Black Scat Books: January, 2013

Reviewed by Kevin Riordan

 

I wish I could say that this is one of the most ambivalent titles since Either/Or, but of course that book was Anything/But. Each succeeding story is more diaphanous, with the slippery structures collapsing in mid-thought. Fiction may be the art of making stuff up, but Arias-Misson seems to be making it up right within each sentence, undecided as to which way to jump, doubting whether the last scrap of description was flimsy enough and so tearing it up and starting over. With all the current talk of metadata being acquired by the NSA, but never the content, I found these meta-fictions to be similarly devoid of concrete content; not to say that you wouldn’t care to listen, just that it is maddeningly difficult.

 

Given the stature and history of this enigmatic, creative polymath, it is unlikely that he would turn out a straightforward, commercially viable novel; he has spent several decades making innovations in art, poetry, performance and experimental fiction.

 

As with his novel, Theatre of Incest, he adopts a stance that celebrates where other authors – actually, anyone else – would judge if not condemn. He seems a sort of one man erotic post-Dada movement.

 

One does not turn to Evergreen for the prude’s point of view, but Arias-Misson seems to have resolved his Mind/Body problem by having girls on the brain. In The Lotus With Eight Petals, for instance, he imagines TinTin in a physical condition that would make even Captain Haddock blush, and the title story chronicles a series of sexual conquests that are accompanied by levitation, so it’s not so much ‘walking’ he does on air. There is nothing here that is not somewhat dreamlike, and it is an impressive feat that he sustains this tone through a wide range of situations. I only wish there wasn’t such a high proportion of wet dreams; I mean, the tenor is like an army camp after Bob Hope has brought a lascivious ‘dance troupe’ on tour.

 

One of the most unusual and engaging stories, The Marazzi Chronicles,  puts us in a sort of spirit world in which the only thing physical appears to be gratification, but the flow of language is delightfully intense. We are in another dimension that could be like a Krazy Kat landscape. The Man Who Had No Head is a funny and daring story, only slightly more serious than the 1940’s children’s book, The Man Who Lost His Head, by Claire Huchet Bishop and Robert McCloskey, only this fellow does not attempt to substitute a turnip or pumpkin for his noggin, and instead goes in for some existential soul searching, in lieu of head scratching. I suspect many readers who still possess a head will be scratching them as well.