Wednesday, August 12, 2009

review: Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon

Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon

by Hosho McCreesh and Christopher Cunningham
Edited by Jason Behrends
Orange Alert Press, 2009

I am bloody and world-weary from this book, beat up not from its opposition, but from its sheer determination. It got me down, it brought me up, it scraped my knees, made my brain bleed. Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon is the figurative war of ideas, told in a mad, mad, mad rush of typewritten missives. I wanted to read it in one frantic stand, all in a one five, six, seven hour sitting on my porch in the middle of summer with only coffee and candy bars to understand its blistering pace. I couldn't do it.

And I don't see how they did it, how Christopher Cunningham and Hosho McCreesh were able to come up with these grand narratives on almost a daily basis in letters to one another. Their well of critical, observational and descriptive powers is deep. They shamed me. They are probably disappointed that I even attempt this "writing" thing--my greatest efforts seem like mere trifle to their castoff correspondence.

In their symbiotic relationship, Cunningham and McCreesh veer between consumerism to war politics to the blandness of American culture. Written in letters seven years ago, some of their complaints are now all too familiar--not their fault, but their outrage about the Patriot Act et. al. will poke the embers of the minds that read it in 2009. They give these old arguments a fresh urgency again, they remind why outrage is needed and necessary.

Their correspondence is rarely catch-up about life, the significant other, the cats, the dogs. These are not friendly letters (at least the ones printed). These are not essays, but screeds. Like scripture, in some places. Dogears, extra bookmarks and underlined sentences fill my copy. Cunningham and McCreesh ebb and flow, a flux that sometimes makes their voices indistinguishable. But somewhere along the line I became a Cunningham man over McCreesh--his Southern views inflected with hope amidst suburban slog, compared to McCreesh's mostly Southwestern (and sometimes Swiss) appreciation of nature.

Perhaps my favorite part is when Cunningham fears that after a drought of correspondence from McCreesh that he has become ill, dead, missing whatever. Not that I think Cunningham seriously believed it, but he turned the phrase "You better not be dead, motherf*****" into a refrain as he described the loneliness of a mid-summer June day:

"sitting here in the stillborn night of far off screams and chained dogs pleading for mercy in the hot dark everywhere. bass drums always echo between houses built too close together, yards high with uncut summer grass. I hear water sloshing in old iron pipes rusting below my feet in the subterranean crawlspace where the multitude of spiders plot their eventual invasion..."
That is the style, the place, the time fraught with concern about what war-time politics might bring. That is my only complaint, I guess, sometimes the heavy-handed political preaching wore on for a few too many pages in the middle, but the overall effect of their descriptive style complemented with plenty of "yr" and "&" to the backbeat of Miles Davis on the failings, successes, generosity (or lack thereof) in America makes me use a phrase I don't want to, but need to--they are beat, "beat to their soul", embodying it in the truest form, not in the way that culture has taken it, monopolized it, corrupted it. Cunningham and McCreesh are the Beats for the modern day--they've created a potent political and cultural critique mixed with a shorthand style and bopsody pace all their own.


  1. seems i wasn't the only one caught up in it all. it's a damn fine collection marking an amazing time for these two writers.

  2. What j.b said. I would only add; go buy it, now, what the hell is wrong with you?!

  3. Thanks Deckflight for the great review! If anyone is looking for the exact link to buy a copy of Sunlight you can find it here and we have about 40 copies left. Thanks!


Related Posts with Thumbnails