Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kim Gek Lin Short: The Bugging Watch & Other Exhibits 

This week I read Kim Gek Lin Short's The Bugging Watch & Other Exhibits, a book of prose poetry that makes a novel. It's a dark, animated love story told like a fairy tale. I imagine the characters, Harlan and Toland, as cartoons - that perception's aided by the cover art, but it's the anamorphic description of the characters, especially the nebulous quality of Toland, as well as the vibrant language and fantastic imagery that give me the cartoon feel. Throughout much (if not all) of the book, Toland is dead, but present, in many places, while Harlan tries "to land" her by sewing her back together or some other means, depending on the form Toland has taken--she is often made of yarn, sometimes water, sometimes other things. Through Harlan's efforts we traverse his psychological landscape--not only the basement of his bug-ridden house but the basement inside him--and Toland's as well (we hear both voices, as well as 3rd person voice). Harlan grows holes, for example, and I found myself sympathizing with him for his foolishness and denial (or ignorance) of the hopelessness of his situation; Harlan and Toland seem inevitably and endlessly bound, trying to construct each other. The text itself is like that, too--Bhanu Kapil, in her blurb, describes the narrative as a "growing hole"--you can only get lost in the story, which is its pleasure and pain. I recommend it--go buy it.

Here' a poem from the book:

The Tiny Book of Instructions

The time Harlan wore his octagonal binoculars and read from the tiny book of instructions for a meaningful love, Toland called him Lorenzo and together they skipped about the kitchen wearing pots as hats. Then fingering a passage in the tiny book Harlan took his binoculars off, in their place put two slices of onion, and wept up a rainstorm into all his many hats. “Where,” asked Harlan, filling pot after pot with tears, “are my gardening gloves?” Toland from some basil sewed the three pointy pairs and Harlan called her Isabel. And the tiny book became the word for rainbow and spilled into Harlan’s many gloved hands. But the rainbow was thirsty and no matter how many onions Toland sliced Harlan could not go on filling her pots. Will nothing make you wet? she asked, threading her fingers through his nose to inhale the basil. But Harlan shook his head until his gloves fell off. So Toland untangled her head from her body and piled it like plumbing in a nest of pot. As Harlan wept up a rainstorm into Toland’s pipes of hair the tiny book became so meaningful all its words were smudged.

Kim Gek Lin Short will read this Friday, May 14th at 7:30 at Wooden Shoe Bookstore, 7th & South, w/ Carlos Soto Roman and Beth Nixon

and on Tuesday, May 25th at WineO Bar, 447 Poplar Street, at 7:30 w/ Jenn McCreary and Mecca Jamilah Sullivan.

-- R Eckes

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