads like an ode to the absurdity of war, Low, a studying Narrator at school is drafted into the army despite the relevant excusatory paperwork in a episode of bureaucratic ineptitude worthy of a Kafka novel. Narrators seem to exist to maintain the narratives of people and events, and Low is often referred to as being the one who will tell the story of the war after it is all over. As a result, he has no skill in battle and instead is forced to act as a medic and a translator. He has no intention of serving, but having been “seen” by an Edek, a sort of supernatural blind woman who will know if he deserts, he has no choice but to join up and is unable to flee throughout the novel. He becomes a sort of living casualty of the war, dragged along in its wake while forced to watch his companies become infected by it and die, until he is the only one left.
The war in question seems, at least to this reader, to be completely pointless. The commanding officer, Makemin, seems to flit between an obsessive and overwhelming desire for victory and throwing himself into the proceedings of his divorce that is taking place far away back home. Saskia’s fury is fuelled by desire for revenge, but her recklessness often places her in almost suicidal situations, calling into question her sanity. His only real friend, the mortuary student he meets in the town of Trey, Jil Punkinflake, loses all sense of his mischievous former character, and by the end of the novel has almost become a kind of submissive animal. In fact, due to the low number of people who actually showed up, the group is forced to augment itself with lunatics from an abandoned asylum, making the whole situation only more absurd. All we are told about the war is that it is an attempt to weaken a competing power by destroying one of their allies, but no one seems to know what the war is really about. Those who care about the result like Makemin only seem to want victory for the sake of victory, unaware of what they will actually gain by it. Low, like the reader, seems equally confused by the whole thing and becomes increasingly more important to the war effort despite his best efforts to avoid getting involved. Despite this, he remains powerless and unable to change anything.
The novel evokes the same kind of dreamlike atmosphere of Cisco’s other work, some of the finest scenes seeming almost unreal, such as when the students go grave robbing and find all the corpses have burrowed out of their coffins and joined into a homogeneous mass. His work is so stunningly original, there is nothing else like it out there and this is only reinforced by The Narrator, with ideas like the cannibal queen, the flying anti-gravity bracelet wearing blackbirds, and the final scenes inside the inland’s interior. Branching out from his usual protagonist heavy focus to incorporate more of an ensemble cast also allows Cisco to do more with characterization than in his previous novels, and is very welcome because he creates such interesting characters. The spirit eaters from his previous novel, The Traitor, also make an appearance, alongside his equally unique new concepts. It also goes without saying that his stylization is first rate and his prose is some of best in the business.
The Narrator is a powerful book, but more importantly it is vital. It speaks to the reader about war in the way that the great anti-war novels do, like Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, about both the horror and the absurdity of war. War is the antithesis of all human logic and the ultimate form of nihilism, it creates nothing. In its futility it is so absurd that it is almost comical, something that Celiné understood, and at times Cisco captures perfectly; war is pathetic. From the start Low knows that nothing good will come of the war and he is only proven right. It might be his best novel yet. My favourite novel of the year, if you only buy one book that I recommend for 2010, buy this one.” - Paul Charles Smith

“A man named Low is the narrator, and also The Narrator, of The Narrator. But it isn't quite that kind of twisty turny ho-ho I've got you now dumb reader! sort of book. Just as The Traitor was about the rise of the state, The Narrator is about how the state exists via ideo-linguistic concent. Narrators in Cisco's imaginary Europe--there's a da Vinci in this setting at least, along with magic and spirits--tell the stories the wealthy and powerful need everyone else to hear. Competition is pretty fierce actually, and our man Low is a polyglot of significant ability. He'd need to be as the world he navigates and narrates is awash in languages both written and spoken. Indeed, the wealthy often commission the creation of their own alphabets (not fonts, alphabets) from Narrators like Low.
And poor Low has been drafted, and his conscription has been cemented by the supernatural gaze of an Edek, a blind remnant of once-great imperial power. Low is not happy. "An army is a horror," is how he decides to start his story, "It's a horrible thing. They say you might change your mind about that when the country is invaded and your people are suffering wrong, but for me this is all just more horror, more army-horror." Not a sentiment one often hears today, but then again today the narrators of contemporary wars don't really concentrate on conflicts between the armed forces of countries that have a rough military parity, do they?
Low quickly falls in with a bunch of other people about as well-suited to engage in war as he is. There's Jil Punkinflake, a sort of priest of death and dying, who is actually jovial and fun, as his fantasy name suggests. In any other fantasy novel about war, he'd be the guy singing songs and falling headfirst into buckets for comic relief. There's also Makemin, the brave and resolute commander who definitely deserves a fragging. There's even a kick-butt fantasy heroine with a strong arm and a stronger will. Of course, she also spent a fair amount of time in the lunatic asylum, as one would.
Low's forces are hoping that the spirits in a far-flung corner of the land will support their operational goals over those of their enemies. The Narrator and the narrator and Our Narrator run up against the central question of history--what the hell is actually going on, and why are people even bothering to risk their lives doing things like securing a harbor? One is reminded of the only funny thing ever to come out of the mouth of a Maoist: when Zhou Enlai was asked about the historical impact of the French Revolution of 1789, he responded, "It's too early to tell." Well poor Low is right up against it, and as the guy in charge of telling the story of the war he's in for his side without the benefit of hindsight, or any stake in the outcome of the war, or even safety, he's come up a bit short.
There are many exciting battles and action scenes in The Narrator--the enemies are called blackbirds because they use lighter-than-air metal wristlets and anklets to fly for short distances. Low's squad is augmented by loonies from the mental hospital, and they're always fun, if unpredictable, in battle. Low is a medic and a translator, so spends a lot of his time observing the fight and then watching his friends die. Then he is given a magic charm that will allow him to lead his team more or less safely past the Lake of Broken Glass--a neverending windstorm of glass shards that swoops around every so often--and ruins proximity to which causes people to sicken and die (radiation?), to finally petition the gods for success. Too bad the whole point of having a narrator around is to have a story for posterity, so nobody really cares what Low thinks or says in the moment. There is even a traditional "meet the enemy and he is us" moment, when Low encounters the narrators from the other side of the war. They don't really know what the hell is going on either.
The Narrator is about the dual frustrations of the intellectual in an era of endless conflict--they're smart enough to know what's not going on ("They hate our freedoms!"), but can't get anybody to believe it. There's also no lone intellectual smart enough to know what actually is going on, despite the tendency to speak definitively on historical subjects. Quick, why did the Soviet Union fall? Really? Is that all? Is that the only reason? The only five, the only ten? And anyway, Low isn't half as smart as he'd like to be, or as his troops hoped he would be.
One might get the sense that Cisco is "subverting" fantasy tropes here, but of course these days apparently every fantasist in the world gets to make that claim if they do anything other than photocopy The Lord of the Rings and hand it in as their manuscript. But one might say that Cisco is a subverter along the lines of China Mieville rather than the my-elves-are-different crowd. So why is Cisco so obscure while Mieville is popular? Editorial pique, I suppose is most of it. The rest is probably a mix of personal charisma, Fortuna, and Cisco not whipping up enough monsters for the fanboys. Sad, that. If only Bruno Schulz had survived his war experience and launched a great fantasy trilogy, then Cisco would be richer than ten Bolivian Nazis! In another world, perhaps the world of The Narrator, this may have already happened.” - Millhouse van Houten

“The Narrator is an illumination of the power of story upon the history of men.
Michael Cisco is one of the best-kept secrets in fantasy and horror. His work is brilliant, evocative and unforgettable. Yet, he’s almost unknown outside of certain circles involving certain handshakes and certain badges and certain secret locations that may or may not include either Thomas Ligotti’s secret bunker on the Isle of Man, or the attic room of H. P. Lovecraft’s house in Providence.
Joining into this secret cabal is quite simple. Purchase one of the brilliant, mind-bending works of surrealist dark fantasy and read it. Do this again, if you have the courage for it.
Case in point: The Narrator, published in black ink upon white paper by Civil Coping Mechanism, an Independent Press, adumbrates and illuminates the power of story upon the history of men. The narrator is, literally, a Narrator, at a Narrator’s College, where he is training to be a Narrator. In this reality, reminiscent of China Mieville’s New Weird Crobuzon except older and far stranger, Narration is important in the flow of everyday life. Picking up the tone and color of everyday reality and reshaping it through the judicious application of Narration preserves the fabric of power structures that keep the world in control.
Unsurprising something happens to throw the whole arrangement akimbo: the Narrator is drafted to fight in a war. The war, being a semi-rational horror, and guided by semi-rational officers drafts, the narrator will now be a Narrator for the war.
What do Narrator’s do, exactly? Flashes and asides reveal the mangled ravings, journalings and dreamings of their work, wherein reality seems to be shaped and reshaped, but whether real comes before the imagery or the imagery before the real is open for discussion in the dense, rewarding text. Early in the novel, the Narrator searches for his assigned unit and further orders in a city that is alien to him, and us. Two religions exist simultaneously, one of life and one of death. The death religion takes center stage, while the Ekhets of the life religion seem to force death upon the world with their knowing gaze.
The novel is perhaps best understood by the cannibal queen. She lives in hiding, away from the crowds, in decadence. She sees the Narrator and invites him to her solitude to alleviate her sorrow with love. She had devoured her husband. At first, this pariah seems to be outcast. Not so; she is embraced by the death cult. She runs and hides not from shame, but from the reverence of the crowd, who would worship her. This early revelation adumbrates the horrors to come. What is an abomination on par with cannibalism more than warfare? It is celebrated by society like the cannibal queen’s horrific act.
I reveal too much. There are wonders to discover more than this. Unforgettable imagery illuminates the manuscript without a single illustration. The festival of the dead, like a grotesque chaos of the battlefields to come, foreshadows with wonder what will later appear in terror. Embalmers’ celebrate their death faith by sewing the dead limbs upon their own bodies, lips upon lips, limbs upon limbs and dance maudlin through the streets. War is at once archaic in it’s musket tactics, like something from a Russian novel, yet more so with the floating irons of the enemies, the mecha-like war machinery of the allies, and the gorgeous fabulism of the world the army crosses in their march of death and dismemberment.
War, destroyer of narrations, brutishly marches onward with a beauty of language that could also undermine the horror of the experiences present, to readers who seek the stark brutality of crime or war literature. But, this is dark fantasy — dark fabulism. If anything, the weakest section of the text — the battle scenes — are weakest not because they aren’t enjoyable, but because they are described too beautifully. The bodies of the dead enemy hovering over the ground with their flying irons, the dismembering brutality of the war machines, the ancient horrors and religious rites, the wounds of the dead and the screams of the dying — all described with a grace that risks alienation from the text. The horrors presented are not given room to be horrible, but are too strange to be truly and genuinely beautiful as a whole. To me and my enjoyment of the text, it creates the quintessential “Grotesque” experience, like staring into the nightmares of Heironomous Bosch while drinking too much absinthe with Jan Svankmeyer and Franz Kafka.
If anything I have said in my description moves you, do consider joining the cabal of afficianados. We are surprisingly few, but always growing, as we are — all of us — evangelists. Prepared to draft any we meet into the text.” - J.M. McDermott


An army is a horror. It's a horrible thing. They say you might change your mind about that when the country is invaded and your people are suffering wrong, but for me this is all just more horror, more army-horror.
It's through rags of fast-moving smoke that I first catch sight of Tref. I'm standing in the pass, to one side of the pumice road, looking down from my perch on the massed roots of some dusty old cork oaks. The city below me is like a shining, smoking lake, thrusting its troubled glints into my eyes and make them smart. Overhead, the sun is lost in a white sky without circumference, above the flashing waters of the city. (p. 5)
For the past ten years or so, Michael Cisco has been one of "those" authors, writers whose talents are recognized by those in the know, but who have never enjoyed a mass readership. His most recent novel, The Narrator, is perhaps simultaneously his most "accessible" (if such an execrable adjective might be employed here) and his most accomplished and sophisticated work to date. Cisco is a master stylist, who creates dark, twisted, imaginative vistas from the juxtaposition of adjectives. Take for instance the opening paragraphs quoted above. We learn that the narrator, whose name incidentally is Low, is narrating a war. However, we quickly move away from the clichéd "war is hell/horror" motif and into a setting that is strange, full of "fast-moving smoke," with a city being akin to a "shining, smoking lake" while the sky is white. Wherever this setting might be, we're no longer in Kansas, Toto.
Cisco's stories tend to be quite atmospheric, going beyond lush, descriptive landscapes. People too make up an environment and in one early scene, he foreshadows certain thematic (and plot) elements by his portrayal of two segregated and yet complementary religious orders:
A carefully ramified division of labor regulates the operation of the life and death priests. Life priests, urbane, serene, dressed in satiny white and cream gowns, preside at weddings, tend the sick and perform healings when they can; death priests, subdolous and mordant, dressed in shabby subfusc, officiate at funerals, conduct autopsies and embalm bodies, attend to the dying and insane, and cast our even imbibe possessing demons. Life priests are permitted and encouraged to marry; death priests, while not enjoined to celibacy, are forbidden to marry or to bear children... There is no enmity between these two groups of priests, although they are compelled to avoid each other as a rule in order to maintain a pure distinction. When they do meet, a complicated protocol governs the exchange of formalities. In fact, since no one is ever born in the death precincts, all death priests are delivered into this life by life priests of the previous generation. Naturally, all life priests are ushered into whatever dream comes after by the generation of death priests who will bury them in the death district. (pp. 13-14)
In his previous works, Cisco tended to rely more on elements such as this to create the "weirdness" that served as a thematic staple in his stories. Here in The Narrator, at 307 pages his longest work to date, he goes further. Through the character of the Narrator Low, he explores not just the weirdness of the locale and the strangeness (and hell) of war, but the very semantics that underlie our conceptualizations of the world and the medium of language used to express it. Several authors utilize the "unreliable narrator" trope to underscore the hidden undercurrents of the narrative, but Cisco is one of the few authors I have encountered who have attempted to undermine the very narrative structure itself through the creation of a character whose purpose is to tell and retell events until the events are forgotten and what is left becomes Story.
As someone whose original field of study was cultural history, I quickly became intrigued by Cisco's plumbing of the semantic depths that bind together the two main strands of historia, History and Story alike. At first, the war Story took some getting used to; frequently, events felt disjointed and out of sequence. Then a little over halfway into the novel, things become crystallized in an encounter between Low and another narrator:
Makemin is a good narrator. He has his own story, a revenge story, and its power has revived in the men the will to fight. He will get his way. They will fight. They believe him. I failed. I failed as a narrator, because I didn't tell them that I had had to get my pack from where it fell and was tangled in the bracken by the path, and that Makemin was wrong to believe himself alone in the moments after he struck me. (p. 195)
From this point, The Narrator begins to come into its own as a narrative about narratives and the weird interstices that underlie memory, communication, and the symbols embedded in the actions of which we partake and the words we speak. What becomes apparent by the novel's end is not the paramount value of "Truth," but that "truths" can emerge that have little in common with the events that engendered them. I hesitate to say this is the "point" of the story, as I believe Cisco is exploring (and deconstructing) several other points in addition to this one, but certainly this is a key element that I took from The Narrator.
The Narrator is Cisco's most engaging work, as the reader has the trappings of a war/army narrative to grasp as an entry portal. Prior knowledge of his earlier writings is not necessary, although there are a few glimpses here and there that hint at some deeper connection with his earlier tales, although these never intrude upon the narrative core. As stated above, Cisco's descriptive, evocative prose signals the alienation felt by the characters and it is this sense of estrangement that makes this novel a captivating read even for those readers who are not fain to read such narratives. Highly recommended.” - Larry Nolen

“A few years ago I talked about The Traitor by Michael Cisco and some of you even ran out to buy that wonderful short novel. Well, I'm back to tell you about Cisco's follow-up The Narrator, in the hope of getting the same result.
A man named Low is the narrator, and also The Narrator, of The Narrator. But it isn't quite that kind of twisty turny ho-ho I've got you now dumb reader! sort of book. Just as The Traitor was about the rise of the state, The Narrator is about how the state exists via ideo-linguistic concent. Narrators in Cisco's imaginary Europe—there's a da Vinci in this setting at least, along with magic and spirits—tell the stories the wealthy and powerful need everyone else to hear. Competition is pretty fierce actually, and our man Low is a polyglot of significant ability. He'd need to be as the world he navigates and narrates is awash in languages both written and spoken. Indeed, the wealthy often commission the creation of their own alphabets (not fonts, alphabets) from Narrators like Low.
And poor Low has been drafted, and his conscription has been cemented by the supernatural gaze of an Edek, a blind remnant of once-great imperial power. Low is not happy. "An army is a horror," is how he decides to start his story, "It's a horrible thing. They say you might change your mind about that when the country is invaded and your people are suffering wrong, but for me this is all just more horror, more army-horror." Not a sentiment one often hears today, but then again today the narrators of contemporary wars don't really concentrate on conflicts between the armed forces of countries that have a rough military parity, do they?
Low quickly falls in with a bunch of other people about as well-suited to engage in war as he is. There's Jil Punkinflake, a sort of priest of death and dying, who is actually jovial and fun, as his fantasy name suggests. In any other fantasy novel about war, he'd be the guy singing songs and falling headfirst into buckets for comic relief. There's also Makemin, the brave and resolute commander who definitely deserves a fragging. There's even a kick-butt fantasy heroine with a strong arm and a stronger will. Of course, she also spent a fair amount of time in the lunatic asylum, as one would.
Low's forces are hoping that the spirits in a far-flung corner of the land will support their operational goals over those of their enemies. The Narrator and the narrator and Our Narrator run up against the central question of history—what the hell is actually going on, and why are people even bothering to risk their lives doing things like securing a harbor? One is reminded of the only funny thing ever to come out of the mouth of a Maoist: when Zhou Enlai was asked about the historical impact of the French Revolution of 1789, he responded, "It's too early to tell." Well poor Low is right up against it, and as the guy in charge of telling the story of the war he's in for his side without the benefit of hindsight, or any stake in the outcome of the war, or even safety, he's come up a bit short.
There are many exciting battles and action scenes in The Narrator—the enemies are called blackbirds because they use lighter-than-air metal wristlets and anklets to fly for short distances. Low's squad is augmented by loonies from the mental hospital, and they're always fun, if unpredictable, in battle. Low is a medic and a translator, so spends a lot of his time observing the fight and then watching his friends die. Then he is given a magic charm that will allow him to lead his team more or less safely past the Lake of Broken Glass—a neverending windstorm of glass shards that swoops around every so often—and ruins proximity to which causes people to sicken and die (radiation?), to finally petition the gods for success. Too bad the whole point of having a narrator around is to have a story for posterity, so nobody really cares what Low thinks or says in the moment. There is even a traditional "meet the enemy and he is us" moment, when Low encounters the narrators from the other side of the war. They don't really know what the hell is going on either.
The Narrator is about the dual frustrations of the intellectual in an era of endless conflict—they're smart enough to know what's not going on ("They hate our freedoms!"), but can't get anybody to believe it. There's also no lone intellectual smart enough to know what actually is going on, despite the tendency to speak definitively on historical subjects. Quick, why did the Soviet Union fall? Really? Is that all? Is that the only reason? The only five, the only ten? And anyway, Low isn't half as smart as he'd like to be, or as his troops hoped he would be.
One might get the sense that Cisco is "subverting" fantasy tropes here, but of course these days apparently every fantasist in the world gets to make that claim if they do anything other than photocopy The Lord of the Rings and hand it in as their manuscript. But one might say that Cisco is a subverter along the lines of China Mieville rather than the my-elves-are-different crowd. So why is Cisco so obscure while Mieville is popular? Editorial pique, I suppose is most of it. The rest is probably a mix of personal charisma, Fortuna, and Cisco not whipping up enough monsters for the fanboys. Sad, that. If only Bruno Schulz had survived his war experience and launched a great fantasy trilogy, then Cisco would be richer than ten Bolivian Nazis! In another world, perhaps the world of The Narrator, this may have already happened.” - Nick Mamatas

“Michael Cisco, whose book The Traitor I reviewed here, has another book out! I'm reading it -- slowly, as the time mid-semester is precious and split between editing and everything else I want to do, but I just have to talk about The Narrator.
Short version: please go and buy it. Cisco is one of those writers (lamentably few) who write genuinely unusual things. It's a shame he's not more widely read (although I suspect that many of the folks who insist they want new and unusual really don't), and something that needs to be fixed. So read the book, you won't regret it.
It's a little less aggressively strange than The Traitor, but it drips with the same vivid and visual malaise -- white skies, sick trees, vividly drawn snatches of the landscape otherwise drowned in radiance or fog. The language is half-delirious, and the beginning of the book evokes both Notes From Underground and Felix Krull. Low, the protagonist and a student in the college that prepares Narrators (people who recite events until only words encountering them remain, replacing the actual memory of the event), is not supposed to be drafted -- but he is, due to bureaucratic indifference and incompetence of the college administrators. His panicked efforts to avoid draft reminded me of the desperation with which my high school classmates applied to colleges -- the student status granted the draft deferral, and those who were not lucky enough to get in often faked a variety of psychiatric ailments. Low's efforts brought forth this visceral memory in me, all those boys who didn't want to go to the army because they knew it will forever change them; possibly into people they wouldn't like.
Another piercing recognition came when Low describes the separation of priesthood into white and black -- an Orthodox Christian tradition, where only black priesthood (monks) are allowed to rise to the top of the hierarchy, while the white priesthood (parish priests) are usually married and childed. Cisco takes this separation to the next logical extreme, and Life and Death churches are born, even though the similarity with Orthodox Christianity are quite clear.
Then there's the war itself -- Low as the narrator is supposed to document the story, but he has as much trouble as anyone else guessing the point of it all. The looming unease and the whispered uncertainty of it again reminded me of fear of my classmates of being sent to Afghanistan -- that hushed and unknown conflict fought for no discernible reason. It is always tempting to load the story with perceived meanings of the moment and attribute them to writerly intent -- and frankly, many writers aren't clever enough to hide their intent. Not so in this case, where the intent becomes irrelevant since instead we can have meaning.
And this is really something I love about Cisco's writing -- in all the strangeness, there are always these moments of acute, almost painful recognition and identification. I don't know if yours will be the same as mine, but I'm sure you'll find a few there -- be those in the dreamlike wanderings across strange cities and battles, in the unusual crew Low joins, in the palpable terror of the mysterious Edeks. Cisco writes like no one else, and this book is unlike any other, although filled with echoes of things one remembers and Cisco somehow knows.” - Ekaterina Sedia


Cisco’s blog

3/18/11

Douglas A. Martin - Narratives, which read like lines of verse: a gorgeous poem-as-novel set in he wake of the explosive ecstasies of 20th century art

Douglas A. Martin, Your Body Figured, Nightboat Books, 2008.

"Rilke, Balthus, Hart Crane, Francis Bacon: Of their lives and work, and of a lyric examination of the ruthless force of art and the erotic, Douglas A. Martin has conjured a mesmerizing and disturbing text, a gorgeous poem-as-novel set in he wake of the explosive ecstasies of twentieth century art. I have read nothing else like it." - Honor Moore

"This poet-novelist's latest, Your Body Figured, makes stunning use of the second-person singular in three novellas about the poet Hart Crane and the painters Balthus and Francis Bacon. His narratives, which read like lines of verse, are at once specific and full of developing possibility perfect to capture how the lives of artists assume shape." - Time Out New York


Douglas A. Martin, Once You Go Back: A Novel, Seven Stories Press, 2009.

"In 2000, Douglas A. Martin burst onto the American literary scene with his sexy debut novel, Outline of My Lover. Following up with three more books, including Branwell, a novel of the Brontë brother, Martin has established himself as an acclaimed and distinctive American writer of the new century. His semi-autobiographical novel Once You Go Back is about growing up in a strained working-class household transplanted to the South. In his inimitably elliptical and evocative style, Martin carefully brings out the curiosity of children on the verge of becoming sexual, and their confusion in the midst of family violence."

"Once You Go Back is a poignant and semi-autobiographical novel about a young man and his quest for identity as he grows up in a dysfunctional working-class household. While Seven Stories Press is most widely known for its books on politics, human rights, and social and economic justice, the publisher continues to champion literature; Once You Go Back does not prevail this philosophy. Martin's highly poetic writing style is an example of high-brow literature in its prime."— Feminist Review

"There is a reverence in Douglas Martin's writing composed of equal parts language and love. Outline of My Lover strips away the dross, leaving you with the pure mood of youth."— Dale Peck

"Douglas Martin has a very beautiful voice. It is a thing of grace."—Dennis Cooper

"This volume's beautiful declarative sentences are perfectly fitted to this famously imaginative, headstrong family" — Publishers Weekly

"Lyrical, hypnotic, genre-bending... I enjoyed it immensely." — Wayne Koestenbaum

"Martin’s intense, unhindered prose style renders his characters’ degrees of growth and alienation all the more powerful. As the narrator’s portrait of his gay youth nears completion, his withdrawal from the broken home that raised him (now run by an abusive stepfather) is a given. But as he matures, Martin’s narrator cycles through the past with increasing composure. He and his sister adjust to their fatherless existence with solemn poise and a sense of independence. Is this grown-up narrator strong enough to set out on his own? Judging from the strength of his narrative, you’ll have no doubt."— Time Out New York

"Martin, who possesses one of the most distinctive younger voices in contemporary gay lit, transcends the familiar with heartbreaking poignancy. His language is spare and evocative, his prose is infused with the compactness of poetry, and his graceful, elliptical narrative evokes painful early years with ferocious precision. The common coming-out novel is reinvented here, with uncommon style." — Book Marks

"... A gripping story about trust, family, loneliness, and displacement... This novel is for anyone who ever felt lonely, for anyone who ever felt like they did not belong." — Adirondack Review

"…a dark and dreamlike (self-)portrayal of the sexual coming of age of a boy acutely aware that he doesn't fit the roughneck masculine mold into which his Southern military hometown forces its sons... Its feverish self-portrait seizes center stage." — Boston Globe

“A tender, tragic portrayal of a doomed artist... [Branwell]’s beautiful declarative sentences are perfectly fitted to this famously imaginative, headstrong family; they bring Branwell Brontë’s world to light.” —Publishers Weekly

“Stylistically complex and emotionally evocative... Branwell Brontë emerges as a fascinating lost character, both muse and devil to his sisters’ passions, giving us a new dimension to this ever fascinating family.”—Darcey Steinke
Douglas A. Martin, Outline of My Lover, Soft Skull Press, 2000.

"Part love story, part indictment, debut novel Outline of My Lover traces our society's damaging obsession with celebrity.
In the sleepy town of Athens, Georgia, a young man goes off to a college miseducation and is drawn into a world of rich vicarious living. The unspoken relationship between this adolescent and his luminous rock star boyfriend fast becomes the marking tale of world tours and plush continental hotel rooms. However, the relationship falters under celebrity's harsh, shape-shifting light. Real life fills in the outline of the boy's expectations."

"...a thoughtful book that contemplates passion, celebrity, authority, and identity and sucessfully emerges as both an original and enjoyable work." - Rain Taxi

"...able to capture the paranoia and insecurity of childhood and growing up gay and project it believably into an adult character." - OC Weekly

"...an uncompromising edge... enacts the intense conflict between the power of language and the urge to form and control." - Times Literary Supplement

"...beautiful gems of cerebral longing, and Martin's disregard for commas makes the language flow in a charged stumble." - The Stranger

"...billed as a novel but speaks with the captivating sincerity of fact." - Star Tribune

"...explores the ways people will behave to get the things and people they want, why they discard it once they have it... A fine debut." - Instinct Magazine

"Martin is adept at mixing genres, and Outline of My Lover sets the tension between fiction and poetry while not getting caught in a debate about form." - New York Blade
Douglas A. Martin, Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother, Soft Skull Press, 2006.

"A gifted artist and writer, Branwell Bronte, an only son, is expected to make the family fortune and distinguish the Bronte name. Instead, he dies at 31 from alcohol and opium abuse. Painstakingly tutored at home by his father, Branwell and his sisters write endless stories about imaginary worlds far from their bleak parsonage home. As his sisters spin the stories that will immortalize them, Branwell sinks under the weight of great expectations. With language as rich and dark as the moors of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, Douglas A. Martin probes the locus where history and myth collide, and uncovers Branwell’s lost loves, thwarted talent, and possible homosexuality. Maintaining the haunting quality of childhood memory throughout, Bronte Boy is a genre-bending exploration of the tragic figure of Branwell Bronte and the dismal, dazzling landscape that inspired his sisters to greatness."

"In this mannered, tortuous life of Charlotte Brontë's younger brother, Branwell, novelist Martin (Outline of My Lover) offers a tender, tragic portrayal of a doomed artist and homosexual avant la lettre. In Martin's marvelous free and direct telling, Branwell, as the sole son among many daughters (only Charlotte, Emily and Anne survived childhood) is accorded privileges they are not, such as special home schooling by their strict father, curate of provincial Haworth. Branwell also lords over the set of toy soldiers the siblings use in elaborate play wars, creating vast civilizations in poems and plays. The early deaths of their mother and sisters Maria and Elizabeth prove shattering for Branwell, on whose fragile shoulders the great hopes of the house rest. Sent off alone to London to gain admittance to the Royal Academy, he falls continually in his family's esteem, becoming a local drunkard and apprentice to the secretly homosexual freemason society; a last chance at gainful employment, as tutor to a boy in Thorp Green, ends in a scandalous dismissal, and Branwell descends irretrievably into a drug-induced, punishing state of monomania. Though slender, this volume's beautiful declarative sentences are perfectly fitted to this famously imaginative, headstrong family; they bring Branwell Brontë's world to light." - Publishers Weekly
Douglas A. Martin, They Change the Subject, University of Wisconsin Press , 2005.

"In this cycle of startling short stories, the youthful narrator, who has just started college, relates a series of homosexual encounters. His recollections of anonymous pickups and intended long-term commitments, which are at once graphic and dreamlike, nonlinear yet concrete, bring to the surface his own problems with both kinds of situations. The spiky, spare language, which distills every sex-love experience, observation, and reaction of the narrator to its most heartfelt as well as glandular essence, gives a particular poignancy to his wistfulness, his yearning for, but misdirection in, finding connection, acceptance, and a working self-definition. The danger of a sensitive person leaving himself vulnerable arises from every story, but never in a pathetic manner, for the narrator is certainly sympathetic, even though the reader wants both to protect him from harm and slap him across the face for his mistakes in leaving himself open to physical as well as emotional danger. Not for every reader, due to the sexual frankness; but appreciators of the short story will marvel at Martin's dexterous use of it. - Brad Hooper

Douglas A. Martin, In the Time of Assignments, Soft Skull Press, 2008.

"In the Time of Assignments transforms a decade’s worth of feeling into a lyrical collection of verse. Readers familiar with Martin’s work will find a repurposing and revelation of the foundations for his prior experiments in prose. The work is divided into three parts, each with a geographical marker indicating the narrator’s evolving identity, from the formative, Red State landscape that colors the first section through the widening horizons, growing sexual awareness, and crush of experience found in the final two. The beautifully fragmentary narrative exhibited in Martin’s novels takes hold here in long, poetic sequences and angled interludes; lyric is the steady underpinning."

Tricia Bauer - Gradual decomposition of all that is familiar and of a daughter’s gathering of memories to form the arresting collage

Tricia Bauer, Father Flashes, Fiction Collective 2, 2011.

"Father Flashes reimagines what the novel can be or do. Composed of stunning vignettes that capture the deterioration of a father’s mind and body, this novel provides poetic insight into the complex workings of a father-daughter relationship. As the father collapses, what appears is the daughter’s struggle to simply cope. In prose composed of intense and moving shards, Tricia Bauer delivers a revealing account of the gradual decomposition of all that is familiar and of a daughter’s gathering of memories to form the arresting collage that is Father Flashes."

“Father Flashes by Tricia Bauer is a beautifully written memoir and tribute. A father’s personality, his essence, is preserved even as his disappearing is documented. These flashes linger in the reader’s mind, and all together they build the life that must have been.” —Bobbie Ann Mason

“Suffused with tenderness, Tricia Bauer’s Father Flashes is at once austere and lavish, simple and complex, troubling and serene. How to describe the feeling exactly? One feels in familiar territory: a parent will dim and eventually die. A child will grieve. Why then does reading Father Flashes feel so surprising—at once so natural and so frightening?” — From the foreword by Carole Maso

Tricia Bauer, Shelterbelt, St. Martin's Press, 2000.

"A journey unreels within a journey in this winsome but wandering novel about a pregnant Nebraska teenager coming to terms with her brother's death. The family of high school senior Jade Engler is still mourning the drowning of her much-bullied younger brother, Benjamin, a year ago, as well as the loss of their Paradise, Neb., farm. Jade's mother has taken off; her father's become a militiaman, establishing a liaison with a vehemently pro-life girlfriend; and Jade herself is living a clich : pregnant, she is "the ignorant country girl in trouble." Refusing to be trapped by circumstance, Jade flees the falsely protective shelterbelt (the term denotes the barrier of trees and shrubs that protects crops) of the familiar, striking out for an au pair job in a wealthy Connecticut household, where she plans to weighs her options. There, she begins an epistolary exchange with her mother, Rexanne, about her pioneer forebears. The stories Rexanne tells inspire Jade to complete the journey her ancestors attempted long ago, traveling from the East Coast to California by train. The mystery of Benjamin's death remains tantalizingly unsolved and Jade's initial comparisons of Nebraska and Connecticut are amusing but quickly grow tiresome, what with the nobility of farm lifeDmilitiamen and allDinvariably winning out against the vacuity of the wealthy. Worse, Rexanne's letters, written in neutral documentary form, afford all the interest of perusing a stranger's genealogical research. It's as if two different stories got somehow shackled togetherDone a contemporary teen pregnancy tale, the other a saga of wagons westDand never mesh effectively. Bauer (Boondocking; Hollywood & Hardwood) does write with verve and grace, however, managing to make Jade's plight compelling despite all the narrative detours." - Publishers Weekly

"Jade Engler is a pregnant teenager living in Paradise, Nebraska. After her brother, Benjamin, died, her family fell apart and she took solace in sex. Now, too afraid to tell her father and his pro-life girlfriend she wants an abortion, Jade drops out of school and becomes a nanny in Connecticut. While working, she decides to have the baby and tracks down her mother, Rexanne, who is obsessed with the past and convinces Jade to go with her to Chicago under the pretense of tracing their family history. When Jade realizes Rexanne wants to hook up with her new boyfriend and raise her baby, she gets on a train for Nebraska but goes all the way to San Francisco. What she finds there ultimately brings her closer to her family. Bauer tells a heartfelt and humorous story about a young girl's journey toward self-discovery and the meaning of family. Although the pace drags as Bauer traces Jade's family history, her writing is strong as she explores her characters' grief and guilt surrounding Benjamin's. - Booklist

Tricia Bauer, Hollywood & Hardwood: A Novel, Bridge Works, 1999.

"Lou, a playwright, and Renata, an actress, meet and fall almost immediately in love at summer stock in Vermont. Against the cynical wagers of friends and family, but in a dream of love and matching ambitions, they marry. Nine years later, they are still working hard in New York at their crafts (and trying to escape their crushingly blue-collar backgrounds). Each chapter of Bauer's affecting second novel (after Boondocking and her well-reviewed short-story collection, Working Women and Other Stories) chronologically advances their story, some events related from Lou's point of view, some from Ren's, yet each chapter stands alone like a finely etched short story, economically recounting the episodes that shape them. Bauer skillfully observes Lou's first successful off-Broadway play and the breathlessly rave reviews; a visit from Ren's coarse parents and her more appealing brother; an anticipated dinner party with the couple's oldest friends, clogged with envy after Lou's stage success has earned him a screenplay contract; a Hollywood fete for Lou; and, later, a portrait of Hollywood screenwriters on the downslope. Bauer's prose flexes with the narrative muscle of a veteran author. During Lou and Ren's idealistic early years, she adopts a yearning, poetic tone, and when the couple find themselves scrambling for odd jobs at midlife, Bauer smoothly and affectionately comes down to earth. Bauer sustains the reader's uncertainty as to whether the sharp twists in their precarious careers will sink Ren and Lou's tenacious passions or whether they will salvage hope and stay together. The real delight here, however, is Bauer's graceful and tender exploration of two people with extraordinary dreams finding happiness in plain, ordinary ways." - Publishers Weekly

"In her second novel, Bauer (Boondocking, LJ 8/97) repeats the feat of revealing surprising depths in the human psyche. As Lou and Renata struggle with family, friends, fellow actors and playwrights, stardom, and, finally, their own relationship, Bauer is able to invest their lives with humor and warmth. Though the reader may not be a an aspiring actress like Renata or, like Lou, a promising playwright who may have missed his chance, the situations depicted here are familiar. When the couple moves to Connecticut and visits Renata's parents, she tries to explain what they do: "She and Lou didn't work in a hospital or a restaurant where they could pick up and put down just anywhere...but even as she spoke, she knew it was impossible to act professional for long." Bauer is strong on the true nature of characters within families. The result is an insightful novel that looks at a choice that really matters: either success or honesty and compassion. Highly recommended." - Vicki J. Cecil
Tricia Bauer, Boondocking: A Novel, Bridge Works, 1997.

"The promise of Bauer's quietly acute story collection, Working Women (1995), is movingly realized in this contemporary odyssey of a retired couple who journey with their young granddaughter through America amid upcropping dangers and fears. For 15 years on the road--that "fast forward'' landscape of "stores, campsites, road signs'' - there are brief dockings within the convivial culture of the "common backyard'' of the transient retired; painful touchdowns at old places that can still claim them; and repeated sightings of the detested son-in-law who has vowed to regain his daughter. Sylvia and factory worker Clayton had lived in their Maryland home for 31 years. Their only child, Janice, died when her husband Melvin, high on angel dust, crashed the car. The couple fought for and won custody of baby Rita, and so the trailer they'd bought for a vacation becomes a permanent home. For Sylvia, the old home and its possessions, empty of Janice, had been empty of meaning; now with Rita, even in a tiny space, there is "proof that once we lived like everyone else,'' a family. There's an initial exhilaration and a sense of adventure that give way to the odd stability of motion. Sylvia and Clayton, though, have a more complex agenda than their retired peers, who seem to be attempting to outrun death. They must keep Rita safe from Melvin, a specter in pursuit. (Rita, wise at 12, fascinated but afraid, imagines him as an ant, scurrying over a map of the US.) Rita will dream of herself driving her grandparents "to a country where they'd feel totally safe.'' When she's 16, Melvin is finally, successfully faced down, and, shorn of his demonic aura, vanishes. At the close, Rita, having learned something necessary about reality and the nature of love, goes on her own quest. A gentle tale of good people moving through a prosaic yet curiously charged landscape, giving new shading to the concepts of home and family." - Kirkus Reviews

Tricia Bauer, Working Women and Other Stories, Bridge Works, 1995.

"Sometimes too cryptic and sometimes too obvious, this debut collection of short stories nevertheless shows mastery of the form. Set in a number of East Coast locales, these 14 pieces do not reflect regional color or character, but rather set forth accounts of ordinary, anyplace lives that are occasionally interrupted by a fresh peculiarity. The standout is "The Graveyard," in which the aging Darla tests the tolerance of passersby and her husband by flooding her front yard with tacky lawn ornaments, as if each statue marked something lost to her: her daughters, her neighbors, her education. "Visiting Hours" is a funny, poignant tale: the narrator writes newspaper obituaries with such accuracy that she wins the gratitude of all the town's funeral directors. "Working Women" is a fine piece, but the ending is frustratingly ambiguous. Taken as a whole, the collection holds together through recurring characters (in "Beds" and "Dogs") as well as such themes as transformation ("Dancing with the Movies," "Panama"), estrangement ("Nocturne," "The Blue Room") and autonomy ("Pot o' Gold," "Fortunes"). The voice in these thought-provoking stories is sweet?but not saccharine." - Publishers Weekly

"This collection of short stories presents tiny pieces of the ordinary lives of contemporary women, but in Bauer's gifted voice these vignettes convey the importance of small details in all lives. A sales executive in publishing whose stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, Bauer here captures the essence of what moves people most: their hopes and dreams, their disappointments and quirks, what is, what will be, what can be. Thus, a simple lawn ornament causes a neighborhood dispute. Exacting attention to detail in an obituary creates a career. A steamy sauna reaffirms a 25-year romance. A fortune-teller's prediction encourages a fledgling to find her wings. Bauer's attentions make everyday life fresh and original, reminding us that it is the little things that make the difference. Recommended for most collections." - Joanna M. Burkhardt

Michael Woods - The environment in which he exists is a journal of mistakes where all fantasies lead to further aberrations

Michael Woods, Snail Gun: A Novel, iUniverse, Inc., 2006.

"A look into an idea of a reality which would exist beyond the sum of the mechanics beneath the mountains which he wishes would crumble. The technogolies are the antagonists and halves of religions relaying and documenting and endangering lives throughout the past one hundred years. A tiny amphibian becomes a protagonist and remains nameless in a small room throughout the story. Below the shell of each location is an escape into a dream from all other escapes. The city is accepted as the vitriolic encapsulation of reality as well as a hiding place from a world which is a product of a threat and is either quaking or flooded or in flames. The environment in which he exists is a journal of mistakes where all fantasies lead to further aberrations."


Read it at Google Books

3/15/11

Mathew Timmons - Hate Is The New Love. People who like The New Me also like The New Love of my life. Say Hello to The New Love in my life

Mathew Timmons, The New Poetics (Trenchart: the Maneuvers), Les Figues Press, 2010.

"Poetry. A cross-referenced encyclopedia of all things New, Mathew Timmons's THE NEW POETICS challenges the prevailing obsession with the emergent and the reinvented by remaking The New itself in the image of the banal. Employing techniques of collage and appropriation, Timmons explores the endless repetition and recapitulation inherent in a language constructed from signs, signifiers, memes, short-hands, ready-made phrases and the vast wash of pop-culture paraphernalia. Written with poetics as both subject and approach, but in rambling prose paragraphs and breathless, run-on sentences, THE NEW POETICS simultaneously critiques and reenacts the search for the ever-desirable and ever-elusive New in the rubble of convention.

“Consisting of cross-referenced, encyclopedia-style entries on everything new—The New Alexandrine, the New Egret, the New Emotion, the New Look, and the New New Deal, for instance—The New Poetics updates Pound’s imperative to “make it new” to address the contemporary commodification of newness itself. In making newness old, The New Poetics begins to chart a way to think futurity differently. And as a work of poetics, Timmons’s book both operates through and points up a contradiction inherent to flarf and conceptual writing: the valorization of non-newness as simultaneous valorization of the (new) gesture away from the new. These poems are great at the individual level, and you should read this book for that reason. But also, you should read this book because doing so will upset a slew of old poetics questions you thought you had worked out.” — Marie Buck

“I’m often asked “what’s new in poetry?” — and now there’s an easy answer. From the man who first demonstrated that powerful dramatic poetry could be written in the new blank verse comes Mathew Timmons’ The New Poetics. In the hands of the Language Poets, the New Prose Poem insisted on its scriptural illegibility rather than a speech-based comprehensibility. In Timmons’ hands, however, everything is legible, which makes it simultaneously reiterated and fresh. The news, that is, as Pound would have it, that stays news.” — Craig Dworkin

“The New Poetics helped deepen my thoughts about the paradoxical relations between temporality and culture-making. It is paradoxical and committed in a most excellent way.” — Rodrigo Toscano


"What is The New Poetics? How did the project come about, and how does it fit into Les Figues current series?
- I began writing The New Poetics in the summer of 2006. At the time it seemed like I was often talking about the new narrative and the new sentence with various writing friends, Harold Abramowitz being one person in particular. It was a very warm summer in L.A., which tends to push me towards insomnia, and that summer I was in the bad habit of driving around downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the night, between say 3 and 5 AM, roughly. I wasn’t sleeping all that much and would come home from driving around and work on various projects in the early hours of the morning. At some point I thought I’d google “The New Narrative” and see what the internet could tell me about the subject. I liked the odd repetition and rephrasing of what came up, so I took the first three pages of google results, put them in a Word document and started moving things around until I liked what I saw on the page. I did the same thing with “The New Sentence” and afterwards I felt like I had actually learned something about both The New Sentence and The New Narrative that normal research wouldn’t offer. Then I started keeping a list of News, things that would come up in conversation or I would overhear, The New Something-or-Other phrases in people’s work. For example, “The New Debility” is dedicated to Will Alexander, because in his play Conduction in the Catacombs—which I worked on for Betalevel here in Los Angeles, ATA in San Francisco, and 21 Grand in Oakland a few years ago—one of the characters uses the phrase “The New Debility.” In the case of “The New Motherfuckers,” I was at Amoeba Music in Hollywood and on one of the end-caps there was a CD by the band The New Motherfuckers. I listened to it and really liked it, so I wrote “The New Motherfuckers” for them, and most of the material is actually about them, which means they had great google presence back in 2006 when I was working on the book.
I sense a sort of poking fun at schools and movements in The New Poetics. Can you comment on that?
- It’s true, I’m not so much into writing schools and movements, or I have a healthy skepticism for them. Kurt Schwitters, one of my favorite artists and writers, created his own movement, Merz, after he wasn’t accepted by the Berlin Dadaists. Schwitters was closer to the Zurich Dadaists and dabbled a little with the surrealists. He wasn’t easy to pin down. I myself don’t like to be easy to pin down, and I don’t need to follow the marching orders of the movement at whatever moment some movement wants to get on the move. I also find that movements and schools should be left to the 20th century avant-garde. Movements and schools require a solid identification and tend towards an Us vs. Them mentality. I’d prefer to recognize mutual affinities between artists and writers around me. I’d prefer not to be limited by what may or may not fit into a perceived or constructed regimen of any school or movement. Yet I love manifestos, the typical founding documents of any movement. I love the didactic voice of a manifesto, always ridiculously self-assured. In my aesthetic statement for Les Figues TrenchArt: Maneuvers Series, which I very appropriately titled, “The Old Poetics,” I bloviated on and on for about 5,000 words about the old poetics. It read like a manifesto for the old poetics, while I am of course, obviously all about the new.
What’s happened with the PARROT series and Insert Press since we last talked?
- PARROT 4, 5 & 6 came out: But on Geometric by Joseph Mosconi, Loquela by Allyssa Wolf and Viva Miscegenation by Brian Kim Stefans. We sold out of the first three issues during that time and we ran into a bit of a printing snag that caused a few months delay. I’m happy to say that the printing snag has been dealt with and PARROT 7 On the Substance of Disorder by Will Alexander will be out for the new year and we should get back to getting them out in quick succession again after that. In the meantime we published a booklet in collaboration with MATERIAL about artists’ communities, The Futility of Making Salad. The publication includes texts from Harold Abramowitz, Stan Apps,
 Marcus Civin,
 Ginny Cook,
 Dorit Cypis,
 Robin Dicker, Bradney Evans, Nicholas Grider, Dan Hockenson, 
Peter Kirby,
 Elana Mann, Melanie Nakaue, Julie Orser,
 Adam Overton, 
Putting On, 
Declan Rooney,
 Kim Schoen,
 Charlotte Smith, 
Jesper List Thompsen, Mathew Timmons, and
 Jason Underhill.
Looking ahead to 2011 we’ll be continuing with the PARROT series and working on two books, Bruna Mori’s Poetry for Corporations and The Ups & Downs exhibitions catalog as well as issuing the last two volumes of Vanessa Place’s trilogy, Tragodía through our print-on-demand wing, Blanc Press." - Interview by David Shook


Excerpts

I’ve slowly been working on The New Theme and I think I’ve made some good progress today. Take a look and tell me what you think. Things might look different, but we made sure the new interface is The New Look for The New Vibes! The New Vibes! are quietly releasing an updated look and feel this evening. Read about the release as you find out more about The New Look. We want to be easy to use for everyone. You may notice that a few things have moved around. For instance: The New Edition has arrived, and it looks different.


The New Love

According to Žižek, hate is The New Love; and Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and children, his brothers, they have not The New Love!” If you’ve ever read about The New Love, you’ve probably encountered a well organized, good read, and The New Chapters on ethics and jealousy are great. The New Love and Sex covers an enlarged view of The New Work(s) being accomplished by The New Love. The New Love holds the secret to sustainable intimate relationships founded upon The New Love and Sex.
Introducing The New Love.
Polyamory: The New Love without limits. The Sacred Space Institute is a place for The New Love, with tantra, polyamory, The New Love without limits, viacreme, workshops, love, sexual healing, orgasms, sex and the spirit. In The New Love study, researchers compared two sets of images, one taken when the participants were looking at a photo of a friend, and the other when The New Love was on a boat with movie stars, TV personalities, celebs, and more. Introducing, The New Love: At some point it will become necessary to introduce your man (forgive the gender). The New Love of my life. Isn’t she glorious? She arrived around noon today. I carefully disrobed her and then felt a bit guilty.
Hate Is The New Love, The New Love and Sex excerpted from The New Love and Sex. The New Love triangle—the laptop slides into bed, in love... The New Love and Sex. Lust is The New Love when you’re 29 years old, female, living in Long Island, New York, United States. Sticks & stones may break my bones but whips & chains Xite me. The New Love without Limits: Polyamory.
At some point it will become necessary to introduce your man (forgive the gender bias, but hey! I’m a girl!). People who like The New Me also like The New Love of my life. Say Hello to The New Love in my life. Her name is Patina. I got one of those dual core processors, so I’m curious how that’ll work out. Also, I got a TV tuner. Meet The New Year’s Resolution on The New Love: we’ll find The whole New Generation of songs about love. Each song, hand selected for its heartfelt expression. Hate Is the New Love. An ideologue is a person who believes very strongly
in particular principles and tries to follow them carefully.


The New Love Poem

The majority of critics and readers alike give themselves up to the enjoyment of The New Love Poem with a sigh of relief, accepting it as a gift from God, but Jack & Jill have mixed feelings about The New Love Poem. The New Love Poems selected from the anthology are, mostly, love letters from a husband to his wife. All rights reserved. Reprinting, reproducing, or translating The New Love Poem has shown to be a regular problem that influences The New Love Poem.
The New Serenade, The New Love Poem, The New Rejection Letter, The New Form—enjoy them all today and afterwards, read more poems.
I should have put The New Love Poem first. I meant to. You will find The New Love and you will be joyful. The New Love Poem is known for its honesty. The New Love Poem says I don’t love you, but you can still be happy in your life.
Disclaimer: The New Love Poem and quote belong to their respective authors. If you want to use The New Love Poem and quote you should shop for The New Love Poem at our safe, secure, discreet, buy now, save money on every The New Love Poem purchase and get free shipping, we have The New Love Poem at this site, we have, have, have it, The New Love Poem.
The New Love Poem remembers the old love poem, but The New Love Poem is known for its honesty. The New Love Poem says I don’t love you. The New Love

Poem remembers the old love poem in which a body is directly linked to the site of The New Love Poem.
One advantage at the centre of The New Love Poem is its ability to inspire a particular behavior in members of the listening and/or other audience members which is that after hearing or reading The New Love Poem, most people want to lick each other.

#2 Globally brand New Mexico as The New Media State. #3 Promote New Media business products and services to the local, regional, national, and international levels. #1 If an offer/answer/transaction succeeds, then The New Media State becomes active. I have never heard about a “proposed” media state.

"The New Craft" by Mathew Timmons

Mathew Timmons, Credit, Blanc Press, 2009.

"CREDIT is an 800 page, large format, full color, hardbound book, released by Blanc Press in Los Angeles–the longest, most expensive book publishable through the online service, lulu.com. Divided into two sections, Part A: Credit–26 parts (a-z) and Part 2: Debit–10 parts (1-10), CREDIT is a highly revealing and emotional work chronicling a personal tale of credit.
In late spring 2007 as an irrational exuberance and promise of financial fortune hung in the air, mailboxes were filled with generous and gracefully worded offers of credit. Just over two years later, in midsummer 2009, the shape of the financial environment changed radically and mailboxes still filled up with statements of credit. Something had to change, offer turned to obligation.
Retailing for $199.99, CREDIT is a book the author himself lacks the cash or credit to buy.
Mathew Timmons’ CREDIT has been roundly endorsed by a number of artists, writers, editors and critics, including: Harold Abramowitz, Stan Apps, Marcus Civin, Brian Joseph Davis, Ryan Daley, Craig Dworkin, Brad Fliss, Lawrence Giffin, James Hoff, Maximus Kim, Matthew Klane, Janne Larsen, Matthias Merkel Hess, William Moor, Joseph Mosconi, Holly Myers, Sawako Nakayasu, Sianne Ngai, Ariel Pink, Vanessa Place, Dan Richert, Ronald Quinn Rudlong Jr., Ara Shirinyan, Danny Snelson, Erika Staiti, Brian Kim Stefans, Robert Summers, Rodrigo Toscano, Matias Viegener and Steven Zultanski:

Let’s face it, only those who see the invisible can do the impossible. However, miraculously, and right on cue, just short of a decade into the 21st century, Mathew Timmons has given us a momentous, lucid, and gripping book that makes visible what used to be, exclusively, invisible, the wide terrain of credit. Buy “ CREDIT,” tell your friends to buy it, and take its lessons to heart: Credit is expensive!… Credit is not cheap… Credit is hard, not easy, to get… —Harold Abramowitz

If you want to pay a penny for a thought Mathew Timmons has 19,999 of them, but like Master Card suggests, Timmons keeps it simple. CREDIT is a work ripped from both the headlines and the mailbox. —Brian Joseph Davis

I will send a very special, one-of-a-kind, only-available-via-purchase-and-full-completion and proof-of-reading-of-this-book, to all who purchase and read this book. Offer not valid in Kentucky.— Sawako Nakayasu

CREDIT by Mathew Timmons captures the entire postmodern economy under one cover. Like an avalanche of fine print, CREDIT reveals absolutely everything required to be disclosed by law. Timmons aestheticizes the angst of indebtedness into a colorful durational novel, complete with a lifetime supply of rate, fee, and grace period information, plus all the “__ _ !lI” •••••••• •••••••• & •• ‘.”~.’lf ’ CIa … “ of modern life. This is a book “that do_es lL all for you” and best of all “_.s:ard ~ith _no annu~lJee.”—Stan Apps

Mathew Timmons’ CREDIT: Approved.—Sianne Ngai

The output is a sprawling, modular form-letter with all the personal/financial affirmation cut down through razorbladed erasure-transcoding. CREDIT’s procedure traces an unfollowable map from the macrodistortion of mass-market advertising onslaught to a subjective microdistortion of noise stream granulation and reassembly. CREDIT is problematic in terms of numbers, transaction, hardware and software. The text’s operation is ravenously lossy, feeding on filtering byproducts and mistranslation; emphasis on information loss/breakage makes the text self-genotoxic and it sprouts mutant poetry from attractive shapes and corners. The text can be rotated. CREDIT is unreadable and CREDIT is a vibrant autobiography and CREDIT is a rainbow dream. —Dan Richert

What kind of Art would Human this kind of Receipt?
What kind of Receipt would Art this kind of Human?
What kind of Human would Receipt this kind of Art?
What kind of Art would Receipt this kind of Human?
What kind of Receipt would Human this kind of Art?
Fuckers. —Rodrigo Toscano

Quite possibly the oldest system of exchange, credit is almost inseparable from wealth. Credit is the laxative to the stubborn bulk of capital. Similarly, how easy can form be separated from content? Or is content itself a kind of para-form? Paraformaldehyde, even? Disinfectant indicating content’s historicity in its obliteration? Content is form not yet recognized as such. Content is form on credit. And it is to Timmons’ credit that he seems to be particularly susceptible to this confusion, bombarded as he seems to be with offers. And though credit and wealth may be interchangeable to the point of identity, still Timmons is all the more duped for believing so.—Lawrence Giffin

Not since “The Tzanck Check” has a work so conscioned the infra-thin of capitalism—a tour de fort-da. —Vanessa Place

This work could have easily been called “Labor”—like “Credit,” one of the least understood, least visible of our foundational abstractions. (“Milk” might be the other.) Mathew Timmons has managed to squeeze a Dummy’s Guide of both into a mere 800 pages. Sure, this is art in the age of digital reproduction, but you’re not getting anywhere near this thing. —Brian Kim Stefans

It seems only natural that with this book I re-appropriate a blurb about another book (Fiona Banner’s The Nam):
“It has been described as unreadable.” —James Hoff

Congratulations! You’ve been preselected to apply for a copy of the new book by Mathew Timmons at a low introductory rate of just 199.99 and no annual fee ever. Documenting the social and economic space defined by the writing that falls between bulk mailing and fine print (full color and some of it very fine indeed), CREDIT appropriates direct mail credit card solicitations and advertisements in order to explore the nature of disclosure in a series of plays between display and censorship, see-thru windows and security envelopes, financial promise and legal threat—or simply, in Guy Debord’s terms, between monologue and true communication.
Testing the limits of publishing—CREDIT is the largest and most expensive book publishable via Lulu—Timmons’ book is well beyond most readers’ means. But remember, you could always charge it and hope to juggle some good balance transfers down the road…. Respond Immediately and Request Your Copy Today. —Craig Dworkin

Rarely has the mind-numbing banality of consumer capitalism’s fine-print underbelly been employed to such elegant effect. Mathew Timmons’ CREDIT is a timely epic in this crumbling age of debt. —Holly Myers

You know Timmons is just saying what Patti Smith said thirty years ago, although he’s saying it even more: “And when we dream it, when we dream it, when we dream it, / Lets dream it, we’ll dream it for free, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, / Free money, free money, free money, free.” —Matias Viegener

"Credit is a conceptual work. It is a book, but, as the name implies, it is also an abstraction, something more promised than produced. Credit is Mathew Timmons’ 800-page curation of his financial situation circa 2007 to 2009, when credit flowed, and then, naturally and inevitably, ebbed. Credit is thus necessarily dialectical as the tide, and is thus divided into two sections, “Credit” and “Debit.” For the “Credit” section, Timmons reproduced twenty-six credit card offers extended to him over the course of about three weeks, in the order of their offering. All names and addresses were redacted. For the “Debit” section, Timmons reproduced all dunning letters he received in a separate two week period. All the information except names and addresses were redacted. All redacted information appears in two appendices, enabling full reparation. Credit was originally conceived as a postering project. But Timmons had no money. As many good Americans before (and alongside) him, Timmons responded to his lack of negotiable funds by spending on the come, designing a big and expensive book-idea, one tailor-made to the limits of page and price permitted by print on demand. For although the publisher of Credit is Timmons’ own Blanc Press, it is physically produced by the popular print on demand site, Lulu.com, and can be had for $199. And so the means of Credit’s production directly comport with the basic capitalist tenet of supply and demand. Put another way, Credit, like the offer thereof, only exists once you accept its offer.
But there’s really no point to reading, or owning, Credit, except the purely consumptive point of reading or owning Credit. It is worth noting in this regard that according to Timmons, three copies have sold to date. Therefore, Credit, unlike most books, remains valuable only to the degree it remains unread and unowned. Its worth decreases with the number of copies sold, and, by the same token, its means of production, generally considered the most democratic model of publication/distribution, is a way of maintaining the book’s status as rarified commodity. There’s no print run of a thousand, bleating softly in their boxes, there’s not even a hundred cellophaned copies waiting patiently to be passed on to those with time and money on their hands.
To manufacture Credit, Timmons scanned the documents, redacting them the old-fashioned way via black marker. Mistakes in the OCR are left intact. This is a sloppy conceptualism, one content to remain, in some senses half-baked. Not conceptually, but materially. Less pristine fetish object, more object of conspicuous consumption, and one that is manifestly about the pure fetishization of conspicuous consumption. And so Credit is a conceptual success by virtue of its excess.
Conceptual writing has been defined by Kenneth Goldsmith as writing in which “the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.” Craig Dworkin wrote that the test of this writing is “no longer whether it could have been done better (the question of the workshop), but whether it could conceivably have been done otherwise.” To these definitions, Robert Fitterman and I have added that conceptualism is a response to textual excess, and that conceptual writing is necessarily allegorical writing. In a 2004 essay, Hal Foster described archival (visual) art works as allegorical in both the sense of being melancholic and incomplete, and in the “strict” literary sense of “featur[ing] a subject astray in an ‘underworld’ of enigmatic signs that test her.” Timmons, whose book is arguably more art object than text object, is also overtly caught up in a play of excessive signs: he is credit worthy and a credit risk. His credit limit merits extension. He is over his credit limit. He has good credit. He does not want to hurt his credit. What is his credit history? What will his credit look like later? The allegory here is present-tensed and bloated and gleefully incomplete. Unlike Benjamin’s allegory of ruin, there is no ancestral epistemological whole to miss or mist over. Unlike Foster’s interpretation of archival art, there’s no sadness in the slinging of sign, for signs, as we all know, exist only to be slung. The allegory in conceptualism takes as given that signs sign, but cannot sign off. Not fully, anyway. Here, the question of signing becomes moreover acute as it is the act of signing that signals acceptance of an offer of credit, and creates the status of debtor. The signature, according to Agamben, is that which effects what it expresses. The signature serves as voucher for the sign: it (ac)credits the sign with signification. And this is how ontologies are made.
For just as a voucher is an act of credit, so is vouching. Timmons collected thirty blurbs for the book, including blurbs from Craig Dworkin, Rodrigo Toscano, and me. I did not read the book, look at a manuscript or pdf, or have any textual interaction beyond Timmons explaining the project in an email solicitation. It was the concept of Credit that I blurbed, just as it was the idea of Vanessa Place that was wanted for the blurb. My surplus value attested to the surplus value promised by the project. Similarly, most of the blurbs, mine included, suffered from their own lexical excess in the form of puns, digressions, over-use of exclamation points, plagiarisms, and other linguistic wallowings. This was in part due to playing with the idea of the project, and in part inspired by the excess latent in the topic. The credit given Credit was given in the sense of an inscription, like a film credit, like signing-off while signing-on. We did not credit Credit, but credited its credit. So that all parts of the apparatus of this book project allegorize the project of the book: blurbs are not blurbs, but are as integral to the book’s existence as its spine. More so, for the book exists more as a thing talked about than as a thing in-itself.
I have written before about the radical mimesis in much conceptual work, and this is almost that. Timmons pulls the punch a bit via his redactions, which were a by-product of the postering notion. An attempt at public privacy. As is, the erasures can be read (as Timmons would have you read them) as hiding the salient “juicy bits”: relative to the plus side of the ledger, the numbers are sexy, i.e., points of concentrated interest. How much is someone potentially worth? As interest-generator, that is. More interesting to me is that what Timmons suggests through his redactions is the manifestation of lack. Not in the more obvious way of individuation being less salient to corporate finance than numbers or of individuation being more interesting to fiscal failure than numbers, or even the surface discourse here about the public versus the private, and how our private parts have become financial, i.e., that the black bar no longer hides the phallus in an pornography but is the phallus in an economy. But in the way that the fact of a redaction suggests a hidden knowledge that may be recouped—which Timmons overtly concedes, having provided this knowledge in the appendices. This puts Credit as a piece framed in the Lacanian discourse of the hysteric: the subject, its truth forever hidden from itself, suppresses the fact of its desire as it asks the master, “what do you want from me?” But in this, the hysteric reveals the master’s lack of knowledge, for the shifting answers of the master betray the fact that the master does not know: more credit, less credit, payment, payment deferred. The dialectical movement of the book is in this way complete. It has to be, for capitalism itself is famously built on a dialectic. But the difference is the gap, the missing bits and the too-many pieces. For dialectics have become fundamentally undialectical: there is no synthesis per se, no Kantian reason d’être nor Heideggerian über-ergo but rather a freezing of the dialectical movement itself. This is the shipwreck of Mallarmé, a shipwreck necessarily bottled on the page. Stuck in the suck of its ebbs and flows.
I have gone through these interpretive machinations in part to explain Credit, in part because I suspect the reading of this kind of work differs from the reading of most poetry. I’ve not quoted from the book because there’s no line I’m interested in, no text I care to contextualize. Or rather, it’s all contextualization, and nothing but. In conversation, Timmons has described the language in Credit as “fascinating,” and it may well be. The point is, I don’t care. I don’t care about the particulars of the language used in offers made by banks too big to fail or how deep my neighbor sits in the hole. As fond as I might be of Mathew Timmons, or as much as I might relish his suffering, he is no more the subject of credit than he is its author. Certain kinds of conceptual works exist in a perceptual bubble. You can’t engage with them, not directly, for any attempt to engage directly sucks you onto the abyss of textual excess. (The abyss, as I’ve also said before, is now a mountain. Benjamin and Nietzsche stared into the chasm and decried the lack. We, punier still, look up at piles of the stuff.) What they do is instigate by their instantiation, not by the content of their content. Unlike most writing, they are lesser containers of any particular epiphany or exegesis. In this sense, Credit occupies the position of a conceptual art object, existing as a point of origin rather than terminus. And while many may argue that the best writing does just that, this is not the best writing. This is the fact of something that has been stated. As in a credit statement. As in a statement of arrears. It does not matter what the content of these statements are because they are essentially and merely speech acts, so to speak. They trigger status and attendant discourse. Some of these kinds of work, while seeming narcissistic (such as Goldsmith’s Soliloquy) or banal (such as Robert Fitterman’s Sprawl) or the sort of art mocked in post-war New Yorker cartoons as the kind my kid could make, serve and defeat the primarily altruistic purpose of creating more texts, such as this one. For that matter, Timmons has not seen a color copy of his book. He doesn’t know what it looks like. But he does know what it does." - Vanessa Place

Mathew Timmons, Lip Service, Slack Buddha Press, 2009.


Mathew Timmons, Sound Noise, Little Red Leaves, 2010.



Mathew's blog

and a new one, General Projects

Liberating the Canon - an edited anthology capturing the contemporary emergence of radically innovative and non-conforming forms of literature in the UK and US

Liberating The Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature , Ed. by Isabel Waidner, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018. "If there were a...