Reviews

Spoiler's Cassette of Spoken Word and Experimental Sound is Perturbing

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Stare into this gentleman's eyes and be reminded of your mortality. His name is Spoiler and he has some darkness to share on a new tape compilation that features readings from his book The Ashes of Howard Beach, accompanied by exclusive experimental sounds by members of punk and noise acts such as Destruction Unit, Hoax and Warthog.

A Belgian-born author currently living and writing in Montreal, Spoiler has played in various punk bands including 1-900s and Playboy, and the tape includes many of his friends from the punk and noise scenes including Js Aurelius (Destruction Unit), Jesse Sanes (Hoax) and Anthony Pasquarosa (SQRM, Gluebag).

Spoiler's prose, like his music, veers towards the dark and dysfunctional, and the eerie noise, sound collages, folk guitar, and avant-garde clarinet adds to a sense of foreboding. Just listening to Spoiler say "omnipotent bastard" has us peeping through blinds and locking doors. 

Listen to "Normandie" a track that features Ligature, a project from Christopher Hansell from punk bands Warthog,1-900s, and get ready to be unsettled.

La Madre Triste by Olivia Kates

La Madre Triste de Gabriela Mistral
Duerme, duerme, dueño mío,
sin zozobra, sin temor,
aunque no se duerma mi alma,
aunque no descanse yo.

Duerme, duerme y en la noche
seas tú menos rumor
que la hoja de la hierba,
que la seda del vellón.

Duerma en ti la carne mía,
mi zozobra, mi temblor.
En ti ciérrense mis ojos:
¡duerma en ti mi corazón!

 

Mistral’s subversive political motives cloaked by elegantly expressive language captivated me– particularly in regards to her notion of motherhood. ‘La Madre Triste’, or, ‘The Sad Mother’ best embodies Mistral’s capacity for beautiful compositions maintained alongside her stylized manner of expression, allowing variations in interpretation and emotion of the reader.

The poem expresses the anguish and sacrifice of a mother who wishes comfort for their child, regardless of the suffering it may cost her. The three stanza poem constructs a separation of “I”, the mother, and “you”, the child”, evoking the reader’s experience of the mother’s pain shrouded in optimism for her child and the future.

The distress of motherhood is a theme that has a growing sentimentality for myself as both an adoptee and as a woman. Understanding the contextual climate in which Mistral wrote ‘La Madre Triste’ has allowed me to form parallels to that of the undesirable conditions that I have emerged from. While adoption allowed me a second chance for better opportunities at an early age, these benefits do not neglect the struggle and loss experienced by my mother, as well as the countless other women experiencing loss. ‘La Madre Triste’ not only empathizes with the sorrowful mother, but praises her strength and selflessness in an oppressive circumstance (such as women’s healthcare in Latin America)- a notion capable of comprehension by not only those identifying as mothers, but by women, and by people, everywhere.

From a young age, I have sought the many literary masters of Chile such as Neruda, Allende, and Bolaño, in hopes of gaining a stronger sense of the culture from which I emanate. I found most comfort and personal sentiment in Gabriela Mistral’s social, political, and emotionally driven writings. Mistral’s work addresses themes of love, sorrow, motherhood, and oppression, pairing her lyrical verses with strong political beliefs in hopes for change in the future of Latin America.

Keep up with Olivia and follow her work at @oliviakates or visit her site oliviakates.com

Rabbit, Run by Katie Heindl

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
(Originally published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1960)

Rabbit, Run by John Updike is supposed to be a classic. It’s the book that announced Updike as a writer in American literature, or what most people mean when they talk about American literature, the whole, vague canon of it. It’s also perfectly indicative of the problem with American literature—of that era and stubbornly, still—the whole, vague canon of it, being that it’s a book about a pretty shitty guy who can’t get a handle on the relatively normal problems of his life, and generally as a rule makes things worse for the other people in his life. I tried to read Rabbit, Run on my honeymoon, because the Irish bookstore was quaint as hell, who shouldn’t read more “classics”, and the cover of the version I found had a basketball on it. It marked place and time for me, perhaps more viscerally, because I hated it more every time I picked it back up. On the train from Galway to Dublin, I thought, “Ok, he’s blowing up his marriage and this book is about him abandoning his pregnant wife and young child”. On the plane ride to Spain I figured Rabbit would have a decent reason to come back to town but not tell his wife, his parents or in-laws, and essentially force himself into flopping with the first woman he meets to play at a hostage version of house. On the ferry to Tangier I wanted to throw the book across the cabin, into the small snack bar, when he shames his girlfriend—hostage?—into giving him a blowjob, because he’s so sexually repressed and she used to be a sex worker, that he believes it will both alleviate his negligible guilt and allow some kind of psychic ownership of her. Admittedly, I didn’t finish it. I tried as hard as I could but then I wondered why. I don’t tend to have to try hard to finish books, I move through them like a shark in sunny waters. For some stories, the slog can be a kind of reward, if you’re invested in the characters, the story, anything. But my problem with books like Rabbit, Run, where women exist as slalom poles to be knocked as the male protagonist flails his way to the finish (aside from that obvious analogy) is that eventually that question of why echoes too loudly to process the story. There are many male writers I love, but it seems that the literary gauntlet was sort of tossed to where was convenient when it came to deciding what was canon for a lot of dudes, and is tugged away like a carrot on a string when women writers come close. More specifically, what Updike did in Rabbit, Run would have been considered indulgent, not literary, confessional fiction more than likely if a woman wrote it. I think bad books sometimes stay with you more than the good ones and I think that’s why they can be just as important. If they jar you and yank you out of the story enough times you are getting an experience of dual reading. Reading the words and then reading your reaction to them, rather than coasting to the end in a place that feels familiar. Bad books can also just be shitty, they don’t need to mean something, but good luck forgetting the things you were doing, where you were or the other things you were going through when you were trying to choke them down.

To keep up with Katie follow her @wtevs

Children of God by Dusty Neal

2014 was a year of heavy introspection for me. Easing out of a mid-20’s crisis, I began to examine every aspect of my identity. I was dissatisfied with myself as an artist and the direction my work was heading, the aimless way in which I was haphazardly consuming whatever media was most accessible, and even superficial issues such as my appearance. It was a period of voluntary isolation, and what resulted was a wealth of discovery, of self and otherwise. I thought about what was important, reassessed who I was as a person, and decided to focus strictly on content that challenged me. I voraciously explored films I had missed, began to avidly read carefully chosen work by a small selection of authors, and as a result my taste in all other cultural facets began to change. Quiet evenings at home spent busily working on a new artistic identity, and writing when possible, led to a deeper appreciation of music that i had previously only casually enjoyed. With time my attention narrowed mainly on Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave, and their dual-genius of being both musical legends and literary figures. Soon my fixation widened to include Michael Gira of Swans, and after researching him and his various projects, I was eager to read his 1994 book, “The Consumer.”

In March 2015 I obtained a copy of his book. At the time, I could only find one or two copies online for a little over $100, which I hoped would be worth the expense. I had read some customer reviews and a sample passage online, but I had no idea what I was in for. As important as Gira and his book have become to me, it was definitely worth much more than that, as I would later realize.

In a single word, this book is: transgressive. It deals with incredibly dark aspects of consciousness, and it does much more than merely touch on or present them in a conventional, easily digestible way. Gira places us into disgusting, unsettling situations and forces us to linger there and absorb the palpable filth, which he describes ad nauseum in textured layers of adjectives, so that we may regard the abject realism of it all, no matter how abstract the setting. The book begins with its heaviest, darkest themes: drug use, rape, pedophilia, incest, etc, perhaps as if to break down the reader straight away before taking him or her into the less recognizable peripheral territories of its nightmarish settings. Self-hatred and body horror are the book's dominant themes, and simultaneously permeate the majority of content. It becomes clear the stories within are not a celebration of these themes, and while there isn’t a sense of Gira delighting in the shocking nature at the expense of the reader, it does very much read as his own depressive rumination over humanity’s true horrors. Lengthy depictions traumatically assault the reader with an overkill of details, piled upon each other like rotting garbage sealed inside a bag and left to fester. It is difficult to imagine the depths in which Gira immersed himself while fully realizing these hellish vignettes onto the page, but through his labor they exist for the rest of us as a portal to an alternate reality, one that no one else could have created.

At first, it was vexing to get through long readings of the book. Each story left me with a nausea that worsened the longer I went on, but eventually the shock wore off. I acclimated to Gira’s language and mood, and began to relish the immensity of description, the surrealism, and unpredictability. I question if the book’s scenes had been derived from life experiences, were drug hallucinations, or were solely imagined. Perhaps it is better without knowing, although the writing’s impact couldn't be diminished by an explanation. After finishing, I was a bit stunned, and surprised how much it had affected me, and couldn’t recall another book that had shook me up as much. Previous to “The Consumer,” I had been reading George Saunders, Lydia Davis, Haruki Murakami, etc., and was totally ignorant the transgressive literature that had most likely informed Gira’s writing to some degree, or at least categorically aligned with. After looking for comparative works online, and having a few conversations with friends, I soon discovered other writers and works like Comte de Lautréamont’s “Les Chants de Maldoror”, J.G. Ballard’s “The Atrocity Exhibition,” Georges Bataille’s “Story of the Eye,” Albert de Routisie (Louis Aragon)’s “Irene’s Cunt,” Henri Barbusse’s “Hell,” Jean Genet, and Dennis Cooper.

In just a year and a half, I have already attributed a great deal of nostalgia and importance to this book. It was very literally a portal for me into the underworld of literature that had always been there unbeknownst to me, existing just beyond reach. “The Consumer” has become very dear to me. Although it dredges through the grimmest settings, I can’t help but think of this book in the fondest way. It stands as a milestone in my life for the time when I discovered many important pieces of literature, and also continues to be a source of inspiration for my own writing. Thank you, Michael Gira, for writing “The Consumer,” and also, Henry Rollins, for publishing it.

Follow @dustyneal as well as his press @sistinepress