Sunday, 18 November 2012

Frill Lit

Everything That Has Been Shall Be Again: The Reincarnation Fables of John Gilgun
The Bieler Press, P.O. Box 3856, St. Paul, MN 55165,  $7.95.

America's culture is a mystifying mess as I sit glumly pondering the teaching implications of No Frills Lit and the long-range fallout from the chutzpoi hypesters putting the Muses in the S and M bondage of the Con Glom Ratings race, I get the pleasant and reassuring diversion at hand.

I’ve never heard of John Gilgun before—although I’ve been a insatiable savourer of wood cut-up Michael McCurdy ever since he graced a Beaver Arts Festival ten years ago. To have his images—ant, bear, cow, fox, gnat, hen, mouse, peacock, worm—Take Nine for old Ms. Muse—is more than worth the price of admission. (I paid $10 for his gloriously fey face of Walt Whitman ten years ago!) The way McCurdy cannily cases the woods’ grain masses to take into account the diverse anatomies of his bestiary is miracle enough to stagger sextillion of infidels!

But picking up on Gilgun is as upon first looking into Chapman’s Homer type experience. The basic theme is the continuity of all life. No species’ existence is beneath wonder, even (perhaps even especially the gnat—whose opening line is “I was never nothing.” And whose closing act is a happy immolation in the flame of “Absolute Truth.” The AT of course is the same as Whitman’s famous flora—the ever verdant grass. Lives pass but life endure, even prevails. (An “absolute” the resurgent peace movement would dearly love to keep truthful.)

These Aesopian Fibbles tease as they teach us into a reverence for the lives we only (alas) half lead. “Cow” is a fable about a modal Earth Mudder who keeps things mooooving for all the calves (and the occasional bull) who come her way. “Fox” is a wilily lubricious politician who will (literally) eat the innocent goose of a lady reporter trying to advance her career as a journalist with an exclusive interview. A deadly seduction. “Bear” recounts an utopian vision of the Golden Ursal Age when bear was all. 

“Hen” is a hilarious spoof of a creature writer teacher who pecks away nervously, neurotically in a non-ovoid reincarnation. “Mouse” is an all gray dirge about a light but non-stop eater who used to lead an equally mousey life as a wire rope corporation foreman in St. Joseph, Missouri. 

“Peacock” is a jaded tale about a Charlestown, S.C. aristocrat condemned to strut before the creepy hoi polloi. “Worm” is a short hilarious dialogue between Mrs. Noah and a worm signing on for the rainy voyage. “Magician of the clay” proudly boasts that all creation “begins and ends with me, the lowly worm.”

O.K. so it’s only 67 pages long. After all, this is “frill” lit. I just phoned down to the desk at my Moline, Illinois hotel to see what a carton of cigarettes costs these days. “$7-8,” the startled lady replied. Well, there you are. Don’t grumble about B.S. (for best seller) Culture. Go for the unfree frills. 

After all, you’ve already subsidized the Bieler Press’s grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. Bieler, my son who stuffed it in my Xmas sock tells me, means Little Brat. Make that Funky Little Brat after you’ve read “Ant,” a scary Kafkaesque tale about a non-conforming insect who tries to unGulag his Ant Hill. Zowie. Put some new frills in your literary life for the Gnu year.

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