Thursday, August 12, 2004

Nietzschean Power Fantasy; Leyner and Raymi

Well, this started out as an entry on Raymi the Minx, but its morphed into one mostly about Mark Leyner. Raymi's writing reminds me of Leyner, so I started to reread a couple of his books, My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist and Et Tu, Babe.

Leyner's writing is pretty deconstructed postmodern stuff. Imagine a de Kooning rendered in words, or a less coherent (but no less entertaining) Hunter S. Thompson. His writing only verges on a narrative or plot. His work is "a very hyperactive mix of a biology thesis, a pop culture dictionary, and a homicidal terrorist weaving through rush hour traffic in an ambulance with an AK-47." When he's good, he's white-hot; when he's less inspired--well skip it, its not like there's a plot anyway.

Raymi is a female web-based analog to Leyner, an intersection of ego, stream of concousness writing, photography, some original artwork, and the public interaction between Raymi and her readers (currently referred to as douchebags), friends, acquaintances and family from Toronto. Here's one of her recent entries I especially liked.

Her writing demonstrates the same quest for emotion, juxtaposition, and fun as Leyner. Raymi is more mysterious to me than Leyner, perhaps because she is presented as a person herself, whereas Leyner's writing is just that--writing. I don't know whether Raymi would be as mysterious if I actually knew her. I am sure though, that Raymi is even thinner in real life than she is in her photographs.

Leyner tries to "give people a very unique form of pleasure. So I think they have a very kind of erotic appeal. But it's a kind of cerebral erotics. I'm talking about the feeling of pleasure that every person gets from reading. I want to make people laugh."

With the vocabulary of Nabokov, Leyner writes word after word, creating a prose poetry that strives for poetry-like intensity, line after line. His third book, Et Tu, Babe, is a shocking, tell-all, celebrity-studded chronicle that blends media, culture and trends with the same description-defying style as the rest of his work.

This is from My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist:

I was an infinitely hot and dense dot. So begins the autobiography of a feral child who was raised by huge and lurid puppets. An autobiography written wearing wrist weights. It ends with these words: A car drives through a puddle of sperm, sweat, and contraceptive jelly, splattering the great chopsocky vigilante from Hong Kong. Inside, two acephalic sardines in mustard sauce are asleep in the rank darkness of their tin container. Suddenly, the swinging doors burst open and a mesomorphic cyborg walks in and whips out a 35-lb. phallus made of corrosion-resistant nickel-base alloy and he begins to stroke it sullenly, his eyes half shut. It’s got a metal-oxide membrane for absolute submicron filtration of petrochemical fluids. It can ejaculate herbicides, sulfuric acid, tar glue, you name it. At the end of the bar, a woman whose album-length poem about temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) had won a Grammy for best spoken word recording is gently slowly ritually rubbing copper hexafluoracetylacetone into her clitoris as she watches the hunk with the non-Euclidian features shoot a glob of dehydrogenated ethylbenzene 3,900 miles towards the Arctic archipelago, eventually raining down upon a fiord on Baffin Bay. Outside, a basketball plunges from the sky, killing a dog. At a county fair, a huge and hair man in mud-caked blue overalls, surrounded by a crowd of retarded teenagers, swings a sledgehammer above his head with brawny keloidal arms and then brings it down with all his brute force on a tofu-burger on a flower paper plate. A lizard licks the dew from the stamen of a stunted crocus. Rivets and girders foat above the telekinetic construction workers. The testicular voice of Barry White emanates form some occult source within the laundry room. As I chugalug a glass of tap water milky with contaminants, I realize that my mind is being drained of its contents and refilled with the beliefs of the most mission-oriented, can-do feral child ever raised by huge and lurid puppets. I am the voice…the voice from beyond and the voice from within—can you hear me? Yes. I speak to you and you only—is that clear? Yes, master. To whom do I speak? To me and me only. Is “happy” the appropriate epithet for someone who experiences each moment as if he were being alternately flayed alive and tickled to death? No, master.

Regarding his writing style and choice of subjects, Leyner says:
"A lot of these things are funny because they're true and disturbing. We're often given horrible news in very cheerfully cold pronouncements, from doctors or nurses. You know -- you go into the doctor, then you're suddenly diagnosed, and the next thing you know, you've been handed this brochure about how to deal with your pathetic, remaining five years with some horrible illness. And of course the Q&A brochure has to be upbeat. It's probably been written and printed by a drug company whose drug you will be taking for the next few years.

"I used to write those Q&A brochures when I wrote advertising copy for medical advertising agencies. I was intrigued by the form because it's ostensibly a dialogue between two people. That's why one of my favorite parts of that Q&A brochure in the book is where one of the questions says, "This is a change of subject," and asks a question about baseball, and the brochure has this long tangent in it, making fun of the premise that this is a real dialogue.

Coincidentally, I do medical marketing.

Here's a review of his latest book, The Tetherballs of Bougainville.


Blogger raymi lauren said...

speak to me baby, in the middle of the nite...

August 13, 2004 at 7:26 AM

Blogger The Awnry Young Texan said...


wow now it's my turn to be deconstructed. C'mon Derrida.

August 13, 2004 at 7:56 PM


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