Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: "Anatomy Courses" by Blake Butler and Sean Kikpatrick

       Well for starters this book is fucking horrifying. The subject matter, style and presentation are all completely antithetical to all the tenets of good taste and aesthetic value. It is pure, undiluted Transgressive fiction in both form and content. It reminds me in more than one way of the literary equivalent of Grindcore: the book comes off as raw, uncompromising, and obscene. I'm not sure what the level and nature of Butler and Kilpatrick's collaboration on the work was but Anatomy Courses seems to be lean further toward Kilpatrick's style than Butler's. The writing is heavily fragmented in places (not so much in others) and I found myself wondering time and again whether the cut-up technique was used, though in retrospect I suspect not.
       The general lay out of the book is a series of short chapters that are mostly told in the first person from an unknown narrator. It seems to follow a family made up of a (or "the") Father, the Mother and at various points a baby or a daughter. Common topics include implied pedophilia, broom rape, fisting, colostomy bags pyramids, etc. In the beginning I attempted to glean  a narrative from the work but over time this became so frustrating and difficult that I just started reading it out loud, not caring about potential connections between events or finding a coherent voice, the disconnected words simply flowing together. It was only after I did this that, believe it or not, Anatomy Courses became very beautiful. Whether through design or accident Butler and Kilpatrick have introduced a subtle but very lovely poetry in the chapters and, if you can get over that these sounds, when interpreted have meanings which are pretty nasty, Anatomy Courses is a poetic work of high caliber. The odd juxtapositions of highly charged images provide the sort of ubermeanings similar to that found in Thomas's iconic poems. There is a certain dissonance in the sounds and often the authors seem to set up a pattern or series of sounds then cut it off midway simply for the jarring effect as in
               "The infant kissed the ground. Its heart pooled up between its shoulders, cussing maiden love of mine I'd made to mimes and sent to goose the streets for softcore"(65). He gets those "M"'s going and going and going then they just stop, and you are left there hanging with those weird "S"'s. Like a symphony which never returns to its first key there is a structural transgression to Anatomy Courses.
        Anatomy Courses and the recently reviewed One Hour of Television share a number of traits and it was interesting to read them concurrently. Both are experimental and at least give the illusion of a narrative while allowing apparently unrelated material to take up a large part of their respective works. Both Butler and Kilpatrick are widely published and have great blogs, Kilpatrick's being slightly more terrifying that Butler's but has a bunch of really well done interviews with a range of alt-lit writers which are definitely worth a read. His videos have a Throbbing Gristle vibe which I like a lot but probably appeals to a slim audience. Reader beware.

No comments:

Post a Comment