Thursday, February 11, 2010

review: MLP First Year Edited by J.A. Tyler

(Catch a Friday Five w/ J.A. Tyler tomorrow. Catch his Twitter story going on today from the CCLaP Center.)

MLP: First Year
Editor: J.A. Tyler
Mudluscious Press, 2010

Not going to lie. I was slightly giddy for this release. Don’t usually get that way often, if at all. The myth and legend of such a volume was overwhelming.

Great credit to J.A. Tyler and the Mudluscious Press crew for generating great interest. Or least at I had great interest. The MLP First Year is a collection of MudLuscious’ illustrious roster of chapbooks. Look through this list. See the ones that say "sold out"? They're sold out for a reason. I thought I had missed out.

But then there was this idea: the anthology. And the list of contributors reads like list of a cool kids birthday party for the (post)(post)(post?)modern literati set. So there’s Nick Antosca and Ken Baumann and Ryan Call and Blake Butler or Brian Evenson and Molly Gaudry and Shane Jones and Michael Kimball and Sam Pink. And those are just a few of the few that I recognize from various interweb stations.

Surely the others of the 40 or so contributors are (HTML) giants in their own right, in whatever circle they orbit--because one thing’s for sure, Mr. Tyler has impeccable taste in curating such a volume.

Then there’s that: taste. Or style, rather. Or format. The word “and” in every single case I could find is replaced with an &. There is a lot of CAPS. And what your mom would call “run-on” sentences. I’m assuming these were choices by the authors, which means that MudLuscious has captured that style, perhaps a generational push towards….something, something I'm going to call "urgent absurdist specificity." Rolls off the tongue. Go ahead and get your memes going on that one kids. Create a slideshow in Keynote with those words fading in and out over a spacey background.

Most of the stories have some type of absurdist bent, animals taking on unusual roles, kids turning into rats, people floating in clouds commenting on something or another below. There are bodies and body parts. There is a clown with grease on his forehead giving suggestions about book introductions in a piece by Mark Baumer. There’s a high descriptive quality to the stories. They are not short stories or even flash fiction segments really, but a description of a moment somewhere, part of this world but mostly not of this world where little moves, places and times are captured in fascinating sentences that bend into something about life.

Like in Lily Hoang’s “Mockery of a Cat”:

“The cats, it would seem, are trying to invade the old cat lady’s body. They are trying to replace all her parts, putting cats of various sizes in the spot where a liver or intestine would go.”

And it goes from there, the cat lady slowly becoming like or part of the cats. Body parts, check. Animals, check. Something odd with a realization about life, check.

That's all I got. This anthology is still seeping through my mind. I'm not trying to understand the quirkiness of the stories, but the power of them as a whole.

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