6/19/20

Jason Teal - we are presented with a full and original discourse on supermodernity, satirical prophecy and negligible senescence, through a series of carefully inter-linked meta-vignettes that follow the trajectory of one Marjorie (a super-deity), as she traverses through a multitude of (time-spanning) non-linear adventures

Jason Teal, We Were Called Specimens

KERNPUNKT Press, 2020.


Marjorie Cameron Parsons. Famed occultist, Thelemite, strikingly Iowan, Navy volunteer, poet, artist.

This book has nothing to do with her. Or is it the key to the universe? You, reader, have summoned the Three, intertwining your fate with their own. Relationships are mutable and the world spins into another year.

We Were Called Specimens is Jason Teal’s first book of flash fictions. The collection centers on a mythical, supernatural Marjorie untethered to time and space. Follow her into the bleakest, harshest storms of humanity—and flee with her from the onslaught of dreamers and villains alike.



What makes debut writer Jason Teal's collection of speculative fiction work is the punchy writing that never veers too far from our own reality. ⁠ —Wendy J. Fox, Buzzfeed Books


In Jason Teal’s wonderful, fugitive, and wholly singular new book, WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS, formal refreshment dovetails with cutting social commentary, and the archetypal origin story is shattered into fragments more mystifying than any archetype should contain. In short, Teal, again and again, ushers forth an innate, but ever-unexpected light from the confines of what he may call “porcelain trinkets mislabeled as heirlooms,” and other detritus that attends humanity in this fever dream of a 21st century. In Marjorie, Teal has done nothing short of invoke a new American mythology—hilarious, heartbreaking, and raw—ever scored with the sort of surreal incantation that essentially disturbs, even as it delights.​--Matthew Gavin Frank, author of A Brief Atmospheric Future


Jason Teal’s WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS gives us a new way to think about and exercise empathy by allowing our whole selves to participate in his constantly shifting landscape. We view Marjorie, and we become Marjorie, and the people we become become Marjorie, so do the people we love. How do we empathize or heal or love when we are all at once the grotesque, the horrible, the perpetrator and victim, the hero and villain? I appreciate Jason Teal’s writing for giving me these large questions. --Steven Dunn, author of Potted Meat and water & power


Jason Teal’s WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS is an astonishment, an inventive, thrilling, bright hysteria. I had a blast reading it even as my jaw ached from gaping. Don’t keep Marjorie waiting.—Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You’re Hungry


Jason Teal's WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS is so many things - lyrical, at times wryly funny, angry and astute, and deeply heartbreaking. These so many things encapsulate the mess of our current moment, Teal's collection capturing the absurd horrors of capitalism, power and violence with surrealism and blade-sharp prose. These linked stories are essential reading. - Anne Valente, author of The Desert Sky Before Us


Jason Teal is an animal. Whether Marjorie is a platform, an alter ego, a would-be lover, or just product of his imagination, Teal finds a new way to define a character via these uncanny philosophies, experiments, and adventures. She is an indelible part of me now, having read her mantra. Thanks, Jason Teal, for this intrusion, this addition, this experience.—Michael Czyzniejewski, author of I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories​


With WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS: AN ORAL ARCHIVE OF THE DEITY MARJORIE, Jason Teal illuminates the contours of a new American mythology, built on gnawed bones and rotted skin. Across this book’s brilliant and weird tales, Marjorie is both haunt and haunted, consumer and consumed, destroyer and destroyed. These are anxious stories for anxious times, dizzying, metamodern explorations of a wayward America, soul-dead beneath the thumb of late-capitalism, and suffering from chronic indigestion. Teal’s deft eye for detail doesn’t pull punches, but even as a narrator urges itself to “Forget how our infrastructure began to crumble, how the ground opened up and swallowed nuclear families, the lost pets they loved,” the imperative, here, is survival—through forgetting, through embracing illusion, through sheer will—and in that survival, WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS finds its power. You see, Marjorie may look like the end of all things, but she can also be a beginning."—James Brubaker, author of The Taxidermist’s Catalog


Jason Teal’s debut offering successfully breaks free from the detritus, and in the process, actively distances itself from a cycle of wretched cookie-cutter assemblage-based musings, doing away with cursed meanderings from a self-reflexive past while sensibly refusing to adopt the American standardised format of the book. Instead, we are presented with a full and original discourse on supermodernity, satirical prophecy and negligible senescence, through a series of carefully inter-linked meta-vignettes that follow the trajectory of one Marjorie (a super-deity), as she traverses through a multitude of (time-spanning) non-linear adventures. The ideas here are so good, that quite frankly, I believe we are not going to be seeing anything else quite like it, for a very long time. It’s akin to a sacred text containing the history of the entire world, as we know it, replete with masterfully-rendered metaphysical interludes and powerful (but very real) expressionistic dialogue moments (all of this, done to great effect). It’s amazing how, with seemingly minimal effort, Teal has conjured these fantastical and oft memorable tales, all the while, never losing sight of the wondrous scope and expansive power of temporal finitism. Truly, WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS is on par with the warlock-suffused brilliance of Alan Moore’s Promethea, and even, the undying and palpable mystique of Neil Gaiman’s long-running epic, The Sandman. I believe this is Teal at his finest. —Mike Kleine, author of Kanley Stubrick and Lonely Men Club


excerpt:

6/1/20

al-Ḥarīrī - An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. Featuring picaresque adventures and linguistic acrobatics, Impostures brings the spirit of this masterpiece of Arabic literature into English

Amazon.com: Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature ...

al-Ḥarīrī, Impostures, Trans. by Michael 

Cooperson, NYU Press, 2020.


An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. These elements come together in Impostures, a groundbreaking new translation of a celebrated work of Arabic literature.

Impostures follows the roguish Abū Zayd al-Sarūjī in his adventures around the medieval Middle East―we encounter him impersonating a preacher, pretending to be blind, and lying to a judge. In every escapade he shows himself to be a brilliant and persuasive wordsmith, composing poetry, palindromes, and riddles on the spot. Award-winning translator Michael Cooperson transforms Arabic wordplay into English wordplay of his own, using fifty different registers of English, from the distinctive literary styles of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English. 

Featuring picaresque adventures and linguistic acrobatics, Impostures brings the spirit of this masterpiece of Arabic literature into English in a dazzling display of translation.

An English-only edition.


"To translate a work that has been called untranslatable for a thousand years requires more than just expertise in languages―it requires wit, creativity, and an ocean-deep reservoir of knowledge of history and literature and humanity. Michael Cooperson has all of that, plus the most essential, and rarest element: the courage to climb this Everest of world literature. The result isn’t just a translation―it’s a dazzling work of literary creation in its own right, with the linguistic gymnastics of Pale Fire, the genre-switching of Cloud Atlas, and the literary range of 2666." (Peter Sagal, Host of NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!)

"One might describe al-Ḥarīrī's twelfth-century Arabic classic as 'Melville's Confidence-Man meets Queneau's Exercices de style,' but in this remarkable Oulipean carnival of a translation by Michael Cooperson, there are so many other voices―and languages: Singlish, Spanglish, Shakespeare, middle management-speak, Harlem jive, the rogue's lexicon, Naijá... Impostures is a wild romp through languages and literatures, places and times, that bears out and celebrates Borges's dictum: 'Erudition is the modern form of the fantastic.'" (Esther Allen, translator of Zama, winner of the 2017 National Translation Award)


Al-Ḥarīrī (d. 516/1122) was a poet, scholar, and government official from Basra, Iraq. He is celebrated for his virtuosity in producing rhymed prose narratives, the Maqāmāt.


Allegorithms - Oscillating between the algorithmic & the representational, the human agent navigates its environmental niche in a way which is conducive to its further psychological, social, & biological existence

Allegorithms , ed. by Vít Bohal & Dustin  Breitling, Litteraria Pragensia, 2017. Contributors: Alexander R. Galloway, Marco Donnarumma...