Lucy and Todd

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

To Be Precise…

In The Gloves Are Off : Thoughts on Literature on October 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

Brontë scholarship has been rocked to its slate foundations (and no bad 
thing). To the astonishment of academics on both sides of the North Sea, it has transpired that the tireless Yorkshire neurotic, Charlotte Brontë, who was thought to have had one of the biggest crushes in history on Constantin Heger, an obscure Belgian teacher, was actually in love with Hergé (né Georges Remi), the worldly, sophisticated creator of the fabulously popular Adventures of Tintin. The recent discovery of certain letters and diary entries proves this incontrovertibly.

The effect these unlikely lovers had on each other’s work has yet to be 
sifted, but already certain shared ideas and trends are discernible. Fans 
agree that some of Hergé’s best panels are of dark, windswept places. He had an almost insatiable curiosity about England and the English, which prevented him from ever coming here. So what more fortunate circumstance could befall him than that of a young, passionate, rapidly-breathing live Yorkshirewoman dropping lightly into his lap? Blistering barnacles! You can practically hear Snowy barking his usual outraged Wooah! Wooah! at the unpredictability of human behaviour.

As anyone who has visited the Brontë Parsonage knows, the sisters engaged throughout their childhood in the fashioning of intricate adventures and fairytale lands, which they laboriously wrote out in their special minuscule Brontë handwriting, and illustrated with vigour on the very walls of the house, at times almost in strip-cartoon style. One can only imagine Charlotte’s deep sense of recognition, the realization that here lay her mate, her future, when a copy of Destination Moon first fell into her hands.

Hergé himself drew from babyhood. Curiously, one of his early attempts was at a graphic novel of Wuthering Heights. Strange to think that in only a few years he would be deeply in love with the author’s sister! The few panels that remain, in graphite and blue wash, show a remarkable grasp of the details of Yorkshire doorknobs and a developing ability to depict lowering skies and brooding wheat.

It seems it was Charlotte who made the first move, by writing to Hergé, the date uncertain. The letter declaring her devotion, was, of course, one of many hundreds received by Hergé every week. Though more long-winded than her lover-to-be (who always kept words to a minimum in order to fit in all the pictures), Brontë had nonetheless learnt from him how to stick to the point. After all, she had by now spent many a lonely night with a torch under the covers of her frost-laden bed, studying the few Tintin books she could afford, surrounded by her snuffling sisters.

On first learning of Charlotte’s crush, Hergé’s instinct, and that of his 
cercle intime, was naturally to ignore her, although he remarked favorably on her grammar. A silence ensued that caused her great anguish. Had he succumbed more readily to her glottal-stopping charms, we might never have had Jane Eyre, that supreme wail of the unrequited. But had he resisted her forever, we certainly would not have as much Tintin! Like Rochester, Hergé was inspired and at last impressed by her tenacity. Leaving his Brussels atelier one day, Hergé found Brontë in the garden beside an appropriately storm-blasted tree, weeping with lust and longing over the dog-eared parsonage copy of The Red Sea Sharks. This fascinating, if somewhat weedy, English fan could be denied no longer. No matter how shy she was, nor how 
puny, nor how weird her family, not to mention her inexplicable libertarian principles which failed to conform to his colonialist views, it was time to wallow in her arms.

There is no doubt but that it was a torrid affair: in the margin of one of 
Charlotte’s notebooks there is a not half-bad little sketch of Hergé smoking a cigarette, subscribed with the legend ‘my bad Belgian’. For his part, Hergé had a long period of drawing a girl he called ‘Jane’ (who had, however, the Brontë features) with her knickers down. He introduced Charlotte to all the excitements of aeroplane meals, Algeria, and cigars. It was a passionate relationship, but also a companionable one: she knitted warm socks to protect them both against the damp, while he would gently scold her about her interest in her characters’ psychology: in an undated letter to Emily, Charlotte remarks with surprising complacence that ‘H. believes good colour separations are all that matter.’ From letters and postcards it is obvious too that Snowy and Keeper became fast friends, whether fouling the beach together at Ostende or shivering under the sleet of Haworth.

Similarities and mutual influences abound in the works of the lovers. For those to whom the gradual growth of sword-fighting and exploding mummy-cases in Charlotte’s later novels was a source of bemusement, the origins of this are now clear. And Hergé’s deepening romanticism, the softer eyes of his female characters (Bianca Castafiore comes to mind), and his increasing absorption in gothic subjects had to be generated by the love he felt for his ‘little governess’, as well as his involvement with her family. One of his final projected strips seems to have been a work actually set in Yorkshire: The Scary Brother has Tintin and Snowy on the trail of a missing glass of beer which they track to a little-used railway signal box; there a deranged man confesses to downing the pint and muses (rather too long) on art and life. There are notes, too, on a Tintin adventure tentatively called The Madwoman in the Attic—clearly a direct steal.

Thanks to Hergé’s kind ministrations, Charlotte’s later work became more dynamic, more storyboarded. Filled with the spirit of adventure, she happily made plans for two novels which were to be dedicated to her dashing, cosmopolitan love: The Lost Thread Mine of Reverend Raoul, and (with Branwell again the subject) The Adventure of the Badly Soiled Chair.

_________

Coming soon: Mute Testimony – the tempestuous love story of Johnny and Rachel Carson.

On Two Twentieth-Century Greats

In Recent Articles on October 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

MICHAEL JACKSON
1. Extensive facial remodelling.
2. Pinched, unnatural ‘waxy’ look.
3. Slept in sealed glass chamber.
4. Crowds queued for days in order to see.
5. Electrifying dance style.
6. Rounded up and kept thousands of animals in private zoo.
7. Inspired fanatic loyalty.
8. Likeness available on hundreds of products.
9. Insisted on being called ‘King of Pop’.
10. Thriller second biggest album in history.
11. Thriller is 13-minute horror video.
12. US schoolchildren voted him best hero of 1980s.
13. Had sister’s nose (mail order).
14. Signed biggest record contract in history.

V. I. LENIN
1. Extensive facial remodelling.
2. Pinched, unnatural ‘waxy’ look.
3. Sleeps in sealed glass chamber.
4. Crowds queue for days in order to see.
5. Electrifying oratorical style.
6. Rounded up and kept thousands of people in prison.
7. Inspired fanatic loyalty.
8. Likeness available on hundreds of products.
9. Insisted on being called ‘Father of the Soviet State’.
10. USSR largest nation in history.
11. Term of office was 13-year horror.
12. Russian schoolchildren voted him best hero of 1900s.
13. Had father’s eyes.
14. Signed 3rd largest number of death warrants in history.

(extract from HOW NOT TO BE AMERICAN, by TM, published October 2013 by Aurum Press)

_____________________________________

Reviews of How Not to be American:

“…an exceptionally urbane and witty collection of essays… Although the book is often laugh-out-loud funny, the reader is acutely aware that the comedy is a carapace for profound misgivings … McEwen’s work is…a beautiful sword, incisive and dangerous at the same time.’

Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

“The genuine warmth of his reminiscences…balances out his frustration with a country that’s thrown ‘ten thousand years of civilisation out the window’.”

Alistair Mabbott, Herald

“Todd McEwen…should be better known … He can be very funny. His new collection, How Not to be American, is an entertaining inspection of transatlantic phenomena from the baseball cap to Cary Grant’s suit.”

Ian Jack, Guardian

The New American Uniform

In Stuff We Like on October 9, 2013 at 11:15 am

(an extract from How Not to be American, by Todd McEwen, published by Aurum, October, 2013)

For reasons too dreary to relate, I moved for a year to a remote spot in Arizona, near the Navajo and Apache reservations. My partner had a job and I did not, nor was I able to find any useful employment during the entire time we lived there. We lived in a tiny community whose only hope of survival lay in enticing people from Phoenix to drive four hours, 7,000 feet up into the mountains, to fish, golf, ski or gamble at the casino run by the White Mountain Apache. Naturally, you could get them to do this about once a year. The rest of the time my fellow citizens sat around on their mountaintop drinking and freezing – sometimes to death – in inadequate houses and trailer parks. In the depths of winter you went around wondering who needed the bait shops, gift shops, golf shops, tanning and nail salons.  …

I was sitting in the parking lot of Walmart, wondering how I was going to feed myself, when I suddenly realised that everyone in the parking lot was wearing the same thing (except for me, of course, still ludicrously togged out in plus-fours and Inverness cape). What they were wearing was this: a baseball cap, a T-shirt, shorts, and what I was brought up to call tennis shoes but are now called running shoes, or in Europe, trainers. This is what the poorest people on earth are wearing right now, I thought. Reaganomics had foisted the third world upon us.

Everything we had seen, all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Phoenix, and then all the way up into these here mountains looked so run down – the basic infrastructure of the country really was being ignored, because everyone (everyone who could) was having to work eighteen hours a day, thanks to what Reagan had done to the economy, was still doing to it. This is all the result of the one Republican thought:

EVERYTHING IS A BUSINESS,
THEREFORE EVERYTHING IS OK.

The more I looked the more I saw that this really was, and is, what everyone must now wear all over America, except in the places which harbour harsh winters, when the shorts become jeans. Not that jeans will keep you warm.

A dreadful, overt conformism has surfaced in America, along with a real fear of each other. People used to enjoy being with each other, say at a baseball game. But now everyone in the ball park is afraid, afraid something bad will happen. Friendly rivalries between cities and teams have become real little wars, with their own terrorist outriders. Everyone’s full of hate.

You can spot my countrymen in Europe by this uniform of T-shirt, shorts and cap. The American used to be spottable by a crisp new Burberry acquired in London and, as Fraser Smith once said, a very silly hat. And for my older fellow Americans this is still true – but if you get underneath the Burberry (yeccch!) this is what they’re wearing. So I think of this now as a uniform – the New American Uniform. It has an important bearing on the world situation and how we may analyse it.

THE CAP

By the baseball cap, whatever it may say on it, Americans want to signal that they are American. But it is more a sign that they are part of the global marketing culture of fast food and pop music; it signals that they are fresh from Walmart . . . And you see everyone wearing this cap in every country now, on television, even in National Geographic. My definition of the word democratic:
= LOOKS BAD ON EVERYONE.  …

THE T-SHIRT

T-shirts are UNDERWEAR. That is how we were told to regard them when young. So how’s that for casualisation? My mother would never admit of a T-shirt being a ‘real’ item of clothing; they were also forbidden to be worn at school – and now they’re the basis of American school wear.

The T-shirt is without complexity. It is like television: you don’t need to bother with all that HISTORY, you can go out in the world in two pieces of cloth. A T-shirt worn with shorts reduces you to a PICTOGRAM.  …

SHORTS

always make everyone look stupid. Though I grew up in Los Angeles, and until I was an adult never experienced temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, I always had a horror of shorts. Especially the largely synthetic tan ones with an elasticated waist I pissed in time and again my first year at school.  …

TRAINERS

Tennis shoes? Gym shoes? Sand shoes? Running shoes? Plimsolls? BUMPERS? I was very embarrassed to have my trendy Green Flash tennis shoes called ‘bumpers’ at the beach last summer. I saw someone wearing them in Vogue, for god’s sake. Bumpers!

Mom always said, tennis shoes are bad for your feet. They give no arch support and they don’t breathe. We don’t wear tennis shoes in this family. TENNIS SHOES ARE NOT REAL SHOES. But for some reason she once bought me a pair of PF Flyers – red – and I got a free whistle which looked like the moon. Like T-shirts, tennis shoes were never allowed at school, though some of the edgier characters in fourth grade wore them. This seemed goofy, or possibly seditious. It’s possible, though, that these boys were merely poor. Tennis shoes STINK, but they can be washed in the machine.

That was then. But then came the Invasion of the Adidas, in the 1970s. And from that moment, tennis shoes got weirder and weirder and more and more hideous, to the point that they seemed actually to assert MENACE. Again, eventually, blacks customised the prevailing styles, which was to satirise them – walking around with the laces untied and the tongues hanging out – it called attention to the footwear of the ghetto (the third world – an important point), but was also like disobeying the teacher, having your shirt tail hanging out.

In the end, though, trainers are still a children’s shoe. This gives the wearer the illusion of being engaged always in active play:
I DON’T WORK.

Let’s be worldly for a moment: these shoes are made by very poor children in sweatshops – therefore in wearing them you say, ‘I don’t care who made this, it’s the latest thing and I got it,’ and this is really a statement that you’re happy with the world the way it is, where we’re to accept our anaesthesia so as to live happily with our GOODS.

The marketers need you to remain childlike – this uniform is proof that they are reaching complete control of our lives. They take the child as the model for the ideal purchaser – someone who is totally hypnotisable.  …

THE LAST STRAW: THE SCOOTER

Then came the little folding scooters. You began to see forty- year-old men pushing themselves along the street on these things, dressed in baseball caps, T-shirts, shorts, tennis shoes . . . The whole thing is too obvious. Where are the beanie caps with the propellers on top? Where are the all-day suckers? Everyone is being turned into ‘Stinky’ from the old Abbott & Costello show – a rotund, bald man of fifty who wore short pants, a broad straw hat with long ribbons on it and played with a stick and hoop.

Let’s be disgusting for a moment: do you know what a back- crack-and-sac wax is? Ask at your neighbourhood salon. Men more than ever have got to be turned into hairless infants!

THE WHOLE MAN

The New American Uniform is clothing for CLONES. The human body requires individual attention to look good in clothes, which after all aren’t natural. But this process is not about looking good – it’s about being in an unofficial American army. It’s about disappearing into a mass where you’ll never stand out, never be seen again, and can’t be targeted by those who wish to kill (or mate). And so you will live eternally! HA HA.

This uniform was in the 1950s and 1960s the uniform of slobbering, fly-blown idiots in Mad magazine and other comic books. See the art of Jack Davis.

‘Sportswear’, in general, is linked to homogenisation, tribalism, anonymity. Here we have the idea of widespread leisure, which can easily be shifted to mass idleness, not to say unemployment. A lot of people confuse these things already, unhappily enough for them.

The New American Uniform is a sexless outfit for men and women, though women seem often embarrassed to be wearing it; probably because men have forced them into it, into their army. We say these things, don’t we, fellows? This is the best thing to wear. It’s real practical! But it’s a very bad look in terms of design, of dignity even, and it makes women look particularly bad. It is an anti-ethnic outfit, too. No wonder it is satirised constantly in the ghetto and the third world.

But American OBESITY is the real capper with this new uniform: they’re all scooter-podging around wearing the baseball cap, the T-shirt, the shorts, and the trainers, and what does it say to the rest of us out here? It says to the world DON’T DEPEND ON ME – I’M ONLY A KID:

•  I   EAT  HAMBURGERS  AND  WATCH  TV  AND  CHEW GUM ALL DAY

•  I DON’T SMOKE OR DRINK

•  YOU HAVE TO BE NICE TO ME AND IF YOU’RE NOT I’M GONNA SHOOT YOU (strapping on fanny pack or gun)

•  I WANT EVERYONE TO PLAY MY GAME

•  I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD YOU SAY

. . . and what is that but United States foreign policy?

Shortlisted for the Hatchet Job 2014 Prize: Worst.Person.Ever. — Douglas Coupland

In Reviews by Lucy and Todd on October 5, 2013 at 7:34 am

All of culture is being sucked down the plughole and they can’t even hear our screams! Bad books, bad movies, bad art. Novels are no longer about thinking, they’re just vortices of cliche. The race is now on to write the Worst. Book. Ever. And this may be it.

Douglas Coupland is not a terribly careful writer, though in the more compassionate Generation X, published back in 1991, he coined some good terms, including “McJobs”. One must assume his stance is still vaguely honourable and that he intends Worst. Person. Ever. to be some sort of critique of mass culture. But if this book is satirical, it hides it well. An ironic hamburger is still (usually) a hamburger.

Through total immersion in the banality it purports to expose, his new novel out-sarcasms itself. Like Chuck Palahniuk’s Snuff, it’s determined to gross you out, offering a barrage of sexism, homophobia, shit, vomit, sputum, and all the other stuff of pre-adolescent humour. Worst. Person. Ever. can only appeal to people who like to hear women belittled, and everything trashed – it’s hard to see the necessity for it when we’ve already got plenty of trash and belittled women.

The picaresque plot is beyond kooky. The narrator, Ray Gunt (pretty funny, huh?), is a middle-aged west London git, a TV cameraman who lives in squalor, hates everybody, longs to be Jason Bourne, and has a thing about cutlery. He bears a very close resemblance to Ricky Gervais in The Office, though Gunt is permitted more obscenities.

It’s when he visits his “leathery cumdump of an ex-wife”, “the Anti-shag”, that things start to go wrong, or, as Gunt puts it, “the universe delivered unto me a searing hot kebab of vasectomy leftovers drizzled in donkey jizz”. He gets a new assignment on the remote islands of Kiribati, where he’s supposed to help film a (yawn) survival TV show. But 150 pages later, he’s still not there yet! He keeps flying in and out of LA – Coupland is riveted by the awfulness of plane travel.

Gunt has a habit of finding himself either in handcuffs or recovering from anaphylactic shock (he’s allergic to macadamia nuts). Even if this were funny once, it doesn’t get any funnier played out multiple times. Other forced adventures include insulting a fat man to death, hoarding tins of Spam, eating a plateful of live bugs, beshitting himself (twice), and riding in a US airforce jet while they drop an atomic bomb. “I know, I know. Atomic weapons. Charred little kittens. Nuns vaporising. The economy in shambles. But still … what a fucking sight!” There is also much drug-taking and alcohol “chugging”, and the requisite references to pop music. It’s all effortfully hip, but just how old are Coupland’s readers? (He takes the time to explain things like Stonehenge, martinis and Mr Bean.)

Gunt specialises in deliberate provocation. He jokes about his mother’s “minge”, paedophilia and the Columbine parking lot. Elsewhere he muses on “the good side” of taking OxyContin: “It makes you feel like Jesus fucking a horse.” Bestiality is a running gag: “There’s nothing wrong with fucking a male sheep, because if I did find something wrong with it, that would mean I was insensitive to the needs of the gay sheep community…” (niftily slipping an anti-gay joke in there as well). It’s hard not to feel revulsion for everything while reading this book – certainly the human body, sex, thought, animals, and life itself.

There is racism here, and mockery of the old, the fat, the sick, the malformed and the ugly – but none of that nears the incessant quality of the book’s misogyny. The only subjects on which Coupland and I are in agreement are the horror of the “trash vortex” in the Pacific ocean, a swirling mound of plastics and other manmade mess twice the size of Texas, and his distaste for the term “passing” as a euphemism for death. But the novel’s legitimate points of view, that Americans suck, for example, are not that new, and there’s a real coldness to the way its underlying stance on corn dogs, TV, pollution and nuclear conflict is expressed. It’s hostile, not humane.

Most farce falls flat on its face in the end, but this plot never even lifts off the ground. Everyone speaks in the same smartypants way (in Generation X, Coupland derided such talk as “kneejerk irony”). This lack of differentiation between the voices is lazy – if you can’t do dialogue, don’t construct a whole novel out of it. And the women are characterless, only distinguished by Gunt’s respective levels of obnoxious attraction to them. They’re not people, just cartoonish genitalia, “a never-ending rotisserie of pussy circling his dick” or, if you prefer, “an endless roller coaster of pussy”. Gunt’s sidekick gets “pussy fatigue” and so did I.

LE

(A version of this review appeared in The Guardian, Sept. 25, 2013)

Peter Burnett on MIMI

In Reviews of Our Books on October 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

The novelist, Peter Burnett, published this review of MIMI on his blog, epicvolumes.peterburnett.info. It includes a great rant on the formula followed by most book reviews these days (in PB’s opinion):

The world is a misogynist tizzy, not because it dislikes women, but because men simply want it all their own way. Men want to make war, and they want to make money.  And when they make all that money, these men decide that the most fun thing to spend it on — is war. The agenda is completed and while mankind moves to adjourn, Lucy Ellmann appears with MIMI. Like mysterious lights out of the darkness of the unknown, Lucy Ellmann’s book will astound you from page one, and if you’re not prepared for it, you may end up wondering why there are not more novels like this. The point is perhaps made too clearly for lovers of obfuscation to see — but this is a womanifesto with a mission to change the world.

As unreal as they may appear at the time, Lucy Ellmann’s ideas nevertheless form tangible plans which must be acted upon, and that is what makes the novel MIMI different from virtually every other one out there. THAT is an achievement. Mankind is about to be woken up from a five millennial sleep — and what has disturbed their slumber is MIMI.

As a film enthusiast, I enjoy when literature hits cinema head on, as it does in MIMI. Film and books meeting like this isn’t an important collision, but these are all cultural referents, and as an armchair semiotician, I know they have something to say. The protagonist in MIMI is a plastic surgeon, and although these guys do appear in the novels of our age, their real dramatic and comedic home is in the movies — and there are plenty movie moments in MIMI.

Yes — plastic surgery has long been a staple of the horror genre — the best being Eyes Without a Face (1960) — but ‘women’s films’ such as Ash Wednesday (1973) and Once is not Enough (1975) have made virtue of it — as did Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) which had Peter Lorre playing surgeon Dr Herman Einstein — and Seconds (1966), which apparently frightened Beach Boys composer Brian Wilson so much that he didn’t return to a cinema at all, until he braved the gates in 1982 and saw E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

The value of plastic surgery as both unfortunate fact of life and metaphor will not be lost on you — and lovers of the novel form, too, will see that it’s all change in MIMI. It’s possible that some may read MIMI and think that ‘nothing is happening’ — but then they will realise WHAT A GOOD TIME THEY ARE HAVING. I had an AMAZING time reading MIMI, and little of this was predicated on the traditionals of story telling — it was based on the jokes which are OMG good and the accumulations of ideas, words and scenery which make for a constantly shifting reading experience.  The back stories are the best thing about it, and the American childhood evoked is heartbreakingly true.

Yeh — I like that — ‘a reading experience’ — because that’s what it is.  To tell of a tale, MIMI is the story of one man’s five month love sabbatical, but as a book it ends up changing the world — you’re watching a cat lick its paws for page after page, movies, amazing revelations, grotesques, guignols and the satirising of Manhattanites and their bodily obsessions — and it ends up changing the world, it really does.

As for the extras — the varied Appendix tucked away at the rear of MIMI, you don’t have to read these if you don’t want to. The extras in MIMI are in fact there to be got or not, and they provide a function that books (what we call THE BOOK) has lost — the surprise factor.  We are so used to films, which can end at any point, the audience does not know when — and this is something difficult to replicate in a book, which we have to pare down to the last page.  Oh yes readers — you strip away the story of a book like an orange, an artichoke, the last slices of cheese — and you know as well as I there has to be at least one book (THIS IS IT!) which demonstrates the fact.  MIMI is that book indeed, and it concludes 68 pages before it ends — another fine achievement.

When I’d finished MIMI, I decided to check out the reviews. You know what I mean — Telegraph, NY Times, Guardian — and I was pretty fairly surprised at the lack of passion or interest that I found. It’s true that the reviewers representing these and other institutions get through a lot of books in their literary day — but I felt cheated — for what MIMI demands is passion — change — and feeling. The reviewers liked the book, and made a few noises to that effect, but MIMI is the sort of book that should encourage you to take to the streets, shouting. It is after all, NEW.

Now you may not have noticed this and you may not care either, but when it comes to fiction, the book reviews follow the same tendency. An average 1,000 words review is always approached thus:

0-150 — The life of the author to date. Other books they have written. Observations on the oeuvre.

151-650 — Précis for Lazy Lumps. PRESENT EXAMPLE: “The narrator of Mimi is Harrison Hanafan, a New York plastic surgeon who blah blah blah blah.”

651-800 — A great book reviewer will deliver up to three examples of the author’s writing in this section.

801-900 — The equivalent of the porn “money shot”. This is where the reviewer will say what they think (Not what they FEEL!)

901-1000 — General Rant About Other Stuff on the Reviewer’s Mind

I’m screwed however — and this is the rub. I am publishing this review on a self-hosted website and not in a paper of weighty repute.  I am not an institution, but at least, the fact of my self-publishing this review allows me to tell you how MIMI made me feel — and it made me feel GREAT. Hence I have used plenty of CAPITALISATION in my review — because MIMI even made me feel warm and important — and that’s impressive, because I am a man. It may make women feel even better.

Thing is bub, is that readers prefer to FEEL rather than THINK. If you listen to what readers say this becomes apparent, but it doesn’t work for reviewers, who must present an intellectual façade. Thus a reviewer can’t be happy or frustrated with a work of fiction, but must place it in an intellectual context, offering comparison and critiques that are not normally relevant to readers (but may be FASCINATING to other reviewers).

In these newspapers, which are primarily now websites anyway, writers therefore give description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book.   Reviews focus on a book’s purpose, content, and authority — and if the book has no purpose, content, and authority, reviewers actually ASSIGN purpose, content, and authority.  Reviews in this form are no use in the context of MIMI.  What Lucy Ellmann’s MIMI demands is feeling, and change, and any intellectual assessment otherwise is doomed to failure.

So — if there is one thing that MIMI by Lucy Ellmann has taught us, it’s that it’s best to tell everybody how you feel. MIMI is a book which requires devotion and full immersion from the reader. MIMI demands of you no less a feat that you complete the reading of it and then immediately set out to change the world.

What has been missed — I FEEL — is how different MIMI is from everything else that’s been published in the last while-or-so — how funny it is, and how it has the potential to effect this world change that it proposes.

I can’t overlook the importance of this final factor. Changing the world is something that we aspire to when young, and in capturing this enthusiasm, and presenting it simply, MIMI has achieved something vital that is lost in the general slow, cud-like consumption of books ‘n’ films. Stamp your feet — do a Howard Beale and rant that you are ‘mad as hell’ — because a modest novel like MIMI has told you how simple it is to perfect our world.

The answer is weirdly Obama-esque, in a punning sense at least — because it’s all about CHANGE. I’ll leave you to read the book yourself and find out how easy it is going to be.

(PB, Oct. 3, 2013)