Like Dean Young and Mary Ruefle, Gobble takes words to the playground, earnestly indulging their whims and curiosities, keeping them close with his sincerity and language that changes shape as fluidly as shadow puppets.
Meagan Cass’ chapbook, Range of Motion, is filled with quiet moments of indecision, small pains, and good but misguided intentions. The characters peopling her stories are trying, really trying to do right by the other people in their families—indeed, Lindsey Hauck’s review on The Collagist says as much—but there remains an undercurrent of fate. The world is working against these people.
Rooted in realism with a touch of the fantastic, Cass invites you into a small world but one full of high stakes: one where kids advancing into an upper-level soccer league can lead their parents astray, one where a family dog only pushes a mother deeper into depression, one where a new hot tub drives a wedge further between a husband and wife. Cass’ attention to detail throughout magnifies the depth of these everyday sadnesses. A father works away at his exercise machine, eschewing almost everything else: “My running shoes are un-scuffed by the craggy world outside the portholes.” He’s developed such tunnel vision, such devotion, that nothing else matters but mindlessly working out in the basement.
Many of Cass’ stories happen in basements, making me think of the many origin stories of the world, where humans emerge either from the sea or from the earth. It also reminds you of Hell, or Purgatory. Characters stuck in cycles of motions until someone from above calls them up, breaks the pattern: “It was summer…when our mother stood at the top of the stairs and told us to come on up, it was time to quit playing [ping-pong], time to pack our things, I was going to college and she was selling the house, buying a smaller one without a basement, without room for a ping-pong table.” Leaving the basement means facing the world and taking on responsibility, things many of Cass’ characters actively avoid. In “Greyhound,” the husband buys a greyhound under the mistaken assumption that the dog will pull his wife out of her depression. Rather than face facts and help her treat her illness head-on, he prefers to live in a fantasy world: “He imagined woman and dog coursing the trails of FDR Park in the blue-black mornings, her coming home flushed, downing a glass of orange juice, making them bacon and eggs. She’d laugh at his jokes. They’d make love. She’d finally get better.”
Each of Cass’ stories echo the title of the collection in that her characters have exhausted their abilities and have atrophied, are impeded, or fail to recognize their capabilities and take responsibility accordingly. They’re trying, Cass shows us, but is it enough? Nowhere else is this better illustrated than in the collection’s final story, “Portrait of My Father as a Foosball Man, 1972-2012.” Cass focuses on one figure on a foosball table, gets inside his imagined brain and his past, ultimately coming to rest when the foosball table is left abandoned in a basement: “It’s just that it’s been so long since anyone turned his metal spoke heart with purpose, so long since he’s shone his twitchy, hummingbird grace, so long since he’s listened to human players laugh and talk smack and howl in victory and defeat…” Life is passing this foosball figure by, a fear shared by many of the other characters in the collection, a fear we all share.
If there’s any drawback to Cass’ collection, it’s only a similarity of tone among the stories, but her economical and deft prose keeps the reader hooked, turning pages, wishing to delve deeper and deeper into this family, despite their problems and doubts. Cass’ chapbook is a funhouse mirror maze, flashes of yourself and other wanderers blurring together as you debate which way to turn. You try your best, but you’ll always get lost along the way.
Urbandictionary.com provides several definitions of a circle jerk. The most common (and literal) definition is when “a group of males sit in a circle, jerking each other off.” There is, though, and alternate definition, which is the “practice of expressing emotions, feelings, and…sentiments as a means of bonding or gaining appreciation for the members of your team.”
Both definitions of circle jerk are apropos in the case of this review of Tyler Gobble’s 48 Pornos (Safety Third Enterprises, 2013). On the one hand, Gobble’s chapbook contains brief prose blocks that describe the scripts for a series of imaginary pornos; on the other hand, Gobble also contributes to Vouched Books. Regardless of what definition of circle jerk you choose to use, a masturbatory specter most definitely haunts this review.
As mentioned, these prose poems present an outline for forty-eight different pornos, each one opening with the phrase “Get this”; take, for example, the following:
Get this: A man at the bar wins the contest for eating the most cockroaches. His prize: He gets to fuck The Cockroach Queen. She is draped across the table on which he won. And below her, he is dying. He apparently is allergic to shellfish. Those last two parts are not in the script. (3)
Get this: A woman opens her legs and out stumbles two overfed roosters. A man in flannel beheads the roosters. The man invites the woman over for dinner. After dinner, they fuck, but it’s a really short scene. (7)
The chapbook proceeds in this fashion, offering readers vignette after vignette of increasingly bizarre scripts. While some of the poems read like they actually could be pornos, the most unbelievable and preposterous scripts tend to be the most interesting.
In this sense, the collection seems to be less intent on titillating or the constructing an erotic tableaux, and more interested in creating an absurd landscape populated with surreal images wherein people happen to be engaged in various sexcapades. To this extent, the poems in 48 Pornos can act as a catalyst for a more in-depth critique (or at least they broach questions about) the proliferation of niche and fetish cultures in our digital, Internet-based age.
Furthermore, the collection also seems to suggest an overlap between the pornography and celebrity industries. With actors that “look like” (10) pop culture icons such as Jeff Gordon, Bon Jovi, Jesus, Garth Brooks, and LL Cool J, it’s difficult not to read these poems as a commentary on the manner in which we fetishize images of cultural icons and entertainers. Which begs the question: are magazines such as US Weekly and websites like TMZ pornography in their own right?
If you’re interested in issues such as these, or just want to read poems about clouds and/or dudes in g-strings fucking each other, order a copy of 48 Pornos today.
My futon’s favorite people: Matt Bell & Brian Oliu, Amber Sparks, and Tyler Gobble.
Favorite Dance Party: Lit Party @ AWP- duh!
This may seem weird or incestuous of me to write an SSR for a book that is 2/3rd’s Vouched people but, fuck it- you need to read it. Plus Tyler Gobble is on a mega roadtrip right now and we need to celebrate that.
So, here we go:
It is said that triumvirates are all a ruse, that no three can wield power equally- but these collections are equilateral in strength- so Gobble, Oliu, and Newgent have accomplished something here that Caesar, Magnus, and Crassus couldn’t.
There’s a good chance that if you’re familiar with our humble website here, Tyler Gobble MAY MAKE CAPSLOCK COME TO MIND, or maybe he makes you think of this: !!!!!
What I’m saying is the name Tyler Gobble should make the words JOY and ENTHUSIASM come to mind. If they don’t come to mind, I entreat you to read this interview thoroughly. If after that if they still don’t… I feel sorry for you.
Tyler’s words are all over the internet. His work has appeared in PANK, NAP, decomP, Everyday Genius (with Christopher Newgent), and Used Furniture Review. He also authors the Vouched Satellite column over at Small Doggies. His chapbook Goodness is a Fine Thing to Chase is included in The Fullness of Everything at Tiny Hardcore Press.
Tyler will be hitting the road with Vouchers Christopher Newgent, Matt Bell, and Brian Oliu on the Over the Top Reading Tour, and lucky for Atlanta, they will be stopping by on Friday, April 6th to read and drink and be all sorts of merry. YOU SHOULD COME.
So Tyler, if you could have brunch with any writer ever, dead or alive, who would you brunch with?
Can I request a switch to brinner? Something about brunch seems so obvious, so common that I don’t even think it is a distinction. Like breakfast, lunch, dinner, it is a meal. But brinner oh boy, some fried eggs and bacon with a glass of OJ at 8 pm, now that is a real distinction, a cloud who gets low and becomes a vehicle.
I have been saying this for years now–I wanna take Abraham Smith to get some brinner and have him read the menu to me. Maybe we never order a thing. Maybe I show him pictures of my dad and he sees the resemblance. Maybe I put free blackberry jam on free crackers and leave a dollar and we walk out together. Maybe he leaves while I’m washing my hands. Maybe he orders something that is not on the menu like an eagle egg or waffles and gravy. Maybe we are served.
Oh man! Brinner is such a delight! I love the idea of you and Abraham Smith chatting it up over sunny-side up eagle eggs at a Waffle House outside of Tahlequah, OK on route 540. I wish it were possible to make that happen, and we could instagram it happening. Everyone would heart it. You would have the most popular picture of the day. What’s it like to be so popular?
I think you misspelled ‘police officer’. And yes, I am a police officer, or at least I applied to be a volunteer one in this poor wacky town of mine, or at least I thought about it, or at least I have debated that whole common skip-the-MFA-and-go-straight-to-cop-college thing.
Okay okay, I know you didn’t have a spelling error, you’re freaking Vouched ATL for golly goodness sakes.
So, lets start over–thanks thanks for saying that I am popular. Or possibly popular if that whole pic thing worked out.
I work with first graders all day and from 8-3 I am popular. I walk around and everyone knows my name, even the pretty student teachers. How neat!
Also, I am the tallest person in the building at a towering 6 foot tall.
Is that what being popular is all about? Like you walk into a place and look for that handsome face over the less-developed heads, soft and wacky, and it is yours?!
One time I read that if you want someone to like you, you should take him/her to a place where everyone knows your name. I think that means the interwebs.
For real, I googled my name and there were 1,120,000 hits. WOW.
HAHA. I have been dilly-dallying around for this point–I finally found the place where people value what I value.
Or google yourself and feel rad.
One time I was watching an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation (a popular Canadian teenage melodrama)( I am neither Canadian nor a melodrama) and the students formed a band and the band sang a song “Google My Own Name.” It was terrible, but also catchy.
Have you ever seen that show?
Yes, I have.
I remember I bought my first box of condoms after seeing the episode where that swooshy haired goofy yet horny kid (me being a swooshy haired goofy yet horny kid) knocked up that awkward Liberty girl, who oddly enough looked like my first girlfriend. It seemed like a worthy lesson at the time.
IT WORKED I HAVE 0 KIDS.
Also, I have a hard time remembering that tv is not real, a reason perhaps I don’t watch it often, (Seriously, I weep and weep watching Greys Anatomy ALL THOSE PEOPLE DEAD, CHEATERS, SO SAD).
I remember seeing Drake for the first time, thinking, AW HOW COOL that kid in a wheelchair is breaking into the mainstream!
I know! Sometimes when Degrassi is on I think “This is what the Burger Kings Kids Club would be like if it came to life. That or all of the pictures in my high school health books.” They have such a politically correct sprawl of gender/race/ability/sexual orientation, it’s mind blowing. Except I don’t think any North American Indians are represented in the show.
What do you miss more: Burger King Kids Club or Book-It?
Book-It for sure. I am a sucker for some za. One time, I traded a Dr. Grip pen and a Christina Aguilera CD for two Book It coupons. As much as those items could come in handy now, I stand behind my decision.
Would you call your fondness for pizza an obsession?
Obsession it seems is that mysterious pulse in my calf, like another heart, yet how and why and where did it go, it is now in my right ear. A man starts addicted to porn, then he is addicted to sex, then he is addicted to pressing his naked body against his apartment sliding door, then he does not think about sex ever but hiking, constantly, it is hiking, end goal as sitting in a stream fully clothed. Today he is looking at a couple of deer trying to walk on the concrete road that separates two forests.
That is not pizza at all. Za is that strange decision one makes in the middle of a sunny day or maybe a rainy day, I don’t think it matters. What matters is that what follows is good, great, more great! That man decides, screw this creek for today!, and goes plays disc golf and gets his first ace. Or he stays indoors, say in a hotel lobby and meets a woman and before he knows it, they are naked in her room, the white sheets endless, his body, not pulsing at all, but content and soaking up the artificial light and totally cool with that. He puts on his boxers and says, TODAY IS A DAY OF A LOT OTHER DAYS.
As I see it, this whole issue you’ve proposed is a matter of the body and how it behaves. Always reckless and weird. But is it a daily taketh, a moment-to-moment circuit, a little Pac Man constantly blinking after goodness, real or not? Or is it a taste, za being such to remind me of those years of stuff-stuff-stuffing myself, a lot of tiny nibbles that may happen maybe twice a decade, the taste lingering a lifetime?
I am saying a slice of pizza is infinite in its sticking ability. My obsessions don’t stick. They are the sticking itself.
You know my current obsession is the idea of you, Matt Bell, Christopher Newgent, and Brian Oliu reading in Atlanta at the same reading. Tell me, what are you most excited about? Why should people come and hear everyone read?
How lucky are we, by we I mean us four dudes but also you and your audience and the goats and etcetera, to be able to stumble down the map and get together and read work and drink beer and laugh? It is 75 and sunny outside here in Indiana and a goose just honked and kept going. I haven’t heard real gunfire in my 23 years of being alive. HOW TREMENDOUSLY THANKFUL.
I saw Matt read from Cataclysm Baby at an off-site reading at AWP, and I’m still shaking. And the whiskey has even worn off!
I saw Christopher arm-wrestle Matt Rowan, a major beast of a man and AWP, arm-wrestling champ, and though defeated, I like Christopher more than I already did (and he’s already high up on my RAD DUDES list). Oh and his writing is pretty neat too.
In a world where we ask things to settle down, where we want the props of life to stay on the ground, Brian Oliu’s lyric essays float in that space between my head and my chest, pulsing up and down.
Also, J. Bradley & Melysa Martinez are both for real writers I know on the interwebs and it’ll be neat to see them in the human form.
I’ll probably act like an idiot, so if you like that kinda thing, you should come and we will hang out!
Also stoked for: the goats, your porch, meeting your husband, hopefully karaoke, meeting Ludacris (he has my invite!)
HEY PEOPLE YOU SHOULD COME TO THIS READING BECAUSE DON’T YOU KNOW HOW WACKY LUCKY WE ARE TO BE ALIVE AND ABLE TO DO SUCH SILLY THINGS
In early April, Tyler Gobble and I are hitting the road with lit extraordinaires Matt Bell and Brian Oliu for the Over the Top Reading Tour to support our new books (The Fullness of Everything and Cataclysm Baby, respectfully), and of course, the Vouched Books table will be making the trip with us. We are hitting Tuscaloosa, Atlanta, and Nashville, and you
probably want to be where we will be.
There’s a facebook page with all the details, but just so you don’t have to click yet another link on this rabbit hole called the Internet, I give you this:
April 4th – Tuscaloosa, AL
Green Bar, 2209 4th Street
w/ Marsha McSpadden & Ashley McWaters
RSVP on facebook!
April 5th – Tuscaloosa, AL
Arm Wrestling Table somewhere on U. of Alabama campus
Time and location TBD via Twitter
April 6th – Atlanta, GA
Goat Farm, 1200 Foster Street
w/ J. Bradley & Melysa Martinez
RSVP on facebook!
April 7th – Nashville, TN
Portland Brew East, 1921 Eastland Avenue
w/ Todd Dills
RSVP on facebook!
We hope to see your faces and wrestle your arms!
The long awaited return of Vouched Presents Indy is at hand! Join us for a night of poems and performances by Heather Christle, Benjamin Hersey, and Vouched’s own Tyler Gobble. As always, beverages will be on hand for your faces so come thirsty.
Proceeds from the evening go to support Second Story Indy, an organization that connects local youth with literature and encourages expression and learning through creative writing.
I mean, have you seen this monster yet? It’s amazing. The table of contents is like a jillion pages long and full of goodness.
My favorites so far are the winners of the 1000 Words contest in the back. There’s a really, really good story by our own Tyler Gobble, and also a fantastic piece by one of my favorite writers (and one of my Shut Up/Look Pretty co-authors) Erin Fitzgerald.
If you don’t own this yet, you need to remedy that. Lit mags are expensive so I’ve had to stop subscribing to many–but the one I make sure and pick every year is PANK. Roxane and Matt and crew do such a nice job and it looks so damn good every time and the writing is just unreal. You guys. Get it.