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FakeReview: Zero Dark Ennui by Gaston Glencastle

There’s something mythic and fragmentary about the ouevre of Gaston Glencastle, and I am not just referring to how his they found most of it, damp and nigh-unreadable in unorganized piles in the bottom of a disused well. Though that, too, deserves mention and is quite mythic and fragmentary on its own. No, I am referring to the conceits, the symbolism and the imagery that run through his stories like the artifical clouds that criss-cross the sky in his Liaison of Leaves and Lives. Glencastle’s stories are told in ways that suggest that the narrator is telling you something you already know. Like the texts are something we’ve already read before, like they’re a grandfather stuttering on his last reel of tape. The aggressively anti-Jungian and almost Markovian links of reasoning suggest to the open-minded a vast machine of logic half-buried in the desert.

Take the main character of Liaison, for instance, whose history shifts with her memory and the perceptions of others. Recall the famous scene where Antoniev asks if she were a dancer in a previous life and she becomes a dancer in a previous life. She becomes someone who has once been, long-before. Think of the worlds where the future is set in stone and the past is mutable as putty. I am saying this because I have been very impressed with the excavated works of outsider art that this well-dwelling man produced. In the latest work that Glencastle’s brother has been able to piece together, Zero Dark Ennui (and given how a chronology of his work would be an impossible task for anybody, as Émil points out, this work is composed of things that make sense together and where the handwriting suggests they were written around the same time, we can simply consider this a loose sequel to Liaison or Dusk in New Orleans) we are once again asked to accept an entirely new series of unarchetypes, a new tome of creation myths, and a new well of desires and human instincts.

Some people accuse Philip K. Dick of writing all his myths from the same trauma, that of his twin sister dying in the womb. With this, the third book of the Glencastle mythiad, I am beginning to see what I once thought was separate scars connect. It is all adding up to one disjointed picture, and the effect is somewhat ruined. In essence, my complaint is this: It is hard to believe, as Glencastle seems to write from beyond the grave, through his brothers ghostly and descolatory fingers, that all human longing and loneliness stems from that one time that Gaston Glencastle got separated from his favourite cuddly toy in a supermarket. It was still there when he got back. You should really be over this by the time you are old enough to write such stunning descriptions of deep forests and suppressions of empathy as can be found in Zero Dark Ennui.

Take the operation scene in the moon colony where we are treated to the glorious image of a person entirely disembodied, almost abatomed. Why does he feel the need to spend two paragraphs on the similarity between a spleen and a well-loved toy rabbit. This is the spleen that Raschcha loses in the beginning of the book, mind. The monoliths of capitalism stand tall around her until the moon colony scene, where she is reunited, though by this point the spleen has been in no less than three bodies, that just keep dying. Are we really supposed to believe that the spleen engineers its reuiniting with its real owner? Why are we supposed to believe this? I am disillusioned.

It turns out that what I mistook for the shadows that great thoughts cast in words was just dark crayons on pavement.

FakeReview: Sexual Future – A Memoir by Florinn Danderhall

Normally here at Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost Book Circle we don’t review more “racy,” “sexually explicit,” “orgiastic,” “Dionysian,” “explicitly mentioning vagina-feelings” books, but I had to make an exception for Florinn Danderhall’s latest memoir (2014). Yes, we agree, it is strange for one person to have written seven memoirs all purportedly of her own life in as many years. But there is something to it – this literary suicide and rebirth that mirrors not a phoenix, nor the turning of the seasons, but the way communist leaders continually edit their own reputation – that we simply must, if not record accurately then observe. Observe with all our lusting eyeballs’ might. This time, as in her third memoir “The Land of Broken Toys,” she tells us the tale of a sex life in turmoil. This time she tells us the future.

Using the rather crude devise of a “crystal ball” (her late husband’s “right family jewel, if memory serves”) Danderhall names her next seven lovers and then her own shuffling off this mortal coil. This is, she stresses, only one version of the future and the layman understanding of time travel suggests that telling the future changes it, but Danderhall sees in herself a Cassandra. As evidence, she names a few sex moves that will be heavy in use by 2018. They all have too ridiculous names to even contemplate or investigate: “the door-to-door salesman,” “the lecture on biochemistry,” “the rumption gumption”. This is ludicrous and not sexy, in this reviewer’s opinion.

There is dispute among scholars over exactly how many times a person dies. Jean Rhys wrote that there are two deaths, the real one and then the one everyone knows about, but that’s a conservative amount. Popular wisdom suggests three (when your heart stops, when they put your body in the ground, and the last time someone says your name). Other mysticalists say seven, or seventeen, or another large prime number, but according to our preliminary research no-one has stated it so boldly and largely as Danderhall before:

“I have one hundred and twenty one deaths left and I intend to make them count.”

The obvious interpretation of this statement, which opens the book, is that it’s a periphatic way of mentioning her orgasms, and indeed if you count them in the book they add up to 120. However, 120 orgasms is a very sad amount of orgasms to have left in you. The other way of reading it, which truly opens the book, is as a continuation of what I mentioned above: the way her books keep rewriting her history. Is Danderhall planning an oeuvre that spans over a hundred books? It’s not unbelievable. Sure, this eccentric author tries to distract us with “delicious sexuffration” and “dead leaves and the wet slippery unbearableness of an autumn storm all over Sylvia Plath’s face,” there is a cry for help in these pages. And I am not referring to the literal cry for help on page 152.

But like that cry, it’s easy to miss among all the sex. I strongly believe that there is a kernel of truth inside even the most beat-up and weird and mendacious autobiography. I believe a pattern is emerging, and I cannot see all the implications of it yet. But if you read this book, don’t just take the load at face value, so to speak. Swallow it, ruminate. There is a person in pain behind these words.

To end with something positive, this reviewer thought it rather lovely how the book was dedicated to Sanel Seton, the inventor of sextropy, sexual entropy.

FakeReview: Ever’s More by Germaine Ellson

So, over the last month I have read Germaine Ellson’s by all accounts completely alright book, Ever’s More, and I confess it made me feel a little uncomfortable. The book starts mildly with a famous quote by Robert Graves: “It is slightly inconvenient to: mock a poet, love a poet, be a poet.” And it only gets okayer from there.

We meet the main character, a decent man with no name who can’t help but point out to the reader that our emotional responses somehow seem stunted. He mentions, in direct communication with you the reader, that watching a dog react to its owner coming home in a wholly okay way almost suggests that there should be a word beyond okay. “What if,” he says as if inviting us to contemplate with him, “the human emotional range went beyond mildly uncomfortable and mildly comfortable.” He does not quite have it in him to make it into a question.

Other characters in the book quickly bring him down to earth by pointing out that the adverbs mildly or almost or moderately or blandly or not exactly are a necessary component of the adjective phrase, just like how you can underwhelm but you cannot whelm. You can be all right but not all wrong. The limitations of our language, the place where the borders go, literally define us and to venture beyond those dells into uncharted semantic territory is akin to go sea-diving and touch the bottom of the sea and to dig and to expect water. It is just sand. And you are running out of air, and it is starting to feel like something might happen that could threaten the amounts of okay you feel in the future.

“It is just sand,” is a line repeated many times throughout the novel, often when the main character accidentally comes up with a neologism that seemingly challenges the status quo of our limitations. “What if there is more?” he asks, rudely and provocatively leaving out any kind of noun after the “more”. This is just poor editing in my opinion; the scene where this happens has the main character observing the ball of fusion that brings light to our planet become increasingly obscured by an ocean. It is a kind of attractive sight, we are informed. He picks up a rock and places it on the ocean by waving his hand in an okay arc and letting go at the right moment, causing the rock to fall upwards a little bit. I asked myself, “more what? More rocks? More light? More water?” but it is clear that Germaine Ellson does not care about that. It is just more sand.

The hill-crest of this sort of bumpy ride of a book comes when one character, who is the sister of the main character, ceases to exist and starts to produce a lot of blood instead. This is inconvenient for the main character in many ways, especially how it gets the front of his shirt sticky with blood. As he feels a little sad and starts to need glasses he turns to the reader again, and says a lot of things I did not understand.

This book made me a trifle uncomfortable. I do not think you should read it. Three stars out of five.

The Vaudeville

…or How She and He Killed, Erotically, an Officer of the Law

Here is some erotica featuring heavy references to lyrics by the Mountain Goats. I have forfeited explanations.

Read the rest of this entry »

THE EEL GAME

This is a game that came to me in a dream a year ago. If you play it, I am not responsible for anything. I am updating the rules here because as time has passed the game has only got more refined in my brain.

Pre Game Rituals

The game is played seldom, only in times of drought or catastrophe. The elders will hold secret council late at night. They will light a small fire but they will not tend to it, and the rest of the people who live in the area will pretend to sleep when really they’re glued to the windows trying to catch a glimpse of the faces of the elders. The way to decide who will host the game is this: they have a poisonous fish in a bowl. The first elder puts the fish in their mouth along with water, and with a kiss transfers the fish to the next elder. The elder that bites the fish, or is bitten, dies and becomes the host. Their family is the one that hosts the event.

The way to choose a champion is more varied. The customs differ between families and places, but there are three main categories. The first is the diving game, which is a game where contestants dive to the sea floor and pick up rocks in their mouth. Generally this will include backbinding of the hands and a blindfold, and be done on a still day, but there are as many variations as there are games played. The heaviest stone marks the winner. The second category is the saltwater game, which is played by drinking saltwater until one vomits. The last player to vomit is the champion. The last category of games is the catching of live eels, where the champion is the contestant who catches the most eels. One champion is needed from each household, and anyone can play.

The Eel Game

The game requires at least one eel per player, and a maximum of eight eels. At least three champions are required, and the optimal number varies depending on the locale. The champions wear damp clothes full of holes and pockets and tight bands, which make it easy for the eels to slither around inside the clothes. The eels can enter and exit these garments like coloured handkerchiefs from a magic show.

When all is set up, the room is filled with saltwater to ankleheight. Champions are placed in positions and fitted with eels, then the game is begun. The objective of the game is to fulfill one of the following criteria:

Be the last one on the floor with eels on them

Have twice as many eels as the secondmost eeled player

Champions are not allowed to touch other champions with their hands but they may bump into each other with hips or shoulders, as long as this is not considered ‘violent’. A common strategy is for champions to stand next to other champions with sleeves or pockets toward theirs and try to coax the other champion’s eels into their own clothing. Games are usually slow-moving, somnambulist matches between two champions at a time, while the others buy time. Another common strategy is to coax eels out of other champions’ sleeves without bother to catch them. Once an eel has touched the floor, it is out of the game. Strategies are manifold and it all depends on the type of player.

Raincloud Found Dead in Malmö

…witnesses in the area claim to have seen a man clamber up a drainpipe that fell off just as he got up on the roof, where he hurled insults and scrap metal at the sky until a raincloud formed. Reports differ on what happened next: either there was a tempestuous argument, or fisticuffs broke out immediately. By this time it was raining too heavily for anyone to stay outside. Just minutes later the raincloud fell dead from the sky and the man was nowhere to be seen. And now over to sports as the weather, understandably, has been cancelled.

Fiending

tell me some good news, roche

I’m sorry, you’re really asking the wrong man.

i’m really fiending for a fix, man

I’d love to be like “Okay Dee, the world is full of sunshine and butterflies and also death has been rendered obsolete.”

haven’t had any in weeks. my eyes are bulging. my veins are poppin. c’mon

But the best I’ve got is “I didn’t literally die in the last 24 hours.”

Just tell me that, then, the sunshine and the no-death thing. Just make me believe it. Come on. I’m gullible

I’m bad at lying.

man
man
man
dammit

THESE LAMPPOSTS

My story “These lampposts” was published today over at Minor Literature[s]. Go read it, and fall in love with something flickering.

minorliteratures.com/2014/07/03/these-lampposts/

An Automicrocosm

You can find a new flashfic of mine, An Automicrocosm, over at the Flash Flood Journal: flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com/2014/06/an-automicrocosm-by-johannes-punkt.html

FakeReview: Instruction Manual for Murdering the Nobel Committee for Literature, by Ursula Perquith

Taking a page out of M. John. Harrison’s book, er, blog, here: ambientehotel.wordpress.com/imaginary-reviews/

~

First of all, I should like to say that if you are not familiar with the terrific work of Ursula Perquith you are sorely missing out. Her third book well lives up to the expectations. It was slightly delayed due to a fight with her publisher, but she has since changed publisher to someone who dares publish the daring work that she is writing. Her first book, for those unaware, was called World Awareness Day, and it cannot be summed up. The main conceit is about a sudden wave of awareness spreading through humans like viruses, and, well, just read it. You will understand. Her second book – more controversial than the first – was called Ursula Perquith. It details her life but it is not an autobiography, as she makes clear in the text, and she will actually stab you with a pen if you try to call it that. Now, her third book is a masterpiece and even harder to summarise than her two other books.

The book starts off innocently with a woman stepping out of a train as it halts at a station, and she then goes on to kill a person, using scissors and piano wire. Onlookers look on, but no-one does anything. She then goes on to book a hotel room, and we find out that it is the great Nordic capital of Stockholm that she is murdering in, and what’s more – we find out that this is actually a sequel to her second book, starring the same main character.

Throughout the book, she commits more and more murders. They are all very thought out and performable, except for the first one which is almost ritualistic in how willing the victim is. At the third murder, the reader – if they have not looked at the list of names and addresses in the back of the book – finds out the names of those who have been killed so far. Curiously, they all share names, addresses, and appearances with people on the Nobel Committee for Literature. As she kills them, she explains that this is fiction, and that we are sympathising with her, and that it is okay. This word “okay” repeats itself through the book like a corruption of data; at one point a whole page is just the word “okay” again and again and again until the plot resumes as if we hadn’t missed what was behind that wall of “okay”s.

One element that tantalises about this book especially is how the police handle the murders. They do not have an investigation running, but once they stop the main character when she was speeding. She explains that she thought she was on the Autobahn, and the police officer kindly explains that she is in Sweden where there are no Autobahnen. She is fined heavily. The police officer does not remark on the bloodstained dress or the almost-corpse in the back-seat, and we the reader feel this absence like a loss.

The fight that Ms. Perquith had with her publisher, as you might have guessed, was about that list of names and addresses at the back of the book. And the maps. And, I presume, though I was not privy to the conversations, the many smiley-faces after this list. And the coupons for knives that are included in the back, too.

This absolutely riveting book is of course not an “instruction manual for murdering the Nobel Committee for Literature” because they have not yet given Ursula Perquith the prize she so richly deserves. That would be ludicrous. Rather, it is an instruction manual for thinking more deeply about things, and taking action, and feeling alive. I have never felt more alive than I did when I was engrossed in this book. I did not mention her many published short stories before, but I will mention them now. She has a book coming out next year which is a collection of her best short work, entitled “Night Shits Beauty”.

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