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Tag: desert

FakeReview: The Boneyard Bedouin Epique by J. Steam Fronker

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.”

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Shadows and Eggshell

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations, who have a facebook page: facebook.com/ThrustingSensations, and a website: thrustingsensations.co.uk

There was a desert inside her chest. We went into it. It was always daytime, and the heat rose from the ground, and sometimes stray rocks would crackle and jump like drops of oil on a skillet. There were nine of us surgeons, and two camels; by unspoken agreement we all walked. We carried with us a delicate heart inside a refrigerated box.

The shadows we cast on the desert were all the same colour as the sand that covered it. At one point, Anders picked up a handful of sand and saw that it was pieces of eggshell, white and brown, not sand at all. He knew he carried with him a silhouette of himself and he believed it to follow his movements, stretched out and wrong-angled, but now he had lost track of it. Without knowing where the silhouette ended, Anders blended into the landscape and became a tree, eggshell-coloured and leafless. This, too, was shadowless: in order to see him we had to get down on our knees or our stomachs and search for his outline protruding over the horizon.

We had used up half of our water supply, and Deirdre pointed out that this was the point to turn back. Declare it a lost mission. It had only ever had a 40% chance of working, anyway. I said, “I have a compass. Let me drag the box by myself if I have to, I will do this.” They let me have a camel, and both mine and Anders’ shares of supplies. I was grateful, and I walked quickly, afraid of hearing the hum-whirr-click of the refrigeration running out of power.

At last, I found the sun and saw my shadow dance, exalted to be there again, I think. The fiery ball was half buried in eggshell and my camel was afraid of it, stomping the ground and breathing heavily. That was the last I remember of my humped companion, it must have walked away when it realized I was paying attention to more important things.

The box still wheezed, I opened it carefully and saw everything was intact. Condensation trailed out of the box and onto the ground and sizzled away. I took off my gloves and rubbed lotion onto my hands. I put new gloves on, I removed my facepiece and took a deep breath. The very last of my water bathed my face. I took the cold heart out of the box and held it in my hands, before biting down on it. It was still beating, but slowly, pumping nothing but air, perhaps twice a minute. The blood of a twelve-year-old Parisian boy with the right blood type flowed down my chin and inside my sterile plastic suit. The last thing I remember is swallowing the last bit of meat and staring at my empty hands, wondering if I was required to lick them clean.

Then I was outside the desert again, in the room with the chequered floor, and I had just stopped moving my mouth, talking. Her parents thanked me, they knew we had done everything we could.

Oubliette

The first thing he forgot was his own name. At first, this pleased him; it was probably a bad name, like Yosef or Stephen or Muriel. But the name-thing gnawed at the back of his hair, and he had all the time in the world. He started making a list in the ground (it was all coarse fibres; there should be a name for that). Sometimes he would start over if he had a really good idea on how to organise it. One day, he grew tired of scratching symbols in the down, and he dropped his symbol-maker, and he

The Architect

In the middle of the desert, a woman has drawn herself a home. Straight lines and right angles. There is no wind here ever, so the ground consists of nothing but her footprints, and the lines she has drawn. It is obvious she used to be some sort of artist, maybe even an architect, from the ease with which she drew them. She drew herself a bedroom, stomped out the wall and redrew the room, and her bed, as a little bit bigger; the difference between queensize and kingsize. She goes to sleep there, and dreams about heights and vertigo.

Sculptures

A giant boulder on its edge, barely touching the sand. A rickety pole made of smaller stones like vertebrae, with a behemoth skull on top. Cacti wearing hats of lightning-shaped fulgurite, gently spinning. These wastelands are filled with improbably balancing or hovering things. I have been studying a pendulum made from broken hourglasses, and the way it swings. It is unbothered by the wind, but I know that if I touch it, like with all the other sculptures, it will fall down. So I draw lines in the sand under its course, and I make observations. I need to know.

Racket, Parade, Desert

There was a racket and a parade marched past my house. They played instruments I’d never seen before. The detailed masks they wore made them all look like Egyptian gods. The Typhonic beast was most common, but I saw a lot of jackals’ heads. I fumbled with the lousy lock to my balcony door and ended up breaking it to stumble out there. They were all wearing mardi-gras-beads so I found some on my floor and threw them down to see what would happen.

The one who caught them flashed me a bleached-bone-smile full of teeth. Then the desert came.