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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Fog Gorgeous Stag by Sean Lovelace

Fog Gorgeous Stag, by Sean Lovelace.
Publishing Genius, Baltimore, 2011.
Review by Debrah Lechner. Fog.

An excerpt from "And a Little Horse Loving Girl," from Fog Glorious Stag:

Rubber hatchets. Corn cob pipes. Fried Pepsi. Fried ears of corn. A laser that will etch your own face onto the handle of a lint remover. ($8.00)

I’ve been there. But I don’t like to admit it. So when I first read Fog Gorgeous Stag my initial impression was that the text was a symptom of mental illness, or if not that then perhaps was poetry―despite Lovelace’s public denial of this second possibility. He says of this volume, “I consider it an artifact, a thing.” He says, “I hope this book is worthy of the same genre as fog.”

Whereas this volume is undeniably a thing, a thing that’s been lying on my desk confounding me for some weeks, I can’t verify that it is in the same genre as fog. That seems a high and (let’s just face it) deliberately undefined ambition. But perhaps Fog a does achieves Fog as a genre; I’m not sure I’m evolved enough to apprehend such a thing. I’m just now exploring the idea.

Other esteemed writers seem to have experienced no delay in recognizing the genius of this genre.

Fog Glorious Stag is an electric fire of a book… if you must read it, I recommend real thick gloves like the furries wear,” says Ander Monson, who also notes that his blurb on the back of the book is not in fact a blurb on the back of the book, but a warning label.

“The pant panting! The hypoxic breathlessness! The all of it that is the all of it!” These are comments by Michael Martone, also from a blurb on the back of the book.

This constitutes my warning about the warnings and blurbs on the back of the book. They’re a little off the hook. They augment my increasing belief that genius, lunacy and poetry may be the three muses of the newly coined genre of Fog. The praise for the book may in fact have been inadequate, since these homages seem to be inspired by Lovelace’s writing but ultimately fail to equal it. In the end, they make too much sense.

I’m not even going to try… not to make sense.

Of course, freedom from syllogistic narrative has long been a feature of much modern poetry, and also of prose (or whatever). Consider As a Wife has a Cow: A Love Story by Gertrude Stein. This might be an early entry into the hitherto unnamed genre of Fog:

In came in there, came in there come out of there. In came in come out of there. Come out there in came in there. Come out of there and in come out of there. Came in there, come out of there.

Yes, and I’ve been there too. Where?

There have been many interpretations of Stein’s work, most of which insert meaning where arguably there is none. In her work, various interpretations―the role of the natural world, sexual intent and so on―all of that is as may be; but the real genius of As a Wife has a Cow: A Love Story is how Stein illustrated that repetition creates a strong illusion of meaning.
The comparison to Stein is perhaps the highest praise I can offer for Fog Gorgeous Stag. The more I spend time with this new genre of Fog, the better I like it.

An excerpt from "The Odor of Thin Cigars" from Fog Gorgeous Stag:

Iggy Pop shooting the breeze. Machine the breeze. Iggy Pop with a fresh bob haircut (made of flour, water, food coloring.) Everything ferments (like sky), so everyone intoxicated (like sky). The foaming sky.

Again, I’ve been there. Is that where I know you from?

Lovelace pops from one image to another, not at all in the manner of Stein, who lingers, to say the least. But Lovelace also says that what he loves best is “the gorgeous emptiness of white space.” In this sense, much like Stein, and paraphrasing the Beatles song, the sense you make is the sense you take.

Fog Gorgeous Stag is challenging. It’s an invitation to imagine where you’ve been; to imagine what you think. It’s an artifact of a new idea. It’s a very valuable book-thing.

Post Script: After rereading Stein, I feel. I should apologize for passive-aggressively implying Fog Glorious Stag is poetry. (It might be short stories, it might be poetry. Either way, it’s hard to disprove.)

Fog Gorgeous Stag is due to be released July 12th, 2011.

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