At first, I wasn’t sure there if there was something thematically binding these works together, or if I would try to back into that after introducing them—which, in a sense, is what I did. But when I stood back and looked at the five works as a whole, I did not have to work too hard. These five pieces all speak of a search—sometimes direct, sometimes indirect. You could argue that one could unify any five works under that banner, but it’s still interesting that so many modes of investigation are on display here—the metaphysical, the emotional, the cultural, the philosophical, the moral.
Schedule of Somnambulist Roads #46 - #49
Alec’s sleepwalker is like a bureaucrat endeavoring to audit the faulty government of sleep—systems gone awry, the in-between spaces that lure and confuse, the spontaneous fissures, the enigmatic life forms, the alienating grayness. A family and a conflict seems to dwell within the story’s central chamber where things are at least partially recognized, but the plane is ever shifting, and in a record where a simple observation of weather conditions (“lost in bowls above the clouds”) is somewhere beyond understanding, the record can never hope to bestow order. I especially admire the word “Nebraskaesquelike” to describe a flatland—it’s the absolute vaguest watercolor impression of a landform. An exquisite travelogue for the lost.
An Interview #1
You know that scene in “Ghostbusters” where Sigourney Weaver’s character Dana Barrett goes to the refrigerator and there’s, like, this whole hellish nightmare world inside? When I read “An Interview #1” I felt like that refrigerator door was thrown open wide. A glimpse as I rush to slam it shut: Culture is given corporeal form. The form is hideous. Not to mention the implication of the divided family, a history told in objects, in absence, in distance (physical, psychic, emotional), in the awful gravity of things undone and unsaid. And why does that woodgrain steering wheel seem to seal the deal? So perfect. You don’t need to have an active role. You don’t have to search out ruin—ruin is near, always.
The ALF Period
Much love for a piece that manages to make me nostalgic and also hate myself, and possibly everyone else. Brian puts pop culture under magnification so intense it’s a fire hazard. Considering how our lives through the decades are semi-homogeneous treks along endless rivers of garbage, we should probably have a moratorium decade where none of us speak or create. I’m now remembering how I used to record the never-ending broadcast from MTV’s Spring Break in Lake Havasu so as not to miss anything, living vicariously, reusing the same VHS tape over and over until the image quality was so degraded that all I could discern on the tape was a burn-in of Dan Cortese’s incandescent teeth. It could have just as easily been Alf, the abyss I stared into. I’m closer to death, of course. We all are. But still we hunt for meaning. Our hearts are like threadbare dollar bills, next-to-nothing commodities spent so many times in earnest.
Man, Oh Man
“Man, Oh Man” is a book of questions. The reader and the book’s two characters begin in a similar place, but their paths soon diverge. It’s an experiment in self-awareness and consumption as might’ve been designed had one started by throwing out the fundamentals of drama, character, and scene. I’m reminded of Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes” (although admittedly maybe it’s just the cigarettes). The book is framed as philosophical discourse on art and drama as its two characters sit in a café, smoke, and insult one another. Sometimes, strangers appear and add to the conversation. But since these two characters represent very similar aesthetics, it soon becomes apparent that the reader must formulate one’s own reading. Are we then, in a sense, writing the book ourselves? It is actually in this uncertainty that the conversation begins to take real shape, then unravel. It’s compelling, slow-burning stuff.
A phantasmagoric, off-kilter account of guilt and harm and patterns, vulnerability and compromise. Lily’s narrator orders prawns, but they arrive in their takeout box alive. There is a precise horror that accompanies being the one chosen to witness another creature’s suffering, the way pressure can mount as situations force you to act; and yet, “chosen” might be the wrong word. Perhaps our patterns only lead us to believe we are helpless to endure what the universe chooses? Maybe, instead, this is about rationalization, accepting who we are by making mortal compromises. A rich and provocative look at uncertainty and protocol, what separates us from the beasts, and how we spend our waking minutes.
These mixtapes are a way for the Neutral Spaces community to read and share each others writing.
The idea is to go through the site and select 5 pieces from 5 authors.
For Neutral Spaces authors, these get collected and you are given a space to write about your mini-collection.
On the page, the curator and the 5 selected authors have their website linked, together with the 5 external links for the chosen work.
If you run a journal, I would love to spotlight your site with 5 pieces, you can use the introduction to let people know what you're trying to do with your site.
If you want to put together a mixtape, e-mail me.