Saturday, August 30, 2014

MOTHER OF A MACHINE GUN, a mother of a wallop in under 100pp


MOTHER OF A MACHINE GUN
MICHAEL SEIDLINGER

Lazy Fascist Press
$7.95 trade paper, available now

Rating: 3.8* of five

The Publisher Says: What happens when a woman gives birth to a machine gun?

"Mother has something else to say but music won’t stop music is here to stay. For ‘music’, read language. In this headlong tumble of a novella, we see not only an (unhinged/possibly murderous) Mother searching for her (autistic/possibly murderous) son, but also we see language itself, banged up and tripping, a bleeding anatomy of Biblical, crime show, tabloid, service industry phrases joined into a body, hurtling towards impact, and wondering where its human inmates are."

--Joyelle McSweeney, author of Salamandrine: 8 Gothics

My Review: McSweeney's blurb strikes the perfect tone for this novella. Perfect, and no one really can do any better in summing up a work that clearly fell out of Seidlinger's head, sharp-edged and lethally shaped, whole and entire.

I've read three of Seidlinger's books, this being the second of them and The Fun We've Had being the first. I'm getting a picture here. A young man determinedly deconstructing identity. A tyro artist making big bold gestures in small constrained spaces. A soul in search of a mate.

So that's the art.

Now the craft: Every writer needs a trope. Seidlinger's is musical brevity. He'd be called a poet if he made less sense. It's to your taste or it's not, but it's a technique that feels to me organically arrived at, a natural result of being part of the zeitgeist this youth has sucked in with his breath and taken in with his mental food.

The short and virtually unpunctuated sentences of the piece aren't visually appealing to me. It looks like poetry, not a novel, when there is so much white space on a page, when the entire novella is only 90pp, when the one-line paragraphs are dotted hither and thither. I'm an older person, schooled in an older-still tradition of reading long, windy (both pronunciations and meanings) sentences and paragraphs and pages. I don't take to, appreciate, this technique naturally.

So I read it aloud. The dog doesn't much care. She pays attention to me while it suits her and then goes to sleep. Meanwhile the human is making noise, yeah well so what else is new.

I got a lot out of that exercise. I've come to know Michael a little, and appreciate how very hard he works to make the world around him more intense and interesting than it would otherwise be. I approve of this desire on his part, and enjoy the efforts he's made as a writer, an editor, and a publisher. Speaking aloud the words in this book made it clear to me what a scouring, cleansing thing it is to make a question out of an answer. Mother. Mother? The Mother A Mother Some Mother...and to make a question out of the verb forms of this frighteningly large concept, Mother: to Mother, to Be A Mother...activities, identities, aspirations, longings...and the object of Mother is Son. Matthew. Some mother's son. The object of mothering, the subject of being a mother.

I suspect sons wonder more about mothers and mothering than daughters, potential/actual/present mothers, do; we will never know motherhood, the condition of Mother. Daughters can be mothers, even if they choose not to be. It's a mystery sons can't enter into, and many of us wish we could comprehend it better. We would be free of Mother if we could, we tell ourselves, free at last! So what does Seidlinger do with his Mother angst? What an artist does with every lump in the throat: Speaks it into being, limns it onto the air, strokes it onto pages physical or virtual.

Reading this Mother's journey around the bend, I Mothered myself. I found it good.

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