Francegiving

Bonjour y’all, welcome to the American Fables’ Review… thingy. I really gotta come up with a better name for these. But that’s all just a bunch of hoopla for Season Two, because tonight I welcome you to the much anticipated

~ Season One Finale ~

At long last, the votes are in and it looks like we’ll be doing a review of the international holiday, Francegiving!

So, interesting tidbit about this review before we dig in: I’d already written this review back in November, right after Thanksgiving, but I never published it because I think I had a couple of other reviews that were ready and I thought this lil’ pup was a bit too hot to release just then. Now that it’s had a couple months to cool off, I think I’m ready to take a ~ trip ~ back to that particular time, and that very particular mindset.

Without further ado, let’s unscrew the lid on this little time capsule.

 


 

Francegiving_Banner_Test


Hey, everyone, today we’re going to do a very special review. It’s the beginning of the holiday season, and I thought I’d go ahead and kick it off with a review of the national French holiday, Francegiving. Now, I know a lot of you probably have objections like, “Zack, that’s not a real thing” or, “Zack, you can’t review holidays, that doesn’t make any sense,” but honestly, after a bottle of wine and a day like today, I can review anything I damn well please.

So let’s dig into it. En gros, Francegiving is a holiday celebrated by American expats residing in France. It’s based off the American holiday, Thanksgiving, a day of relentless indulgence (not to be confused with Mindless Self-Indulgence) and intense visceral regret coupled with undercurrents of thankfulness and familial tensions. Traditionally, an American family will hunt down a wild turkey, slay it, pull out all of its feathers, stuff bread into its butt cave and roast it in an oven. Following the ritual hunt, they will then share their turkey with a tribe of Native Americans, so as to render them sluggish and complacent prior to appropriating their land or running piping in or around it—oops! Almost got a little ~ political. ~ That reminds me though: what’s one crucial difference between Francegiving and Thanksgiving? No heated family debates over politics! Not because there aren’t any politics over here, but rather there isn’t any, uh, family here. Not for me anyway, I mean, that is to say,

I am alone.

Let’s go ahead and break down this holiday into its base components: there’s the invitation stage, the meal prep stage, and then the actual feast itself. Naturally we’re gonna take this thing apart chronologically, starting by dismantling the invitation stage. Now, Francegiving is unique among holidays in that it is a celebration that absolutely no one expects you to celebrate, and one that you have zero obligation to participate in. Unlike Thanksgiving, your family won’t be dragging you along to any relatives’ places and you won’t get invited to, like, ten different “Friendsgivings.” This means that when you decide to participate in Francegiving, you have no one but yourself to blame.

That said, I’m a Francegiving veteran, having celebrated it twice in my life, and I’ve learned that this special holiday can look a lot of different ways. For example, my first Francegiving was spent in the beautiful city of Lyon and I didn’t have many friends and I lived in a tiny dorm outside of town, so I bought a whole pizza that night and ate it. All of it. By myself.

But this time was different, and last week I walked into the office and told my colleagues that this year we were going to celebrate Francegiving! Sure, you know, it took a little explaining, but I also told them that I was going to cook food for them and supply beer, so they agreed, and that is how this year’s invitation stage kicked off.

FRANCEGIVING_TWO_test
Holidays are for family.

Since you’re in another country where you don’t know many people, and, depending on when you arrived, the people you do know you probably don’t know very well, it’s quite likely that you’ll accrue an eclectic bunch of thankful, albeit confused, kinda-friends. For example, you might want to invite the nice butcher who reminds you of your middle school band teacher, or perhaps your much older neighbors, or your roommate because they can’t really say no. Just make that a staple in your conversations for a week, inviting everyone you talk to, and making sure to mention that you’ll be cooking food and supplying alcohol. Remember, in the moment, it doesn’t matter who you invite or what you say, because it’s your future self that has to deal with all this and not your present self.

Now, after you’ve invited people over for Francegiving, you’re going to want to devote a very minimal, though constant, stream of attention to the project. This way, you can maximize distress by thinking extra about this event without actually doing anything to prepare for it. This is the psychological equivalent of packing peanuts: you can make it seem like you’ve crammed a lot into a week while having done nothing extra at all. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to start thinking about preparations every night at 7:45, right when the E. LeClerc closes. Meditate on these feelings of malaise until bedtime, and then coast off the norepinephrine till the wee hours of the morning. This strategy is doubly effective, because not only will you accumulate more stress the next day due to sleep deprivation, but you’ll also miss the free air markets in the morning because you’ll be sleeping in. Since all the seasonal food you know how to make requires stupidly specific ingredients that are only offered periodically in the grocery store and in the markets, missing the markets is essential to securing that last minute frenzy you’ll want the day of Francegiving.

By now you might be feeling a little uncomfortable, maybe there’s some subtext to this review that I should be more forward about. You’re probably saying something like, “well geez, no one made you celebrate this holiday,” and, “golly gee, mister, do you maybe wanna talk about this in a less public space.” But honestly, No, this is just another straight forward review from a straight shooting guy. So, that brings us to the preparation stage which should begin in earnest the morning of, at the earliest. Since celebrating Francegiving necessitates that you live in France, you won’t have the day off work, because the government for some reason doesn’t recognize Francegiving as an official holiday. That’s perfect though, because this means you get to wake up extra early before work, buy everything at the supermarket and then try and cook it all right after work. Hopefully you’ve set the RDV time optimistically early in the evening so that you’ll be sprinting back to your apartment to ram-jam that turkey in the oven.

Pause. Breath. Un-pause.

Let’s talk about what you’ll actually be buying: everything. Buy all the things you could conceivably cook in one day if that day was on Venus, and make sure that you do none of the unit conversions at home. Some of my fondest memories of Francegiving as a twenty-three year old took place right there, in the canned food aisle of LeClerc, trying to figure out how many grams 30 ounces of corn is. Look up none of the translations beforehand either, because Francegiving is all about the journey and part of that journey is trying to explain what nutmeg is to a sale’s clerk while you’re running late for work.

I recommend a price range of somewhere around 100 euros, or roughly one eighth of your monthly salary. Anything less than that isn’t going to be enough to  trigger an existential crisis. See, 100 euros is the threshold for calling into question your motives for planning this event in the first place: why would you spend that much money on something you didn’t need or necessarily want to do in the first place? Not to mention, you’ve known these people for, what, about two or three months, au maximum? This is just going to be awkward. Like, you wouldn’t even normally spend this kind of money on people you’ve known for years, why are you going to do it for virtual strangers? Clearly, you’re not doing this for them, but are you really doing it for you?  You would’ve been perfectly satisfied to Facetime in to one of your friend’s Friendsgivings or your family’s actual Thanksgiving. So if it’s not for them, and it’s not for you, then who is it for?

Let’s talk about the meal. Now, you should anticipate a certain level of

C

O

N

F

U

S

I

O

N. As per tradition, you’ve not explained what Thanksgiving is to any of your guests or why it is you want to celebrate it. You may expect,

for example, that one of your guests brings an apéritif or some biscuits to enjoy before the meal. This will be a

blessing

in

disguise, because testing your oven for the first time on Francegiving means that you’ll have turned the oven off several times by accident

I mean, if it wasn’t in accident, it was self-sabotage. Why would I do that?

Why would anyone do that?

while trying to cook your turkey. Consequently, when you open your front door and accept the apéritif from your neighbor, telling him or her that the cuisse de dinde is cooking as we speak and will be ready in an hour, that will be,

in fact,

what we North Carolinians call,

a lie.

And by extension, this also means that the turkey will not,

in any way, shape, or form,

be ready by dinner time.

… Just needed to refill my glass real quick before continuing on.

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Never fear the black smoke! 

Let’s talk about mysterious black smoke. For any other holiday celebration, mysterious black smoke would be a real canary in the coal mine, indicating that something is clearly amiss. But on Francegiving, never fear the black smoke, it’s great for reinforcing the sense of enigma surrounding your strange hybrid celebration. The annual black smoke hunt is a time-honored tradition, and I think we can all agree, it’s less about actually finding the source than the maddening, frenzied hunt.   

Sooner or later, the nature of time will inevitably see you all seated at the dinner table. Tis’ now the season for merriment and non-familial bonding between you and your melange of hastily adopted family members. Remember all those great equivocating skills you learned in French Lit class? Time to employ all the genre de’s, the Une sorte de’s, the C’est compliqué’s, and all the En fait, je sais pas du tout qu’est-ce que c’est ou comment l’expliquer, mais à la base c’est une…’s that you’ve ~ bien maîtrisé ~ to describe your savory simulacra of recipes you grew up with and still never learned to properly cook.

Some of you might be worried about cooking food for French people given their rich culinary patrimony, but let me just tell you, sample size of four and they all ate my stuffing so don’t you worry about a thing. For those of you who’re reading this that aren’t from the States, stuffing is literally stale white bread that is made to be put inside of a turkey’s excavated asshole. So, really, there are two take away points: don’t be afraid to cook for other people, and the bar for acceptable French cuisine is considerably lowered the moment bread is added to a recipe.

What else did I cook besides stale bread crumbs? Well, let’s break it down, listicle style:

 


Three Recipes you Absolutely Cannot Forget about this Francegiving

Dishes that will make the holiday season memorable for everyone in the office whose first name you remembered.

Corn Swamp,
The Martha Stewart approved recipe for abiogenesis.

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Mega Crispy Turkey Leg, 
Mega crispy, yet somehow still not cooked all the way through.

Mega_Crispy_test

Butternut Squash Puddle,
Perfect pie surface, hiding the sloppy-slop lagoon below. 

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Well, that about does it for today’s review. I don’t want to come off as a sellout, but I should be upfront and disclose that this review was, in part, paid for by Schadenfreude— Schadenfreude, the disconcerting feeling of joy you get when get when you watch someone else fall down stairs or see Sarah Huckabee Sanders take the podium.

In total, I give Francegiving my first score of 0. Zilch. Aucun flocon de neige. What I’m saying is: don’t celebrate this holiday. Just don’t. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for good fortune and family; Friendsgiving is about being thankful for friends (and white affluence, I’d imagine). Francegiving? Francegiving is about an Instagram post.

Look, if you have friends in France, have yourself a Friendsgiving, tag it #Francegiving, and be done with it. But whatever you do, don’t try and build this baby from the ground up. Instead, just buy yourself un demi, or maybe even a pint, and call your mom. Have her put you on speakerphone, say hi to the fam, and tell them all what a wonderful time you’re having across the pond and how much you miss them this Thanksgiving.

 


 

And that’s it. We’ve reached the end of Season One of Today in Review. Yep, that’s what we’re going with, we’re calling the thing Today in Review and sticking with it.

I really do hope you’ve enjoyed this project so far. I know I have.

We’re back in a couple months with another season, but in the meantime, we’ll be focusing our energies on developing our fiction catalogue. If you haven’t read our first two complete short, Sun Shines Bright and A Trip Down Memory Lane, please do. We’ll be publishing new chapters of Lost in the Woods soon, and hopefully releasing all new stories, unrelated to The Escapists.

One final note: we’re always looking to work with new artists, so if you’re interested, feel free to contact us here, at:

Americanfablesofficial@gmail.com

Send illustrations, animations, stories—you name it, we’ll be happy to look over it.

Until next time,

À toute, y’all.

-Z

 

Eurus

Next up on the chopping block: Euros by The Oh Hellos. Cross your legs, align your chakras, and let’s get a little bit spiritual.

But first, an ad from our sponsors:

Are you tired of today’s pop songs, always drawing from the same grab-bag of well-worn tropes and tired-out lyrics? Ready to trade lyrics like these:

“I’m that motherfucker bustin’ heads,
Finna push it to the ledge,
Yeah, I’ve been smokin’ my meds
Ain’t got no love for the feds.”

– “44 More” by Logic

Or

“I met up with an acrobat
In Brooklyn or some place like that
With life and taxis flying past
We tore that dance hall down”

“Fire Escape” by Andrew McMahon In the Cat Café or whatever his band’s called. I don’t even know why this dude makes me so mad… Hold on, I’m gonna take a second to Google him. This has been going on for far too long with no real, concrete basis…

See, my problem with McMahon began when I heard “Cecilia and the Satellite” on the radio, and it just really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s, like, if Buzzfeed created an indie lyrics generator; that’d be his music. Or, his popular songs anyway. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to any of his albums in their entirety, but isn’t that so often the case with the things we dislike? We never really understand them… anyway, then he calls his band Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness, and I’m like,Ok, frèrot, but what do you really know about the wilderness?” Where is this dude from… Portland, maybe?

Oh, holy shit, he has leukemia. Oops, is he OK?


He…
Is…

…still touring, cool. So, I guess he had cancer. Well, let’s wind this little rant down before the water gets too hot. If you’re feeling ticked off about me ragging on a dude that had and maybe still has cancer and wanna donate to LLS, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can do so – here – and prove to yourself that you’re a better person than me. And maybe you’re thinking, I don’t need to prove anything to you or myself, I didn’t roast a guy with cancer, well that sounds to me like you’re just trying to get out of donating.

Where were we? Right, so if you wanna trade out lyrics like that, for lyrics like this:

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Property of AF’s Media Division

Then you should check out this band. I mean, these siblings really lay it on thick in this album. Let me put it this way: if these lyrics were the sesame butter, and this album was the sesame butter and jam sandwich, one bite of this sandwich would have you chewing for days, nay, weeks. You would drink a whole orchard of almond milk just to lubricate your mouth hinges enough to swallow a bite of this v i s c o u s lyrical sorcery.

So dive into this album with a glass of almond milk and your bible handy, because the Heath’s are notorious for their biblical allusions as well. They’re a well read family: the Heath kids (they’re older than me, I don’t know what I’m going on about, calling them kids) have listed C.S. Lewis, classical mythology and fantasy literature as an influence in the past. Dear Wormwood, one of their former albums, takes its name from the demon nephew in The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, a read which I would strongly recommend. Disclaimer: I’m only a quarter of the way through, though; so far, it’s not only been a cutting critique of the Church at the time, but also a philosophically ponderous epistolary novel. What I would recommend is reading Kandinsky’s On the Problem of Form, then diving straight into The Screwtape Letters. There’s probably a better pairing out there, but I like pretending that the Devil’s the leader of “The Black Hand” from Kandinky’s essay, and God is the Abstract Spirit. Also, if you (like me) are not a religious person, this might help you get more out of the reading. Just some ~ food for thought. ~

Let’s just quickly follow the breadcrumbs back to the original thread…

So, I started listening to this band about a month or two ago when tracks from Notos started popping up in my recommended new music playlist on iTunes. I’m not reviewing that album currently, but I would definitely recommend giving it a listen. Not to mention, Eurus frequently makes reference to and builds upon this work, so it’ll def elevate your listening experience.

Enough foreplay, let’s bust it wide open, one track at a time:

“O Sleeper,” (not the first time they’ve mentioned the “O Sleeper.” See “Caesar,” from Dear Wormwood) hitt’n you hard, right off the bat with some biblical imagery: floods, dunes and dales, and sacred rams? Actually, that last one is from Egyptian mythology, I believe. Sorry, breaking apart these lyrics for me is like trying to disassemble a piece of Ikea furniture if every screw required a different sized screwdriver. It’s like, in every line, I’ve got to go back to Google and type in shit like, “Sacred ram? Holy rocks? Pillars of an ancient empire?” and filter through death metal bands and satanist cults until I find the right screwdriver.

“Dry Branches,” tittering strings, the clacking of wood, a sort of stream-side chatter that crescendos and comes into focus over the course of a minute in this instrumental transitional piece.

“Grow,” which was released as a single before the album, plops us down in the living room, now a couple millennium removed from Ancient Greece. I feel like the first stanza paints a good picture of the creative process, or just what it’s like reading about ancient mythologies; maybe you’re reading the Odyssey late at night and your bed side lamp casts shadows that “look like a twisted apparition from the past.”  It really sets the mood for a nice, long read.

Something I really like about this song is the way Maggie Heath leads the band into a verse. She leads the charge with the “You” in “You shout it down,” like a queen at the head of her army. I’m not a singer, and I’ve never tried to compose a song like this, but I feel like there’s a sort of lyrical complexity… a sort of, well, actually, je ne sais pas du tout. You know what? I’m going to ask someone.

Fast forward one day and ~ Bam! ~ That’s how time works and I’ve got an answer. How cool is that? We just traveled across time together! I feel like we’ve grown closer… you know? Temporally speaking, anyways. Here’s what pre-school piano teacher, choral sorceress, and my mother Cathy had to say about the song:

CathyQuote.jpeg

Ok, mom, well, looks like I might have been wrong about my previous claim. Oh for one, as they say some places at some times. But you know what? That’s just one opinion, let’s hear what the wonderfully talented jazz pianist, DJ and musical mage Hunter Brake had to say about it:

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You read that? “Fantastic panning” and “wide yet realistic acoustic space.” Not at all what I was getting at, but I’m giving myself half a point for being a good sport. A lesser man would’ve edited out his mistake. Not me, though. Never me. I like to think these reviews are as much about us growing as individuals as actually reviewing anything.

There’s also a theme that runs through this song like a ~ river, ~ this idea of letting nature be, absorbing its wisdom without imposing any of your icky, sticky human-ness upon it. Furthermore, this image of the river running its course reminds me of the adventure of Siddhartha and his final apprenticeship with the ferryman, Vasudeva. Siddhartha was able to finally reach enlightenment by watching the flow of the river, by just being and learning everything he needed to know in the passing waters.

Please direct your attention to the line, “let the wild takeover;” there are numerous references to satyrs and the wild in general in this album and the general consensus over on genius.com is that the wild and nature represents God’s perfect work, or, if you like, a white light or spiritual energy that we should interact with only by observation and acceptance. Moving on with the tour, we’ve definitely spent too much time on “Grow.”

“Eurus,” a great song, lead by Tyler Heath this time, warns against the treacheries of materialism and greed, similar to the messages in The Screwtape Letters. Some helpful soul on genius.com added that Eurus, the greek god of the Eastern Wind, was considered unlucky, thereby demystifying the line, “as Fortuna sits idly by,” which ushers us into a brilliant scene depicting the narrator, driven to depravity in his quest of earthly fortunes, sitting under the goddess’ table and subsisting on her crumbs alone.

“A Convocation of Fauns (A Faunvocation, If you will),” another instrumental, and this time it’s a banjo that carries the melody. Hot dog, this album really tickles my fancy.

“Hieroglyphs,” We’re in the home stretch now, and the band is kicking it into high gear. Picking up the beat after the last crescendo of “A Convocation of Fauns […],” the whole chorus chants us into a hot and sweaty fervor of biblical proportions. We’re stamping our feet after an enemy that’s been killed off long ago, or so the story goes, and I think the band would like us to ask ourselves, “Did we ever consider these beats might not be coming from the drums of war?” Now read:

“Cause maybe you’ve been to busy thinking ahead,
Of where we’re all going after we’re dead
To maybe consider our bodies are worth
More than the dust that we can return.”

Which, I think is a refreshing perspective, and one that I, personally, was sorely in need of. Again, like all of their songs, there’s something in there for everyone, even if you’re not a religious type. Sometimes we just get caught up in thinking about our legacy in a very selfish way, and we neglect all the good and happiness we could bring about in the present. Think about it.

Side note, this is the song I snatched the quote from in the review’s illustration. Check it out again to refresh your noggin meat.

And what about that old wheel that keeps on turning? What is that all about?

Well, it seems to me, that the old wheel is the cycle of life and death; it’s a boulder that each of us, a mortal Sisyphus, begins rolling up our own hill the day we’re born until at last we die and the boulder rolls back downhill, the next generation picking it up again. We keep turning that wheel until eventually the sun burns out and we, the rock, and even the hill itself are all burned to ash and dust. So, maybe, while you’re pushing that boulder, take a look around, pick a flower along the way, and do a couple reality checks from time to time.

And here’s something else that’s interesting about Sisyphus: when you’re learning to do anything, artistic or otherwise, learning that craft feels a lot like pushing a boulder up some well-worn path. You pass by all the spots that artists before you passed and maybe, if you do it quick enough and long enough, you get a chance to see a part of that hill that all the other Sisyphi never saw. Just a thought.

“Passerine,” at last we’ve arrived. An ode to what is to come, a moment of reflection upon the current project. By the way, a Passerine is a bird; I didn’t know that and I don’t expect anyone else to know that, so, maybe I saved at least one person a trip to dictionary.com, the unofficial sponsor of my work. Returning to the album, “Passerine,” the song, makes reference to their coming albums in this supposed tetralogy, heralding the coming of Borealis, the Northern Wind.

Also, I like this idea of “purifying the holy rock to melt the gilded seams;” it’s a beautiful way of saying that they’re recasting their religion and forging their own interpretation, one that feels much more pure and spiritual than one that focuses on the very concrete, cosmetic Christianity we see gumming up the pews these days. I’ll definitely have to come back to these albums after I get around to reading the original ~ Good Book ~

So, how are we feeling about this album? I really like the juxtaposition of Greco-Roman mythology and Christian lore. I know I personally have a lot of beef with the believers, and I think that’s a shame, because like Siddhartha, The Bhagavad Gita, and a lot of good scientific literature, there’s a lot we can all learn from their work, and I’m a little annoyed that my past experience with people beating me over the head with it has turned me off reading the damned thing for so long.

So I give the album my first 10/10, because I can appreciate a couple of well-read people making good music and creating some art. Admittedly, it takes a lot for me to listen to anything falling even close to the brand of Christian rock, and this band got me there, so kudos to them. Anyway, I hope you liked the review, feel free to check out our other eight reviews on the site, and we’ll see you again next time!


Hey, you. Yeah, reader guy, or gal, or whatsit, or whoseit.

Let’s have a talk. Grab a seat; get comfortable; make yourself a cup of tea if you’d like. It’s been a long review, I know. Your eyes are tired, you probably wanna rest. Please, just stay up a little longer with me; what’s it gonna hurt?

A lot of readers munch on yummy content like what I’ve got splattered all up and over these pages and I know they don’t really expect a lot in return, but hey, here I am, and I wanna know: how you doing? I wanna know: where do you read these things? Maybe on your phone while you’re on the bus or in the metro? Why are you even reading this smut, anyways, huh?

I know reviews aren’t supposed to have emot—er, seasons, but episode ten of AF’s reviews is just around the corner and it feels kind of like we’re reaching the end of Season One of AF Reviews. I think that’s pretty cool… I mean, we’ve got a good thing going on, right? I write these reviews; you read them; what else really is there to it? Look at what we’ve accomplished too: we’ve got a voice now, a sort of style; it’s like, now you open these babies up, and you kind of know what to expect.

I guess what I’m trying to get around to asking is: what do you, the people, want to see reviewed next? I’ve got a lot of ideas for this milestone: a look at selected pieces of Vonnegut’s work, a review of the animated series Gravity Falls, maybe even a look back at my experiences with Francegiving… What do you want to see? Where should we steer this ship? Because I’m telling you, with the shadow of our tenth review looming before us, I’ll point the bow in whatever direction you want. We’ll take this boat right into the eye of the storm if that’s what’ll get your goose got; I’ll get as nitty and gritty as your grimy hearts desire. We’ll get weird. We’ll get real weird.

Leave your suggestions in the comments. À toute.

Expectations

Composed by Wild Child, reviewed by me. 

Bonjour y’all, and welcome to another cerebrally titillating review brought to you from the somnolent Saintes, a town perpetually blanketed in clouds and cool breezes. Today we’ll actually be doing a double-feature, reviewing two works related, not only in genre, but in geographical origin as well. Join me as we travel to the Lone-star State, where everything is folksier, and, (surprise, surprise!) more ~ introspective. ~

Also, today the American Fables’ team of one is breaking from their haphazard reviewing methodology in favor of reviewing something that’s actually ~ relevant. ~ Some of you might be asking yourselves, could this represent a turning of the page in the history of American Fables’ Reviews? Could this be the start of AF’s rise to reputability as a general reviews kingpin? That, faithful readers (all, what? one or two of you?), is up to you to decide.

So, without further ado, if everyone would take this opportunity to put their listening ears on and get ready for AF’s review of Wild Child’s latest release, Expectations.

It’s pretty good, definitely better than that moment you realized love at first sight only maybe exists, and if it does, it’s is a lot more like winning the lottery than waiting for that special someone to just come knockin’ on your door. And I don’t just mean that it’s, like, holographic Charizard rare, but also that putting all your eggs in the ~ Love at First Sight ~ basket will probably lead to a kind of emotional destitution that’s akin to the cycle of debt many compulsive gamblers face. It’s pretty much the difference between finding a career you enjoy and working hard at it, saving up and building a life you’re proud of versus buying lotto tickets and trying to cash in on your innate ~ specialness. ~

Anyway, it’s also worse than Tyrell’s Veggie Crisps. I opened up a family sized bag the other day on my way back from the grocery store and the next thing I remember is waking up on the couch, groceries lying on the floor, drenched in sweat and one hand still in the empty bag. What I’m saying is, maybe it’s a OK if everything’s not as good as Tyrell’s Veggie Crisps.

Let’s take it from the beginning.

Did you enjoy the small child voice from “Crazy Bird”? Well, have yourself another heaping serving of baby voice in “Alex,” the opening track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Though the rhythm is more upbeat to an extent that I wouldn’t describe “Alex” as melancholy, the lyrics become maudlin enough that at times I felt like, “Okay, Alex, I know you’re upset about the relationship, but, come on, you’re kind of being a…. Jerry.”   

Slipping and sliding on down the list, “Back and Forth” hands us a couple who’s distorted the notion of love and relationships to the point that it’s more apt to describe what they’ve got going on as a sort of spiteful game, a metaphor that returns in “Expectations.”  Throughout the whole album, there’s this recurring warning in the lyrics, advertising the perils of holding on too tightly to a ~ Sinking Ship. ~

Tired of reading this balderdash? Need to rest your tired, pink word-sponge? I had myself a little search on the ol’ Youtube and found one music video that they’ve already released for their title track. Check it out here. You can listen to the band playing in a dusty old room while Wilson lights candles then casually dips out to explore the joint.

Hold up, let’s see what we’re actually looking at here… Wilson wanders off from her band in some kind of… lightly haunted mansion? Sorry, I’m watching it now and I’ve only gotten about halfway through. Wilson’s upstairs; Beggins is holding down the fort downstairs with the band, probably wondering where their lead singer got off to. Should they keep playing? She’ll probably be back, right? Oh, wait, there she is. She’s been there the whole time I guess, I don’t know, I guess the daylight part is happening at a different time from the night time… I mean, it sounds obvious when I type it out, but it just wasn’t registering with me that these juxtaposed cuts were going on at different times. Ok, I’m at the climax now, and things are really starting to happen. So, is she like a witch? Is someone demolishing the house? Some sort of I, Robot, Will Smith still trapped in the ol’ mansion kind of deal? Looks like things settle on down after she finishes singing the line, “you can’t possibly give what I want from you.”

Looking at the lyrics now, really puttin’ on my reading glasses and wiggling my nose up and down the screen. I don’t see anything about ghosts, but I do see two ideas emerging from the page like phantoms of a sort. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a Class B12 relationship hazard: unrealistic expectations paired with a sense of ownership over your partner. You know, now that I’ve put on my critical analysis overalls and really waded around in these lyrics a bit with my music boots, I’m seeing how the band could’ve equated the idea of perfection that we project onto our partner with ghosts. I mean, when someone dies, it can be super hard to cope. You want something so bad that doesn’t exist, that can’t exist, that you start to project these expectations onto inanimate objects, onto happenings that aren’t supernatural in the slightest. But, you know what? I could be ~ wrong ~ and I encourage everyone to leave your own interpretations in the comments.

Also, there’s a live duet of “The One” on Youtube (here), where Wilson goes full Margot Robbie on a mountain top. One thought I can’t shake, though, is where’d she get the water from? Are they in a camping site? Is there a house nearby? Did they bring the water up in jugs from down mountain?

I really like “The One;” it’s sort of reminiscent of the break in “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, that part where the Ebert and Castrinos recollect that fateful fall that got them ~ falling  ~ in love. I mean, the message in these two songs is completely different, but something about the boy-girl dynamic and conversational form gets me thinkin’.

You know what this video reminds me of? There’s a scene from the movie Victoria & Abdul, where Queen Victoria goes on a “picnic” in Scotland, having her servants carry two or maybe even more tables, plus chairs, along for this lunch in the Scottish Highlands that lasts all of thirty minutes before the rain forces them back down the hill again. I bet Wilson had her servants haul that goofy ass bathtub up the mountain, shot the music video, then hopped back in the Jeep like it was the Mystery Van and said toodles, something to the tune of, “Right, so I’ll see all you tub people down at the bottom?”

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Property of AF Media Division

Just realized Wilson’s wearing a little kerchief in the tub. This little bit of L’Art pour l’art has got me thinking about Réné Magritte, not because he was a proponent of aestheticism (Was he? I don’t know.), but because of La Trahison des images (The pipe one. It’s the painting of the pipe.); a reminder that this is art and not real life, you’re not watching Kelsey Wilson taking a bath on the mountainside, you’re watching a performance, a video of Kelsey Wilson who is in a bathtub, but who is not bathing. Basically, this is a representation of the thing, not the thing, and that’s maybe what Wilson and Beggins wanted to communicate in this video. This song, “The One,” is not the relationship itself, they are not the ones in the relationship, and there was a relationship, maybe even still is, but it’s not exactly this thing that we’re singing about.

 

I swear, Beggins reminds me of someone… Somebody in the comments for “Crazy Bird” said he looks like Edgar Allen Poe, but I think he might be more Sam Brown from WKUK than Poe. Actually… I don’t know that that’s it either. Is it Jack White? Meg White? It’s the eyes and nose, but only when you see his profile. Haunting.

What did we even talk about this review? I’m pretty sure we totally neglected “Sinking Ships,” arguably the most popular track on the whole album.

Still, before I sign off and assign this work of art a somewhat arbitrary number of frozen water droplets, I want to talk about the last track on the album, my favorite track, “Goodbye Goodnight.” The coup de foudre struck when that chorus first came in and swelled, filling my ears like the rising tide making a run on the coast. But then, after the tide scurried back, I took a look at the tide pool verses, and I have to say, there’re some interesting critters floating around this song.

In the first few verses, we tie this album together, rounding out that allusion to childhood made in “Alex,” sustained through the entire album, and then we’ll plunged once more into the utter tragedy that is ~ the r e a l world. ~ And then that chorus, “don’t want to say goodbye, I’ll say goodnight,” it’s got me saying * this *

So, how are these cookies going to crumble? Are there any songs on Expectations that could compete with past hits like “Crazy Bird,” “Living Tree,” or “Pillow Talk”? I don’t think so, but as a whole, the album functions really well, existing as more than the sum of its parts. There’s enough recurring themes, solid flow, and general groove to keep this sinking ship afloat I’d say; I give Expectations seven snowflakes overall.

Stay tuned for review number two, coming at you in 3… 2… whenever you click on the link…

Purée de Sésame

Sésame Butter, Demi-Complète, puréed by La Vie Claire; reviewed by me.

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Photograph of the sesame butter manufacturing process, taken by the AF Media Division.

Bonjour y’all, and welcome to another riveting review brought to you from Saintes, France. Today we’ll be tucking in to the world of gastronomy and French cuisine with a sinfully unsweet jar of La Vie Claire’s Purée de sésame demi-complète.

In a world where the white, middle-class man can live at large without fear of major, non-fiscal consequences for his actions, comes one big jar of repercussion.
It’s the original  “slap-on-the-wrist” for your tongue;
it’s a Trojan horse filled with awful;
it’s La Vie Claire’s sesame butter, and it’s come to sucker punch you in your mouth.

Let’s really get into it, though. First off, I gotta say, it’s pretty bad. Eating this is definitely better than eating bark, but only because you don’t have to chew it first. That said, eating this butter is probably worse than taking a bath in it: it tastes like something that would be way better to rub on your skin, like soap or a good aftershave.

I originally bought this after deciding to go vegan and having no idea what to eat. I was lost, confused, and I didn’t know where to go or what to do… I’d traveled too far down the millennial rabbit hole without a lantern. I needed a light, a guide, and then there it was, in the back of the organic food co-op–my Virgil. Little did I know, Dante’s three part voyage to a more eco-friendly Paradise wasn’t all Musky space cars and community gardens, but it also involved the occasional unsuspecting bite of liquid mediocrity.

I do wonder, though, what did they actually have in mind for this product when they made it? Maybe it wasn’t made to be eaten, and this has all been one big misunderstanding. It’s all too possible that somebody simply moved this purée from the Health & Beauty section and misplaced it in the comestible section. Hmm, if we just have ourselves a look on the back of the jar… “Cette purée est préparée à partir de graines de sésame complet…” blah, blah, blah here’s a summary:

This is a purée composed of shelled and… well, I’d say de-shelled, but that’s not a word. The thing is, there’s already a word for de-shelled: it’s shelled. If you shell something, it no longer has a shell. Which means it’s shelled. But if something has a shell on it, then you can also call it shelled. I… I don’t know what to say anymore. The only word I want to use is shelled, a word now devoid of meaning, torn apart by the duality of its definition.

Anyway, it’s a purée made of half no shells and half shelly sesame seeds, mashed to bits, and thrown in a jar. Apparently, it’s the shelly seeds that give it its ~ strong ~ flavor, and I guess that means they really did intend for us to smear this in our mouth holes. Huh.

It’s not all bad news, though! If you swallow, or just hold it in your mouth for a long time, you’ll absorb a wide range of nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus (which I didn’t know I needed, but if it lights a match, I want it in my body!). Speaking of fire, this mash has never even heard of it: the only thing this purée has been subjected to is ritualistic grinding on the ol’ millstone. No heat, no pasteurization, no preservatives, no sterilization… I presume none of these precautions were taken because even fungi were like, “Oh, better not. I’ll stick with your unsealed bread loaves and warm milk.”

You know, it’s also possible this is all about food combinations or whatever. According to the back of the jar, you can use it in your vegetable pâtés or you can dilute it in water and… add it to your drinks? Seems a little out of left field, but alright, you can add it to your drinks. Actually, I’ve got some oat milk in the fridge—maybe their equal wave functions of awfulness will cancel out and I’ll be left with just, like, normal milk. One final suggestion is to simply spread it on toast, which is, in fact, the first thing I ever tried to do with it. What this does is effectively slow the chewing and consumption process down to increase time spent on your tongue, prolonging the contact between your wriggly taste worm and this wood paste. I would just not.

All in all, I give it nine snowflakes, because eating this product was a genuinely new and invigorating experience for me. Like being pinched in a dream or dunked with water mid-slumber, my eyes have been opened! For too long I’d lived coddled under the flanneled wing of Trader Joe and Whole Foods. Then, La Vie Claire came in to my life like a leather-clad Dom or The Contortionist and showed me what it truly meant to be metal.

I’m not saying this stuff is good; it isn’t. It’s definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted and that’s including many inedible things I accidentally (or purposefully) put in my mouth as a kid. But I’m giving it nine snowflakes because it’s a new perspective for me and it’s just, I don’t know, authentic. It’s genuine—it’s got nothing but the raw ingredients.  We, the consumer, asked for food that was untampered with, with no added sugars, no preservatives, no nothing, and only one champion of truth stepped out from the shadows and dared give us what we asked for. La Vie Claire was the only one who was able to not only call us out on our bullshit, but serve it right back to us with a giant ORGANIC sticker on it.

So, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the review; feel free to drop a Comment, slap on a Like, or maybe even spread it around with a Share. Whatever’s in your practice today. Until next time, keep it viscous, y’all.

Dirk Gently (Season 1)

Alright, we’re back after the holidays and an extended vacation from reviewing. It seems that the Sun has also been on holiday seeing as we haven’t seen daylight in Saintes since before the New Year… on the bright side, this weather’s been great if your New Year’s resolutions were to, say, avoid melanoma or perhaps be more generally wet. This year is shaping up to be a good one for all the French vampires and pretty trash for everyone else.

~ This image ~ I nabbed off of Itunes. Thanks, ghost of Steve Jobs.

 

Moving on. All this ~ not-being-outside~ has given me some time to catch up on my Netflix queue, and after pounding back episode after episode in rapid succession, I’m ready to review season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, created by Max Landis. This series is an adaption of Douglas Adams’ (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) novel by the same name, and has been described by one French critic as a “Dadaist nightmare,” so get yourself in the mood for a post-WWII quest for meaning in a meaningless world type-thing.

It’s a pretty good watch, though, definitely better than being turned into a dog by a gaggle of counter culture cultists looking to blackmail your… spoilers. I guess that’s getting into the realm of spoilers. That said, it’s definitely worse than actually being involved in the Universe’s plan to fix itself. That’s, like, an instant solution to existential dread—step aside, Sartre & Kierkegaard! I’m on a mission from the Universe and everything is connected and there is such a thing as Fate and Destiny, but they’re not mutually exclusive and they only kind of interfere with my free will to an unspecified, definitely non-paradoxical degree. You know how much time that would save me? I’d never worry again about the infinite number of ever multiplying, constantly diverging paths that lead out in all directions, the many headed hydra of possibilities that creeps closer, grows larger with every decision you make. It wouldn’t matter! I’d just be on one big ol’ universal superhighway with no exits, riding it until I eventually fall asleep at the wheel and crash the car.

What a dream that would be.

So, let’s talk about the characters and plot real quick. We’ve got ourselves a sort of Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes-esque character named Dirk Gently. He’s got the superhuman ability to be exactly where he’s supposed to be in the Universe at any given time, and if you’re thinking, “Well, Zack, that’s not a superpower,” isn’t it though? Isn’t it? You can keep your invisibility and flight, because I know, at the end of the day, I’ll have either been hit by a car or shot down by an anti-aircraft gun. At least with Dirk’s superpower, I’ll die knowing that’s exactly how I was supposed to die.

Dirk is accompanied by Todd Brotzman, played Elijah Wood, who will reprise his role from Over the Garden Wall as extremely reluctant protagonist. Watch Todd’s transformation from begrudging sidekick to holistic parrot as he spends the latter half of the season regurgitating the same silly bullshit Dirk shoved down his throat in the exposition. They’ll also be joined by Todd’s sister, Amanda (played by Hannah Marks), and her struggle against a debilitating case of Pararibulitis, a made-up disease that seems like a cross between epilepsy and schizophrenia.  The whole thing with Pararibulitis becomes a little problematic by the end of the season though, but since another, more qualified blogger has already written about it (plus there are a few spoilers), I’ll pass you on over to them. (Click here)

The show’s main villain, played by Aaron Douglas, is fairly compelling and reminiscent of John Goodman’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane, just a lot less sinister. He definitely had a good creepy streak going for him in the beginning, but the more you learn about his character’s origin and motives, the more goofy and, at times, pathetic he seems, so by the end of the season, you don’t feel particularly threatened by him and his goons.

So where do we stand on this season? It’s definitely a good time all the way through, but I don’t know that you actually gain anything from watching it. What separates Dirk Gently from other characters in his archetype is that Dirk more often than not has no control over the situation and often becomes very overwhelmed by the absurdity he surrounds himself with. A good example of this is when Todd and Dirk infiltrate the home of Gordon Rimmer (the main antagonist), and Dirk very quickly finds himself well out of his depth. He becomes immediately paralyzed and useless by fear, which seems all the more peculiar as the show progresses and you learn the genesis of what seemed like Dirk’s precognitive and perceptive abilities. I think this makes him seem more relatable, and definitely sets him apart in the genre, but I don’t know that his character is wholly consistent.

Also, this show certainly has its share of gratuitous violence, which to be honest, I didn’t notice until a few episodes in (somewhere around the time the “holistic” assassin enters the fray). I’m not sure if this is more of a commentary on the series or my own viewing habits… or maybe society? Still, something to consider before watching.

All in all, I give this season six snowflakes. I wouldn’t say that it’s a must-see, but if you wanna get into that headspace where you’re mulling over the underlying interconnectedness of the world, this is definitely a good way to do it. Plus, it’s easier to come by than DMT and less of a commitment than LSD, though still not as potent.

I’m gonna go ahead and wrap this review up for now, and hopefully I’ll see y’all next week.

Over The Garden Wall

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Image snatched off of Youtube

Led-through the mist,
By the milk-light of moon
All that was lost is revealed…
– “Into the Unknown,” Over the Garden Wall

 


 

Created by Patrick McHale, reviewed by me. 

Hey everyone, this week we’re delving into the Unknown with Over the Garden Wall, a 10 episode mini-series created by Patrick McHale. I’m really excited about this one; I’ve been a fan of this gem for a minute now, and I really enjoyed The Panda Tooth’s recent Over the Garden Wall piano medley, a wonderful arrangement showcasing some of the story’s most enchanting melodies, commemorative of the series’ third year anniversary. Although, this does beg the question: why review it now… well, I’m already using the word review generously here, and I think these forums mostly boil down to one-sided banter and light researching on my part. It’s kind of like live-streaming someone write their term paper the night before it’s due. Exciting.

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I nabbed this nifty nubbin off of Wikipedia. I promise, Wiki, when I get paid, you’ll get paid.

So, yeah, the series is pretty good. I’d wager it’s better than actually getting ~ Lost in the Woods ~ especially if it’s autumn/winter time like it is in the series, because then you’d probably die. I know in the show you just sort of turn into a tree if you fall ill or give up, but in Real Life Land™, you’d die. Anyway, yeah, to round out that comparison, this series is probably worse than having Jack Jones sing you off whenever you exit a scene in your life. That would be pretty neat. Not to get ahead of myself, as I will be discussing OTGW’s soundtrack shortly, but this is probably some of Jack Jone’s best work. I say after my 5-min Itunes adventure, but I mean, I love his performance in the show as both narrator and frog, yet, it’s hard to divorce him from the image of the man who sang “Wives and Lovers,” a charming big-band classic that fixes gender roles tighter than a two ton cement mixer.

 

Let’s talk origin stories, DC. It all started with my laddie Patty’s pilot-y-ish episode, Tome of the Unknown, which you can watch here. A quick word of warning though: the voice of Beatrice is different in the pilot, and you might think that it’s all good and groovy, but if you’ve already seen the show, it’ll bother you. It’ll bother you so much. It’s like a knowing there’s a spider in your room while you’re trying to sleep. It’s like putting the toilet roll on the wrong way. It’s like the English dub of Alphonse in Full Metal Brotherhood. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

The cast is a good time, everything from a Python to a Hobbit, which sounds like a food chain, and in the acting world probably is when you consider that John Cleese is the Python and Elijah Wood is the hobbit. The story follows two half-brothers, Wirt and Gregory, voiced by Wood and Collin Dean respectively, as they travel through the fairy-tale forest of The Unknown with the help of their guide, Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey) the blue bird. In this mysterious wood, where McHale-storm presents us with “little pockets of stories,”  we encounter enchanting characters such as the witch, Adelaide of the Pastor (Cleese), and her Studio Ghibli-esque sister, Auntie Whispers (Tim Curry). There’s the Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd, aka Doc from Back to the Future) who must chop down Edelwood trees to fuel his ghostly lantern, the silky smooth baritone of Jason Funderburger the Frog (Jack Jones), and the omnipresent Beast. Each episode is presented as a 10-11 minute self-contained adventure, taking you to a new section of the forest every time, whether that be on a Ferry Boat with frogs in suits, or battling against the North Wind in Cloud City, or kicking back in a bazillionaire tea mogul’s mansion with John Cleese.

Let’s talk about the soundtrack: it’s an absolute trip. Inspired by the American folk music tradition and featuring voices like Jack Jones, C.W. Stoneking (who you’ve probably never heard of but he plays the sad pumpkin and sings like a beautiful, rugged, country angel), and Janet Klein (who you’ve probably also never heard of, but her she’s got a very particular saloon groove that matches this very particular series). All the music was written by the Blasting Company, and if you’re looking for some quick and dirty peeks at these tracks, check out this melodious sample, Patient is the Night, or this sweet, sweet cover of Can’t You See I’m Lonely. If these songs don’t make you want wander off and get lost in the woods, I don’t know what will. But don’t do it. Like I said, you’ll probably die. Instead, you can read my short story, Lost in the Woods, and run a much lower risk of dying while exploring it! No guarantees, though, I assume no legal responsibility for those who happen to die while reading my stories.

If you wanna delve even further into the Unknown, check out the comic series written by McHale and illustrated by Jim Campbell. It fills in some of the spaces in between the episodes and gives you a little more time to get lost with these intrepid (half) brothers. If you’re still not convinced of how intriguing a ride this mini-series can be, check out this young man’s analysis of the series’ inspirations right here; his very thorough research helped me quite a bit in my review-making process.

All in all, I give the mini-series nine snowflakes, my main critique being that there are parts of the narrative that feel rushed, and being beholden to the 10-11 minute formula it’s easy to see how that could be the case. Still, there are definitely some episodes that feel perfectly paced such as one of my personal favorites, “Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee.” But still, every once in awhile you’ll feel a conversation seemingly cut short or a transition rushed.

Ultimately, this is an iconic series that has an amazing soundtrack and is short enough to watch in one sitting. I mean… Stranger Things is debatably short enough to watch in one sitting if you’re trying to make that sit last a full day, but Over the Garden Wall runs a little over two hours total, so it’s a pretty moderate sitting. My friend told me this is the series he watches whenever he’s sick, so I think it’s safe to say it’s got some homeopathic properties to it as well.

Hope you enjoyed my first animated series review, I’m hoping to do more like it in the future. If you liked this review, feel free to digitally like it, share it, print it out, make a hat out of it and wear my review on your head, do whatever your little heart fancies until next week. Bye.

Verre Cassé

Hey, everyone! Hope you enjoyed that first fun-filled, fabulous and, uh, philosophical book review. Really hope it gave you something to mull over, maybe one or two of you even went out and bought the book. If you did or if you didn’t, either way, don’t really care, I’m just here to make reviews. Coming up we’ve got a little bit of a longer review planned for you, so strap in and let’s do this!

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Another fresh snag off of the old Google. Not my image, although, I did have the exact same copy from the library and I could’ve very easily snapped a photo. But I didn’t.

Today we’re looking at Verre Cassé by Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese author. It takes place largely in a bar called Le crédit à voyagé, which literally means the credit has gone away or traveled, but practically translates to something along the lines of “credit or tabs are a thing of the past.” It’s pretty good, the book that is, I’d say definitely better than drowning yourself in a river, but decidedly worse than Mama Mfoa’s bicycle chicken.

Mama Mfoa’s bicycle chicken: meat that absolutely melts in your mouth, and Mama Mfoa? What a gal. Really the whole package.

Right, yeah, so this book is called Verre Cassé, and that means “Broken Glass” in english. This novel takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the quartier Trois-Cents, where everyone has fun nicknames. There’s good ol’ Pampers, named thusly after his adult diapers and leaky bum. There’s Robinette, or “Little Faucet” in English, named thusly after her notorious bladder and ability to pee an upwards of ten minutes straight. And maybe now you’re thinking that this isn’t the kind of book for you, it’s all about people’s nooks, crannies, and excrement—well, let me just tell you! There’s also Zero-Faute, which means “Zero Fault” in English, named thusly after the fact that he, uh, doesn’t make any mistakes. Or something. There’s L’Escargot Entêté, which means “The Withdrawn Snail” in English, named thusly after… well, actually, I don’t remember why he was called The Withdrawn Snail. He’s the bar owner, and he’s friends with Verre Cassé, the protagonisthe goes through all that hullabaloo with the town and the epic similes… Lemme check real quick…

… Not real sure! I think he’s just a really resilient guy, probably a lot of fun to be around, just like a snail,

Finally, we’ve got the eponymous Verre Cassé, who’s the story’s narrator and is charged with the task of writing a history of the bar and its patrons. He’s named thusly after the fact that he is, in fact, a sorry sod. He goes through all the ups and downs typically associated with drinking your life away in a bar: losing your wife, your job, and your sexual potency, though not necessarily in that order. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell whether or not you’ve hit rockbottom, but when you get rejected by a prostitute and have to pick up your own excrement with your hands all in one night then I think you can probably call it. Just go ahead, throw down the flag and call it what it is. Maybe even plant that flag in your own feces and own it.

That about does it for introductions and characters. On a stylistic level, this novel follows that whole found document tradition, kind of like Candide or, I don’t know, the Persian Letters of Montesquieu. This time, instead of being an epistolary novel or a text tucked away in the breast pocket of a fallen soldier, the novel really captures what it’s like to have someone saddle up next to you at the bar and start talk-breathing on you. Mabanckou has also done away with periods or any sort of hard punctuation in this novel; the whole tale is one long sentence broken up by commas and page breaks. Kind of like El Asco or, you know, any other novel who’s used this gimmick to mimic “oral tradition.” I’m putting oral tradition in quotations here because I’m specifically referring to the storytelling tradition of recounting your life’s woes in a bar, which is what both of those novels are: woes and drinks, drinks and woes. Honestly, that seems to be what’s left of the Western oral tradition since we stopped talking to one another in person and since we also don’t teach kids about foreplay in sex-ed.

Just gonna, uh, pop on over to Wikipedia real quick. Definitely gonna switch this baby on over to the ol’ English Wiki. It’s not for me; it’s for you. I mean, it just makes the whole thing simpler and then I’ll have more time to edit stuff like this out. I don’t have a problem reading the article in French. I don’t. Honestly, I’ll probably even do it later.

Also, I probably ought to donate to their page, seems like they’re in some dire straits, what with all these little pop-ups asking for a dollar. But if I’m not making any money of these reviews, neither will they! Hoorah! Let’s see,

A-L-A-I-N space M-A-B-A-N-C-K-O-U

So, yeah, the year was 1966. Mahanky-Bancky was born a French citizen in Congo-Brazzaville, since, well, they were still otherwise occupied. He took law classes in the Congo and at 22 he, uh, did the France. That expression did not carry over as well as I wanted it to. Il a fait la France. It’s a reference to part of his book, there’s this guy and he, well, did the France, meaning he went to France and married a white girl and moved to a nice white neighborhood blah, blah, blah… he did the France. I’m not saying big Al is married or anything, I wanna be clear, I’m just referencing a character in his book. I mean, Ally-Al did go to France, but I don’t know if he married a white girl and moved to a white neighborhood or any of that. He does live in Santa Monica though, so it looks like he did the America, too. I wonder if France knows anything about that. *Ba-da-ching*(drum, drum, high-hat… I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that written out. If I Google search ba-da-ching… oh, it’s more of a Ba-Dum-Ching or Ba-Dum-Tssh according to this meme. Noted)

I should probably read somebody else’s review as well, while I’m at it. I mean, sure, as I said, I speak French. Like, I’ll put it on my résumé or whatever and correct people when they mispronounce Au Revoir! but I’m not, like, I don’t know, Proust. Not that any of this had any bearing on my choice to read that Wikipedia article in English. I wanna be clear on that.

Let’s just have a little look together, make sure I’m on the right track…

Honestly, if nothing else, we’re learning how to review together. I’m looking at this review here on e-litterature.net, and you know what, I’d say we’re on the right track. Sure, they’re more focused on the death of Verre Cassé’s mother, the ironic tone Mabanckou takes in his novel, and this metaphor of birth that represents Africa… oh man, I really missed that… So the prevalence of alcohol in the narrative is likened to amniotic fluid, guarding him in a womb-like state of tranquility from the death of his mother and his ongoing domestic troubles. Yeah, man, that makes sense. And here I was just making fun of everyone’s nicknames, I totally should’ve… huh…

Alright, so! Quotes. We got some quotes here that I’ve gone through the trouble (it was really no trouble, just a quick, y’know, little side project, barely took five minutes) of translating. I think they’re kinda funny and they’ll hopefully give you a little taste for the tone and texture of the novel, so yeah, let’s check em’ out:

QUOTE NUMBER ONE:

Le patron du Crédit a voyagé n’aime pas les formules toutes faites du genre “en Afrique quand un vieillard meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle,” et lorsqu’il entend ce cliché bien développé, il est plus que vexé et lance aussitôt “ça dépend de quel vieillard, arrêtez donc vos conneries, je n’ai confiance qu’en ce qui est écrit,”

The owner of “the Tabs are settled” doesn’t care much for proverbs along the lines of “In Africa, when an elder dies, it’s a library that burns,” becoming more than vexed whenever he hears this tired-out cliché and retaliating with “that all depends on which elder, so shut your mouth, I don’t trust anything that isn’t written.”

It’s a pretty good quote, big laughs there for sure. Hard to miss the irony when you allegedly write a novel that strives to recreate the spoken word, takes everything in the second degré, and exaggerates the sweet deets beyond all reasonable proportions, all upon the provocation of a man that only believes things that are written down. Yup. Hah. Explaining jokes and context. Good stuff.

But actually, while we’re speaking of exaggeration, this novel is just one big wild ride of epic similes, hyperboles and uh… let’s see… Google search literary devices… amplification! Got a lot of amplification in there for sure, just like we see in

QUOTE NUMBER TWO

“Les Services de sécurité présidentielle m’ont dit qu’il y a même des bébés qui se prénomment ‘j’accuse,” et que dire alors de toutes ces jeunes filles en chaleur qui se sont fait tatouer cette formule sur leur paire de fesses, hein, et d’ailleurs, ironie du sort, les clients des prostituées exigent que celles-ci aient ce tatouage, vous voyez dans quelle merde vous me foutez, hein…”

“The Secret Service has informed me that there are even babies being named j’accuse, and now there’s talk of young girls in heat getting this catchphrase tattooed on their buttocks, and furthermore, ironically, the brothel’s clientele has even started to demand for these girls specifically, the ones sporting this tattoo, do you see the kind of shit you’ve got me in, huh…”

Probably should’ve given you some context before I tossed you on in there with that quote, but basically the president was mad because his agricultural minister ripped of Emile Zola and everyone loved it. They loved it so much, that everyone in the Congo started saying “j’accuse” and they even started naming babies “j’accuse,” and tattooing it on their… you read the quote. You get it.

This next quote is a bit of a doozy, but I thought it was a pretty good example of the kind of humor one could expect from this novel as well as some of the literary devices previously mentioned. It does get pretty intense though, and the language and imagery may be distasteful to some, so I mean, if that’s not in your practice or whatever, skip this quote and its subsequent translation.

Cool. Without further ado, I present to you (a literal pissing contest)

QUOTE NUMBER THREE

“[Craque], nullard, craque, tu vas craquer, tu sais même pas pisser, craque, moi j’ai encore des litres dans mon réservoir, je te préviens, fais attention, arrête de pisser si tu veux pas être ridicule devant les gens, arrête maintenant, dis au revoir et merci,” Robinette criait comme ça, le type a répondu “tais-toi et pisse, grosse poule, les vrais maîtres ne parlent pas, pourquoi je vais dire au revoir et merci, jamais, jamais de la vie, c’est toi qui vas craquer Robinette, et je vais te baiser,” et il a pressé ses deux boules poilues, le débit de ses urines a augmenté de plusieurs crans, et nous avons écarquillé les yeux parce que ce type prétentieux pissait maintenant avec plus de conviction, et nous avons constaté que sa particule élémentaire avait doublé, voire triplé de dimension au point que nous nous sommes frotté les yeux en signe d’incrédulité, et ses boules tout d’un coup gonflées pendouillaient comme deux vieux gourdes pleines de vin de palme, et il pissait avec jubilation, et il sifflotait au passage un cantique de la racaille du quartier Trois-Cents, puis un concert baroque, puis un air de Zao afin d’attirer les regards vers lui, pendant ce temps Robinette avait le cœur à l’ouvrage, elle pétait à plusieurs reprises au point que nous avons été contraints de nous boucher le nez et les oreilles parce que ça sentait très fort et résonnait comme des feux d’artifice que nous entendons lors de la Fête au bouc, […] et alors que nous étions concentrés à scruter le derrière éléphantesque de Robinette, un témoin nous a informés que, de l’autre côté, Casimir qui mène la grande vie opérait un tournant décisif, un miracle qui méritait une béatification papale, nous nous sommes tous rués pour voir ça de très près, faut jamais rater les miracles même si ça ne se passe pas à Lourdes, faut être le témoin de ce qui se racontera quelques siècles plus tard, mieux vaut en être le témoin que d’écouter des perroquets vous réciter une histoire d’amour au temps du choléra, et nous nous sommes donc empressés vers Casimir qui mène la grande vie pour voir son miracle historique, et nous sommes tombés des nues, c’était pas croyable ce qui se déroulait sous nos yeux, il fallait y être pour le croire, et nous avons observé que, dans ses zig-zags urinaires, Casimir qui mène la grande vie avait dessiné avec talent la carte de France, ses urines orthodoxes tombaient en plein cœur de la ville de Paris, “Vous n’avez encore rien vu, je peux aussi dessiner la carte de la Chine et pisser dans une rue précise de la ville de Pékin,” et Robinette ne comprenait plus rien, elle s’est retournée, a jeté un coup d’œil avant de nous lancer “revenez vers moi, je vous dis, revenez vers moi, qu’est-ce que vous regardez donc là-bas, vous êtes tous des pédés ou quoi,” mais nous étions plutôt captivés par le mystérieux concurrent prétentieux qu’on applaudissait désormais et qu’on avait du coup surnommé Casimir le Géographe, ce type prenait goût à ce défi, “moi je fait le marathon et pas le sprint, je vais la sauter, je vais l’épuiser, faites-moi confiance” a-t-il dit en sifflotant son cantique de la racaille de quartier Trois-Cents, puis son concert baroque et son air de Zao, et on applaudissait de plus en plus pendant que la carte de France s’agrandissait de toutes ses régions, y avait un autre petit dessin à côté de cette œuvre magnifique, “mais dis donc, c’est quoi ça ce truc qu’il a dessiné à côté de la carte de France, c’est quoi ça, hein “ a demandé un témoin égaré par l’art de Casimir qui mène la grande vie, “c’est la Corse, imbécile” a répondu l’artiste sans cesser de pisser, et on a applaudi pour la Corse, et certains venaient même de découvrir pour la première fois ce nom de Corse, ça murmurait, ça polémiquait, et puis un gars plus qu’égaré a demandé qui était le président de la Corse, quel type d’État c’était, quelle était la capitale de ce pays, leur président était-il noir ou blanc, et on l’a envoyé paître en lui criant en chœur “idiot, imbécile” […]”

“Crack, p***y, crack, you’re gonna crack, you don’t even know how to piss, and me, well I’ve still got gallons in my reservoir, I’m warning you, listen up, stop now if you don’t want to look like a fool in front of these bastards, stop now, take your bow now and get out,” Robinette carried on like that, and this guy responded with, “shut up and pee, you old fat hen, a true master doesn’t speak while they work, and I’ll never take that bow, never in my life, it’s you who’ll crack, Robinette, and after that, I’m gonna lay you,” and he pressed his two hairy balls, thereby increasing his outpour by several degrees, and our jaws dropped because this guy, this fucking pretentious guy was now pissing with more conviction, and we all bore witness as his elementary member doubled, no, tripled in size, to the point where we had to rub our eyes in disbelief, and his balls suddenly swelled up, flapping like two old gourds of palm wine, and he pissed with jubilation, and he whistled the songs of the scoundrels of quartier Trois-Cents, then a baroque concert, then a Zao tune in order to draw over the crowd, all while Robinette was really putting her foot down on the gas, farting several times as she worked, to the point where we had to hold our nose and cover our ears because it smelled so bad and resonated like the kind of fireworks you’d hear during the Feast of the Goat, [a reference, as best I can tell, to the book by Mario Vargas Llosa pertaining to the death of the dictator Trujillo] […] and while we all scrutinized the elephantine behind of Robinette, a witness informed us that, on the other side, Casimir who lived the high life was effectuating a watershed of momentous proportions, a miracle that merited papale benediction, and we all stepped over each others toes as we scrambled to get a better look, I mean, one should never miss a miracle even one that’s not sanctioned by the Cathedral of Lourdes, one should strive to witness that which will be told for centuries to come, better to witness this shit first-hand than to listen to people parrot it back to you as a history of love in times of cholera, and so we all huddled around Casimir who lived the high life in order to see his historic miracle, and by jove what we witnessed, I swear we couldn’t believe our eyes, you had to be there to believe it, and as we lived and breathed, with his urine zig-zags, Casimir who lived the high life drew, with finesse, the map of France, his orthodox urine streams falling right in the heart of Paris, “You ain’t seen nothing yet, I could just as easily draw you a map of China and piss squarely on the town of Pekin,” and Robinette, now completely abandoned, turned and threw us a villainous glance, screaming, “Get back over here, I tell you, get the hell back over here, what are you all lookin’ at there, you fuckin’ f*****s,” but it was too late, we were already captivated by this mysterious pretentious competitor whom we were now applauding and who would henceforth be known as Casimir the Geographer, and it must be said, he loved his new nickname, “I’m in it for the marathon, not the sprint, I’m gonna jump you, Robinette, I’m gonna wear you out, believe you me,” he said whilst whistling his scoundrels’ song, then his baroque concert and his Zao tune, and we applauded him more and more while the map of France grew, blossoming into its many regions, but then another tiny sketch formed to the side of this masterstroke, “But wait, hol’ up, what’s that thing he’s drawn off to the side there, next to France, what the hell’s that, huh” demanded one of the audience members, totally lost in Casimir’s art, the art of he who lives the high life, “It’s Corsica, you imbecile,” responded the artist without stopping his flow, and we cheered for Corsica, and there even those among us who heard, for the first time, of this mysterious Corsica, and a murmur spread through the crowd, causing controversy, until at last one lad, who was beyond lost, dared to ask who the president of Corsica was, what kind of state was it, what was their capital, was their president black or white, and we all kicked his ass out of the group to a chorus of, “Idiot, imbecile” […}

Woowee, I tell you what. That’s a quote and a half right there… probably about half the review and its all just one long citation. Eat your hearts out, ENG 101 professors of Earth, I have half a mind to just end this review right now, toute suite, or whatever people say around these parts, without first offering any context.

But I won’t. We’ve got a lot to unpack there: a lot of references to Latin-American literature (Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Márquez? And how!), a lot ironic language, what seems like a reference to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a whole, whole lot of pee. But, y’know, at the end of the day, the take away point is this: know your geography, kids. Know your geography or else you too will find yourself ridiculed on the outskirts of a pissing contest when you don’t know where one French island is located.

Corse is, by the way, part of France and they do not have their own president, although they do have their own language in addition to French. Tip o’ the hat to Wikipedia, once again.

That about wraps up our review, thank you for tuning in. I’m giving Verre Cassé eight snowflakes for being a very funny and smart novel, even if you don’t get all the references, you can still enjoy this rare bird for its wit and grit and, at times, literal shit. Alain Mabanckou, while a polemical figure in Africain literature, is definitely worth the read, perhaps even more so given the controversy. Hope you enjoyed this tentative traipse through the rich world of Afro-Franco-Literature, and join me next Wednesday for another review!