surrealism

Edju By RW Spryszak

edju

The Surrealism of War, Politics, Religion and Everything Else

By Larissa Shmailo

RW Spryszak;s Edju is a compelling, thought-provoking read, possibly one of the best antiwar novels since Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. Its eponymous unreliable narrator is certainly as odd as Trumbo’s and every bit as opinionated. Edju’s point of view is skewed, we suspect, but the surreal world he encounters is undeniably more so. Populated by fantastic saints, monstrous war machines, and fatalistic animate metaphors of death, the world of Edju threatens us with the core horror of humans systematically killing one another for questionable ideas.

Reading Edju, I saw elements of the original picaresque novel in the adventures of its Quixotic, but always truthful, protagonist. But his story—a hagiography, perhaps, if Edju’s time-warping memory serves— is a continuing exercise in excess, an attempt to trump absurdist and surrealist writing of past several centuries. There are loud shout outs to Gogol’s nose and Kharm’s corpses, and more than a few scenes that are reminiscent of Kafka and even an absurdist Robinson Crusoe.

All of this is done in a slow reveal—we learn the name of the narrator, an old man mocked by children only in the eighth chapter. We assume Edju is mad, hopelessly odd, a compulsive-obsessive religious fanatic, a kook who thinks his dead lover is strangely and selectively alive in a sack. As his Nordic world unfolds in subsequent chapters, we come to believe this limited being is the only sane man on his dystopic nation.

The central conceits of the novel, Edju’s windmills, are surreal metaphors for war and competition in reduction ad absurdem: war machines fueled by human bodies, a Mountain of Flesh all are eager to climb, factions absurdly fighting over table cloths which have become their last banners, a Maze of defense. The path to war is depicted accurately, starting with pamphlets and the rise of fascism and inevitably followed by

Leftist Agrarian Front. Rightist National Unity. Holy Orders of the Fist of God. The Liberal Party. The Conservative Party. Liberal Conservatives and Conservative Liberals. The Armed Hand of the Nation. Nuns. All armed. All vying for power

And:

Évitez les faux, they shouted. Libérez nos bébés, they called. N’accepte pas les substituts. It seemed like a full-scale rebellion was at hand. I had no idea if those phrases were in any way grammatical and correct. But in times of revolution even the commas get misplaced.

Religion fares no better than politics. In nomenclature reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s Year of the Depends Undergarment, faith in Edju’s universe is represented by Bibliana, saint of headaches and hangovers, Our Lady That Didn’t Tumble, Saint Fomildehyde, and extremely peculiar paths to canonization.

The writing of Edju is synaesthetic and witty, replete with eyepopping detail, zinger similes, and wise one liners:

Death makes everyone an outcast.
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There was a tan gray moon, a pure slice of venom in the blood, floating overhead.

Climbing up the em­bankment was a struggle, but her perfume reached out like a muscular ghost that held me close to its face of vapors. As wrong as elephants.

Left to the devices of nature all things decay. Why is this not the basis of the theory of everything they search for?
The rain fell so hard it opened graves.
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If you are not them, you are the other. It’s in the Constitu­tion now.

Firing a gun is like fucking a ghost.
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RW Spryszak’s unusual hero’s journey belongs on your reading list. Like many fine works that eptly mine and mime our culture, it is novel, in the first meaning of the word.

You can find the book here:

http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/edju.html

Larissa Shmailo is an American poet, novelist, translator, and critic.  Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country, #specialcharacters, I n Paran, the chapbook A Cure for Suicide, and the e-book Fib Sequence;  her latest novel is Patient Women. Shmailo’s work has appeared in Plume, the Brooklyn Rail, Fulcrum, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, the Journal of Poetics Research, Drunken Boat, Barrow Street, and the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, Words for the Wedding, Contemporary Russian Poetry, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for the Inaugural, Verde que te quiero verde: Poems after Garcia Lorca, and many others. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the world’s first performance piece, Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych. Shmailo also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society. Please see more about Shmailo at her website at www.larissashmailo.com  and Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/  Larissa_Shmailo.

 

 

 

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The Conduit and other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy by Richard Gessner

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By g emil reutter
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Welcome to the strange world of Richard Gessner where words and images matter. Gessner provides the reader with fresh images, use of words and stories that may or may not be about what they appear to be. Surreal? Maybe. Or they may just be reality in disguise. 
 
The Zoo-Bray is located in the basement of a library. Those kept in the basement, (dark?), are writers of every kind. Parking-ticket scribblers face classical versifiers—Subpoena makers face street poets to produce spontaneous legal writs–… The forgotten face the immortal–. All of them are kept under the watchful eye of the zoo-breeder who wanders through the maze of hallways listening to the congress of burgeoning tete-a-tetes caught up in an infectious meld of snowballing ideas. He tells us at the center is an incubator where the pairs of the most promising writers chosen by the zoo-breeder are placed to mate and give birth. Gessner tells us the zoo-breeder decides what books make it to the upper shelves and what ones do not. Now the story could be viewed a surreal or a thinly masked critique of cookie cutter MFA programs.
 
Gessner gives us a wide ranging group of stories such as Excerpts From the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante. The Conduit a tale of a man stabbed in the heart seeking refuge in a pipe:
Moving down the windy concrete tunnel, listening for his arteries drain, he leaves a red carpet for the assailant’s knife. Millennial scorpion stinging itself drowning in cesspools of regeneration. Hug, wide, longer than all seeing memory. The pipe sparkles with light, twinkling with blood hitting the cold air. The strangeness of the travel of the man in the pipe with dance callers, ancestors, wedding rings looping, ego dust and random chaos. Weird images carefully crafted by a writer who has earned his chops. 
 
    He gives us hermits, a unicyclist, arbitrators, a man in a couch and so much more wrapped in unnatural situations. Gessner looks at the world through distorted glasses and yet as the reader moves through this work all comes into view. Such as in this flash fiction piece, The Pelican’s Tonsils: 
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    A psychiatrist stands in the ocean, wearing his patient’s galoshes, waiting for barnacles to adhere to them.
    His framed doctor’s degree has escaped from his office wall and taken up residence inside the pouch of a pelican sitting on a far off rock jutting from the ocean.
    In the stark wetness of the pouch, the lettering from the degree wears off getting stuck to the pelican’s tonsils. When the pelican dives for fish its tonsils wiggle, rearranging the lettering from the doctors degree.
    In order to restore his official identity and career, the psychiatrist affects a man of action stance, preparing to swim out into the ocean and give the pelican a tonsillectomy—but the barnacles clustering on his patient’s galoshes keep him anchored to the shore as he attempts to swim—the crustaceous ball and chain keeping him forever split!
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Gessner is a master of imagery, metaphor, of the unnatural setting and has produced a fantastic collection of bizarre stories that are equally disturbing and fantastic.
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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter
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The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova

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Review by g emil reutter

The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova begins with the short story Unstiching. Grudova lures the reader in with a line of normalcy, One afternoon, after finishing a cup of coffee in her living room, Greta discovered how to unstitch herself.  However, there is nothing normal in this collection of 13 short stories that stay with the reader long after finishing the book. There is a haunting darkness in all of the stories and a cast of characters set into miserable conditions. Characters transform in startling ways.  Grudova’s Waxy is a perfect example. It is a story set in the future or perhaps in the past. Women are subjected to training for factory work, supporting men, working jobs that scar them. They are used for money and sex, easily discarded. The value of human life is non-existent as babies are disposed of in casual and disrespectful ways. Everyone has to be registered with the government and if you leave your job or living arrangement they will track you down. A woman without a man is considered an outcast.

Throughout the stories the characters eat tinned food, have body disorders such as incontinence and anorexia. Most of the male characters have no loyalty abandoning family at will. The character, Paul, in the story, Mouse Queen, is such a fella. He is a philosopher of sorts and prior to his wife giving birth to twins, he takes off.  The wife abandoned turns into a wolf, raids local stores and once when returning home realized her babies were gone. Had Paul returned to take them or did the wolf eat them? There is a weirdness to each story, a surrealism that is haunting, grotesque.

The subject matter of this collection is thwarting yet Grudova writes surrealism well; in fact is a master of it. She has created a world no one would want to live in yet when one begins the book it is difficult to put down. It is not a book for the faint of heart for in its surrealism Grudova writes of the decay of society. I could not read the book straight through as I often do for after each story I had to ask myself: What just happened? It is a challenging read. Do you dare?

You can find the book here: http://coffeehousepress.org/shop/the-dolls-alphabet/

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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter