Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: One Hour of Television by Kristine Born

         I received a copy of this book for free when I ordered some other books (Nothing and Anatomy Courses both to be reviewed soon) from Blake Butler. So there's that. One hour of Television is 136 pages divided into 3 section, each page a single paragraph of text. Some paragraphs are long, others are short, some more coherent that others. Each paragraph roughly stands alone by itself and many have an unsettling edge as if taken extempore from another work or another world. I would call some of them poems or poetry, but there are no artistic line breaks... So it's prose? I guess? At the very least much of One Hour is poetic. The paragraphs have an aphoristic quality to them and in hindsight One Hour might be as good of a read just picked up and read at random than from cover to cover. Most pages have a surreal flavor or are unusually funny while a few are downright confusing. There is a cohesive story line that picks up a little into the book which relates the tale of the narrator and his friend who steal some money then go to a poker tournament. There is tension between the narrator and his friend over the narrator's wife. Each vignette of the narrative comes a few pages apart however, and i felt that the story line wasn't vitally important to the book as a whole. A major theme touches on nuclear war and cold war era America and actually provide some interesting views on the situation. Born calls out the hypocritical possession of nuclear weapons by a handful of large nations while restricting access to smaller nations, comparing it to the condescending tone of parents arguing in front of their children,
"We have to squat with our hands on our knees so that our face is level with its face and say, This is grown up talk, sweetie. Mommy and Daddy are having a disagreement but they still love each other very much."(29) An astute observation and funny to boot.
        If it hasn't been made clear already One Hour of Television is pretty experimental but there are undercurrents and themes here that hold the book together better than a lot of the other experimental works I've read. Born's attention to larger issues (war, national relations, etc.) while far from rigorous is unusual and fresh in literature of this type and provides a certain maturity and wide scope of thought in a genre that is lacking in both of these.
        Had a quick look at her blog which unfortunately has not been updated in two years. Which is ironic as she could probably just publish a book out of those blog posts that would receive huge alt-lit attention. Born is young, comes from Vancouver, and is endorsed by both Blake Butler and Dennis Cooper facts which should be shooting up flags all over the place. It looks like she hasn't put anything else since One Hour of Television which is a shame as it is an unusual, intriguing, and original debut.

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