I know I said I would not write another review of a book that doesn’t exist, but this one just gripped me, readers. Right from the start it hooked me, with little barbs and flukes on the inside of the hardcover, like a psychopath had designed this book. This is the kind of book that would bleed you dry if you’d let it.
I’d never heard of J. Steam Fronker — the anagrammatic pseudonym of a weird sex pharmacist who in the meatspace goes by Hannah Dee Arbucte — before I read these books, but she’s apparently something of a sensation in the online literary world. More accurately, she is a catalyst, the substance against whom everybody reacts. You have to have an opinion on the latest Fronker doolally. Apart from her uncle’s publishing house, she only communicates with the “Inside World,” as she calls the world outside her books, through her microblog on Regrettr. There, readers are treated to a cornucopia of strange terminology, only half of which is decipherable. She rarely responds to replies, but seems to welcome the attention.
Imagine if Chuck Tingle wrote Gormenghast. No, don’t imagine that. Forget that thought. Fuck. Let’s start over, from the other end.
Ghias Aljundi once said that “writing a poem can be as dangerous as carrying a gun.” Because any weapon has at least two edges, doesn’t it? He was talking about the horrible regime in Syria, specifically, which is known to murder poets to silence them. As such, it is a bit perverse of me to relay it here, relating it to this steampunk desert fantasy epic no-one has read, but that is what I’m doing. Perhaps I, like Fronker, believe I have something imporrtant to say and I hide it here, in a silly fishtank, where you won’t read it. Perhaps I don’t want to write you a poem. There is a double valence to danger: the danger can be to oneself or to others. Expand it a bit and it’s us or them. Often it is both. I believe J. Steam Fonker wishes to weaponise literature. She wants it to be equally as dangerous.
Just last week, she pleaded with world leaders (“kopfhats” in Fronkerese) to ban more books. It was a surprisingly coheroquent plea, and it turned out to be an old “Now York Toast” article pleading with President Obama to ban guns, which she had transformed with some search-and-replace magic. Hence all the paragraphs about how access to books leads to school shootings. Her followers had been arguing in circles with each other for a day until this was revealed, minithinkpieces bubbling forth, and then the bubble burst. I admit I may have got caught up in the dunderfrolic myself.
Consider the plot of the Boneyard Bedouin Epique (consisting of four books: The Word in the Stone, The Trunk in the Junk, The Gland of Arlulin, and The Sand in the Clothes). A young woman sets out to peel her own world apart like one continuous clementine spiral by singing herself out of it, her culture not having anything like literacy. This brings danger, long before she comes close to succeeding, but she eventually succeeds. This is perhaps the most unfair summary I’ve ever done of one of these series, but there is so much in it. How do I explain to you the ship of avarice? How do I tell you of the Dune pisstakeage of giant writhing cocks fucking the desert and how it is a comment on US foreign policy? Why would you believe me that that fits in with the rest of the book? I could tell you the whole story is of a dustmote falling to the floor, shaken loose from a rocking table, which is true. Or I could tell you about the calligraphy. The instructions for dancing with ink-tipped boots. The suicide pact the author makes with the reader. It all makes sense; none of it makes sense.
Virgil said that a good couplet should be enough to make a snake explode. Such is the power of words. Fronker longs for a time gone by, when her words would have a physical effect on her surroundings instead of being shielded by a humtracker and electricity. I don’t think she’s written herself out of this world just yet, but she might. When she does fall through, I wonder if we will all solipsistically blink out, or if we will stand there dumbfounded, mouthing “I didn’t know you could do that.”