Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lara Glenum, _Maximum Gaga_

HER SECOND, FROM two years ago. My question as I began reading was, will this be as strange, beautiful, and scary as The Hounds of No? Answer: stranger, more beautiful, scarier.

Glenum puts me in mind of... wait for it... Seamus Heaney. Actually, they have next to nothing in common, but they both love a line full of nice chewy consonants. Heaney, from the title poem his first book, Death of a Naturalist:

Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew in clotted water
In the shade of the banks.

And Glenum's "Crash Site," in its entirety:

Dribbling figgity
among cream-slammed oinkers

the Normopath's piglicker

crushes into ham canyon.

Or should we say Glenum is Finnegans Wake without those sweet seductive long vowels?

Anyway, Glenum's a naturalist, too, we might say, a student of the body. In the first section of Maximum Gaga, we witness the development of a biologically intense relationship between Minky Momo and Mino --

My ratty lingua
sound like the snapping
of flightbones
and you do a cunning runtalingus
to the sucking noises
of my blowhole victrola

--which is witnessed by the Normopath (one whose normality is a kind of disease?). Minky Momo seems almost utterly given over to the experience, but she is also intent on holding to her heritage and identity ( "I come from a long line of female seers who had visions of the Barbie-Christ").

The second section of the book seems to be a drama staged for Minky Momo's benefit & edification by Mino, with the collusion, I suspect, of the Normopath. (On p. 9, Mino tells Minky Momo to identify with "Vamp No. 7," who appears on p. 72.)

The drama is not really describable, but I'm going to go with calling it a Jarry-esque feminist version of the myth of Minos, Pasiphaë, the divine white bull from the sea, and the artificial cow created by Daedalus so that Pasiphaë could copulate with the bull.

Minos has become "Minus," Daedalus "Ded," Icarus "Icky," and Pasiphaë "Queen Naked Mole Rat," or usually just "the Queen." In Glenum's version, though, it is not Pasiphaë's uncontrollable lust that compels her into the engine designed to exaggerate all aspects of female animality -- that is, the cow -- but the men, eager for spectacle, anxious for confirmation of their own role as masters of reason and technical accomplishment.

Glenum's Queen is not the cartoon of the myth. She's aware, cagy, also to some extent compromised, but able to teach Minky Momo much more than Mino suspects.

The Visual Mercenaries, a kind of chorus, deliver a "proclamation" that includes the volume's title:

How to rectify this, o dog of language? How to rectify your losses at the hands of your own tongue? Run headlong into Maximum Gaga! Run, now that your own poor words have been crammed back into your torso like guinea pig carcasses & greasy red clouds, now that you face certain doom from all quarters! Seek sanctuary in Maximum Gaga!

So Maximum Gaga is... the white bull from Poseidon? God? The Transcendental Signified? The Panopticon? In any case, you'd obviously be better off seeking sanctuary anywhere else.

Glenum notes in her acknowledgments at book's end that it "paraphrases or appropriates the work of Mary Russo, Delueze & Guattari, Michel Foucault, and Jean Baudrillard in certain places." No kidding. Simulacra and bodies without organs abound. But what, no Lacan? (Actually, p. 92 seems more than a little Lacanian to me.)

An amazing book, I think. I read it at one sitting -- it was that compelling, that inventive, surprises on every page. I wonder if any fans of the pop singer will be misled by the title and pick this up... and what might ensue? More visions of the Barbie-Christ?


Malcolm said...

Hey there, I really appreciate your posts -- intelligent, even-handed. Could you do us a favor and add an RSS button to your site so we can follow it as you add new posts? There is an easy-to-add widget.
Great work, keep posting!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
家唐銘 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Theobald said...

I don't know how to add an "RSS" button, but I'll look into it.