Sunday, November 02, 2008

Review of Dear Ra

[I found the following review of Dear Ra on Not the kind of place one might usually see such in-depth readings]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Candy and Cousins, September 16, 2008
By Kevin Killian (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Here the unnamed narrator writes compulsively to Ra, perhaps the Egyptian sun god, perhaps a teenaged penpal, telling him (her? For "Ra" is sometimes a spectre of a girlfriend, a coy mistress, a Mom) of his days, complaining of his life in a white suburb in a carpeted basement and living with his parents. He speaks of his missing twin, Jesse Garon, a phantom self that won't let him go--"Jesse Garon" was the name of Vernon and Gladys Presley's second son, stillborn in the same birth as Elvis--and in such passages a note of genuine melancholia and acedia enters the rhythms of the life unfolding. Otherwise it's a boy's world of discontent and horny fantasy and the belief that the whole world revolves around one's ups and downs. "I can't jack offwithout history peering in."

In the second half of the book, as in life, our boy's circle of acquaintance grows larger, and he experiments branching out with letters to others. Godardian maxims, so beautiful when Godard first coined them, undergo the angst and strain of being pulled to pieces by a born deconstructor, and guns enter the picture. We get the image of a Swedish boys transplanted to the USA at an early age, a teen perhaps, and made to live in a house of his own imagination. No more hands across the water, "You've got a handgun, I've got a hand to shake." At an unnamed academy he is surprised to encounter lessons in writing divorced from specific social contexts, to avoid using the word "napalm" in a poem, for example. "Say `knife' instead. A knife will always mean the same thing." Goransson's achievement here is to collapse, successfully, the bildungsroman into the "Paris Spleen"-esque sort of prose poem that is the bedrock of today's mainstream poetry industry, and to both genres he applies the two fingered salute, while managing to strike all kinds of emotional, narratological, and sexual sparks. Me likey!

Feisty stalwart Starcherone Books has given Johannes Goransson's book the luxury treatment, and it is handsome almost beyond its means. The back jacket copy is a little misleading however. "Each sentence," it says, "is like being stabbed by a beautiful murderer." I did not feel that. "Each entry [is like] crossing the border into some new language." That's a little bit more reasonable.

Nevertheless the book has its startling passages and a general air of anything goes, which made me enjoy the rollicking ride. If occasionally DEAR RA sports the jaded air of having been written by one who has seen too many Sofia Coppola films, it reminds us of why we liked her in the first place--her fresh eye on the sweet and cheap wares life sells us.


Blogger Unknown said...

Ah Kevin. Have you seen this?

7:02 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

No, I hadn't seen that. That's funny. I have noticed a lot of his reviews because I like his poems so they always stuck out to me.

7:33 PM  

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