Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review of 'There is no Reason for Tigers to be Beautiful There Just Are'

       Literature is supposed to be fun. You will read criticism that will say literature has to 'move you' or give you insight into the psychology of Russian nobility or forward the art but, as far as I'm concerned, if what you are reading is fun then it is already good, possibly even great literature. Let's not get too pompous here. Julien has scored big in the fun category. Tigers is, if nothing more, at very least an entirely entertaining collection. I find myself wanting to say Julien is just fun, just funny, but I must stop myself. Maybe there is something more than just funny, something more than just entertainment here.  Pop culture references abound, but Julien shies away from putting false weight on them. They just flow in and out of the stories like they flow in and out of your real life. In this way their slipping presence provides a strange and accurate verisimilitude. The pop culture references are not ubiquitous which sets Tigers apart from a certain subset of contemporary writing in a positive way. He uses the references as he sees fit and eschews them when they are not needed (which is much of the time). There are not a whole lot of grand, overarching ideas here but each sentence or paragraph offers you another satisfying piece of twisted wisdom. His wisdom is nuggetized and inserted between silly thoughts and comments about McDonalds. You get the sense that there are greater things going on here, that he has begun to actualize the advice Andrea Coates gave in her facebook post manifesto regarding the growth of Alt-lit. There are the beginnings of statements about mass consumerism, statements about our generation. But then, when I go to point at these, go to follow them to a satisfying completion, they disappear under my finger. Julien works well with this sort of 21st century bathos. There are these poetic lines slipped into the rest of the prose at odd intervals as in 'tried to make four toasts in a two toast toaster. The repetition is basic but very nice. He uses this term 'post-kids'which is novel and very appropriate. No one in this generation wants to grow up and no one has become adults, but they aren't kids. So post-kids.
       The last story of the collection called My Grampa on my Mother's Side Once Took me Fishing at what I Would Describe as a Commercial Pond, is a truly excellent piece of minimalism. I would pay to read it. It is one of these stories that I forgot I was reading while I was reading it. It is soundly crafted, emotionally moving, real seeming. Unlike other pieces in the collection the poetic lines are sparse here but it holds its own without them.
       As with most alt-lit my main criticism of Julien, and perhaps this is not so much a criticism than a sort of desire, is that I'd like to see a long form piece in his voice. Something serious. I'm sure this sounds off point but the extra effort and rigor will result in some really good literature that could stand a chance at receiving significant attention from those outside the alt-lit world. Reading parts of Tigers again I realize that this review doesn't really do the collection justice, which is unfortunate.

This is the collection. You can read it in an hour and your life will be slightly better for it.

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