Jordan. Piecemeal June. Portland: Eraserhead Press, 2008.
92 pp. $8.95. ISBN 1933929634.
is the story of a love doll.
said that, I will now take you back to the sun-drenched Golden Age
of Latin Literature. Let me dip your head into the marble purity
of Ovid's narrative style, as he tells the tale of Pygmalion, who—
with consummate skill, carved a milk-white statue and gave to
it exquisite beauty, which no woman of the world has ever equaled.
She was so beautiful, he fell in love with his creation. It appeared
in truth a perfect virgin with the grace of life, but in the expression
of such modesty all motion was restrained ...
wholesome, milky Augustan love poem, to be sure. But recall that
Ovid's was the original Metamorphosis, not Kafka's. And if Kafka
was a great grandpappy of the Bizarro Fiction Movement, how many
times more than thrice-great does that make Pygmalion's creator?
would do well to peer under the surface of Ovid's classical loveliness,
and prod and poke about for the rank bowels of bizarrerie beneath.
Then we will see how his gorgeous fuck doll and Jordan Krall's Piecemeal
June are sisters. Twins, in fact—no, alternative coats
of skin draped over a single soul: a mutually parasitic Abigail
and Brittany Hensel, separated by the negligible space of a couple
what stuff does Pygmalion mold his life-sized girlie-shaped screw
toy? What is the occult nature of the material that gets the Roman
sculptor so hot when—
he lifts up both his hands to feel the work ... because it seems
to him more truly flesh ... he kisses it and feels his kisses
are returned ... and, speaking love, caresses it with loving hands
that seem to make an impression on the parts they touch, so real
that he fears he then may bruise her by his eager pressing.
profound narrations are Buddhist at base, at least unconsciously.
And who is the greatest and most conscious Buddhist in the Bizarro
pantheon? Why, of course, it's none other than The Great Beast 666
himself, a.k.a. Baphomet, a.k.a. "the wickedest man in the
world": the most gargantuan magus, and the most magickal Gargantua,
of post-Medieval times; the most terrifying writer of Bizarro stories—which
is triply supernatural, seeing as how he died fifty-eight years
before that name was even coined for the genre. But to an adept
of Aleister Crowley's high and deep attainments, linear time, like
death itself, is a joke.
all magi, Aleister Crowley was consummately versed in the more esoteric
tenets of Theravada. And only in a Theravadic context can we begin
to understand the bizarrerie of Ovid, and of Jordan Krall. Only
through Baphometic eyes can we see the grotesquery that lurks beneath
the flawless skin of Pygmalion's graven image.
not only lurks beneath, but comprises her skin, and her
bone, and her organs and connective tissues. Krall's crawly dolly,
on the other hand, hasn't the social skills of a patrician Roman
debutante, and cannot flitter about concealing her true nature.
But never doubt that Piecemeal June wears the identical grotesquery,
uncamouflaged, on her sleeve. It drips off that sleeve and is woven
into the fabric.
can only hide her monstrosity under a big hat and scarf when she
goes out for a walk, Meanwhile, her Italian sister is more than
presentable in the sunshine, smooth and zitless, no split ends,
no boogers or earwax under her fingernails. But be assured that
Pygmalion's fuck toy, no less than Krall's, is born of monstrosity.
As we will see, both have been yanked out by the same pulpy, decayed,
now, of a bloated monster. Sticking out of the middle of its oversized
face is a prehensile dick, floppy and wrinkly. Merely breathing,
it makes noises that, if they came from a person's asshole, would
be considered the depth of rudeness. A couple of behemoth fangs
have outgrown their sockets in its diseased gums and have stabbed
through this monster's cheeks, a megalomaniacal orthodontist's wet
want you to consider this unlucky elephant, whose teeth got ripped
off and reamed out to furnish pale flesh for the Bride of Pygmalion.
Ivory's what she's carved of, in the same way an Ethiopian cannibal
might eucharize your marrow for dessert. Ponder your fellow mammal
with that universal compassion which characterizes a buddha, that
fellow-feeling nonetheless disinterested for being unflinching in
its appreciation of the exquisite gradations of agony.
Great Beast 666 (who was born with no fewer than three of a buddha's
distinguishing marks) can teach us to see, hear, smell, taste and
feel what this other, literally great, literal beast, had
to suffer, in order to birth a pretty white wop debutante. Remember
that in this Buddhist world, all sentient beings have spirit, pachyderms
no less than primates.
begins our instruction by introducing a notion which has always
served as the hell-hole from which the greatest horror can be drawn—but
only if it's understood thoroughly, as a notion, and absorbed, as
a sensation, into our central nervous system, till it seeps clear
down into the sacred bone coiled at the base of our spines. It is
the notion that personality and consciousness are no less, and no
more ephemeral than the skull which houses them. As The Great Beast
666 writes in his Autohagiography:
thoughts are the accompaniments of modifications of the cerebral
tissue, what thoughts must be concomitants of its putrefaction?
begs the question written by yet another proto-Bizarro word-warlock:
... To die, to sleep;
To sleep! perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause ...
horror is that our mortal coil does not just get shuffled off, willy-nilly.
It's not that easy. Rig-mo must come and go, followed by the Conqueror
Worm's leisurely mastication, then the bacterial gang-rape of once
supple connective tissue, then the liquefaction of cells. Each crumb
of the late organism formerly known as us must remain sensate all
the while, sentient, self-conscious, with sensorium and character
wedged inside each of its tiny, harried, scattering, miserable bits.
is the most horrendous notion entertainable by a yet-unputrefied
human brain. People have wound up in insane asylums just from a
momentary realization of a tiny fraction of its enormity. The idea
merely amuses demons like Crowley and Krall. For fun, The Great
Beast 666 took it up like a pretty ball, and dashed off the greatest
horror story of all times: "The Testament of Magdalen Blair,"
which presents conscious decomposition as only a truly damned writer
he was not only disintegrated mechanically, but chemically ...
his being was loosened more and more into its parts, and these
were being absorbed into new and hateful things ... he stood immune
from all, behind it, unimpaired, memory and reason ever more acute
as ever new and ghastlier experience informed them.
I'd like you to remember poor old Jumbo, whose dentition Pygmalion
laid hot hands upon. Place dear old Jumbo, bloated, grotesque and
gray, in the postmortem hands of Crowley, also gray, grotesque,
and bloated. Kill old Jumbo dead. But remember that his sense of
Jumbo-ness, both psychological and physical, must continue posthumously,
in the Theravadic manner. Jumbo must feel each of his tusks slowly
torn out. He must sense each scrape and gouge of the chisel as it
coaxes the lovely lineaments of the new Mrs. Pygmalion. Listen with
big floppy wooly mammoth ears, and you might hear an extended trumpeting
blast of agony like this—
each body limb, organ, and orifice was hacked away, [Jumbo] retained
all sensation in each inch of flesh ... he yelped in pain through
his mouth which was several feet away ... His nose was three feet
to the left of where his scrotum was being chewed, and through
it he could smell contaminated pus ... [Jumbo]’s consciousness
waned until he was shaken awake by the sensation of his nose being
our rotting elephant's circusy nickname to that of a character in
the novel presently under review—and only then will you come
to realize that paragraph of sheer masterly horror came not from
Crowley, but Krall.
June is a Crowleyan retelling of Ovid's wholesome tale. With
an artistic sociopath's courage, Krall amplifies upon the Great
Beastly undertones that only glint under the Latin's dactylic hexameters.
He unsublimates them, dredges them up like intestines large and
small, and drapes them in plain sight across the pages of a book
that does not funk to follow the example of Bard and Beast. But
Krall treads barefoot, as it were. He concretizes the corruption;
he delectates in rot's propriocentrism; he moves us with decomposition's
kinesthetics. Pacing his tale briskly in the best Bizarro fashion,
Krall doesn't settle down and wait for natural putrefaction to take
its course; he won't defer to disease, but delegates the deconstructive
chore to crab-like demons with razor claws and horrifying genital
configurations, and tells them it's a rush job. No need to hang
about for rig-mo to come and go. Just dig in, like so—
small, thin penis entered his left nostril, splitting it open
... He knew that if he cried out, the owner of the penis would
not hear him, for his mouth was far away in another room.
book from which I have razor-clawed the above passage eponymously
features a Frankensteinian female, cobbled and rigged together of
scattered bits, mouths and tongues and teeth scrounged randomly
from other rooms, materials every bit as gnashingly gross and necrophilic
as Pygmalion's toothsome tart. Jordan Krall even gives us the sound
of eyeballs being inserted into Piecemeal June's severed head: "...
a sexy, whispery pop." Can you read that and doubt
he's writing from personal experience?
neglected to tell us what sort of noise his effigy's eyeballs made
when being inserted. But, like Piecemeal June, she does come to
life. And, of course (you knew this was going to happen all along),
both Fair Ladies bear their respective Henry Higginses' children.
Jr., even goes on to have the City of the Love Goddess named after
him. Quite an honor, on the gleaming surface, right? But Venus is
a working girl. We all know the gooshy underbelly of Whore Town,
and have driven, with all four windows rolled tightly shut, through
the alleyways and red-light sloughs of Aphrodite's red light district.
Fuckville is the hometown of us all. Thomas Wolfe was being sarcastic
or sentimental or stupid (probably the latter) when he whimpered
that line about not being able to go back again. We all wind up
there. Poets and novelists give us preliminary tours.
and Crowley, cruel and crawly, have both cruised Fuckville, and
even bought retirement homes there. Crowley's bungalow seems to
be near a park where citizens walk their, shall we say, pets. Here
it is seen by the decomposing, yet acutely sentient protagonist
of "The Testament of Magdalen Blair":
rivers of blood spread over the heaven, of blood purulent with
nameless forms—mangy dogs with their bowels dragging behind
them; creatures half elephant [emphasis mine], half beetle; things
that were but a ghastly bloodshot eye, set about with leathery
tentacles; women whose skins heaved and bubbled like boiling sulphur,
giving off clouds that condensed into a thousand other shapes,
more hideous than their mother; these were the least of the denizens
of these hateful rivers.
having written his clean and bright tale of Pygmalion, only discovered
the proto-Bizarro writer he truly was, under the skin, as it were,
after he wound up occupying a tenement in this mucous megalopolis,
right across the street from the Beastly Bungalow. Due to poetic,
possibly sexual, indiscretion, Emperor Augustus had expelled him
from the sunshine of marble-sparkling Rome. Ovid never realized
he'd come home, and mistakenly considered himself an exile, till
the day he died and found out different, right there in Fucktown.
He breathed his last in a neighborhood that happens to have been
the site of yet more necrophilic dismemberment. We read this Crowleyan/Krallian
bit of local history in a letter Ovid wrote to his folks "back
quickly stabbed his innocent heart with a sword.
Then she tore him apart, and scattered his limbs
through the fields, to be found in many places.
And lest her father did not realise, high on a rock,
she set the bloodless hands, and blood-stained head,
so her father would be delayed by this new grief,
gathering those lifeless fragments, on a sad trail ...
It was here the sister cut up her brother's body.
here for the birth of Bizarro.
we read Piecemeal June, we follow Jordan Krall in banishment
to the very same city, that identical bad place where dead people
like Ovid and Crowley, and eventually you, and soon I, must go—and
undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns ...
slum particularly suffers from urban-blight. One shudders to imagine
the nasal racket of his slum lord's cackling. The very civic engineering
and infrastructure are composed of rotting body parts and pus and
sewage. Never had your flesh Krall, literally? Just wait
till you die and go home.
within the city ... arms, legs, and genitals were bought and sold
in the marketplace ... Men sat in alleyways, masturbating with
severed tongues that still salivated and, in a way, still held
a portion of the consciousness of their original owner. At the
center ... was a small but formidable fortress with four minarets
in the shape of uncircumcised penises ...
surroundings can affect one's mood, can't they? Crowley's story
lets loose the heartiest cry of perfect despair in all literature:
a sub-molecular scream. He comes, with astonishing persuasiveness,
to the conclusion that, if we want to avoid horrors inevitable as
they are unimaginable, the most intelligent thing any of us can
do is to smoke a lit stick of dynamite, to atomize that coil of
mortal brain tissue before it can begin to putrefy and bring on
those Shakespearean dreams of sleepy death.
and Ovid (or should I say Krall/Ovid?), on the other hand,
close their respective tales with an initiation of precisely the
opposite process, the same film, played in reverse: integration
rather than dis-. Krall seems to end in the same patch of classical
sunshine as Ovid, as both vivified sex toys make the same blushing
though he sends us on our way humming that most eternally affirmative
note in the novelist's arsenal, pregnancy, we will close
Piecemeal June unable to forget what has been done to our
heads. Shakespeare goofed. Krall has discover'd that country,
and taken us deep into its dripping bourn. And he has returned
us travellers, for now, with most of our consciousness
intact, leaving behind only those ragged bits sliced off and swallowed
by this novel. He has taken our personality, our person, our personhood,
stripped it layer by conscious layer like an especially stinky onion,
and dropped us off at home in the seventh circle of hell, where—
of teeth are carried around and used for everything from filling
in potholes to the construction of sex toys.
you get that? Teeth used in the construction of sex toys? Sound
familiar? If Aleister Crowley was indeed the incarnation of Satanist
Pope Alexander VI or the magus Eliphas Levi, then Jordan Krall must
be You-Know-Who Redivivus. No other explanation.
tell me if it's coincidental that Ovid's nickname was "Nose,"
and that an Italian guy whose name I've forgotten wrote a story
called "Gogol's Wife," in which he says that the author
of "The Nose" was married to an inflatable love doll.
ago, in a previous coat of skin, a certain storyteller we all know
and love wrote this legendary opening line: Of bodies changed
to various forms I sing. In the two millennia that have passed
since, a worldwide translingual competition has raged to see who
can beat that. Listen to how Chapter Eight of Piecemeal June
never knew fucking a sex doll could be so soul-shattering.
doubt it. Ovid is back from exile, walking amongst us, reanimated,
writing better than ever, singing his Metamorphoses—but
now in full-blown Bizarro style.