Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate By Johannes Göransson (A Review By Joseph Michael Owens)

Tarpaulin Sky Press

100 pgs.  $14

Beware beware

I have begun a king

A jacklighting king

There is a talented bunch of contemporary writers doing some really cool things with experimental prose lately (I’d hate to call it experimental “-literature” or “-fiction” for fear of pigeonholing it even further than I already have), perhaps most notably including: Blake Butler, J. A. Tyler, Joe Wenderoth, Gary Lutz, Mary Ruefle, Zachary Schomburg (though he is probably best known for “surrealist poetry” but, if memory serves, ostensibly rejects the designation of surrealist), Joyelle McSweeney and, of course, Johannes Göransson. The writers I named in this completely incomplete and off-the-top-of-my-head list were included because they all seem to defy any sort of basic literary categorization and, perhaps more importantly, they have more or less picked up where genre/prose-bending writers like Haruki Murakami, Italo Calvino and—yes, I do dare say it—even Kafka and Borges, left off, stylistically speaking.  

When I decided to dive into Göransson’s Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate, I honestly had no concrete idea what to expect. The book had been generating a considerable amount of buzz within and throughout the online indie lit. scene, gathering glowing endorsements from writers I personally dig such as the aforementioned Blake Butler (Scorch Atlas, There is No Year) and his fellow HTMLGIANT contributor, Kyle Minor (In the Devil’s Territory), endorsements which were certainly good enough for me. Prior to reading Entrance to a colonial pageant… my exposure to Göransson had been limited to essays of his I’d read on Montevidayo.com. That being said, Entrance to a colonial pageant… is still utterly unlike anything I have ever read before.

I should probably mention here that, among the countless things I am unfamiliar with, colonial pageants rank somewhere between highly nebulous IRS tax codes and speaking Aramaic. Of course, my lack of knowledge re: colonial pageants did not in any way hinder me from Googling them. From what I can gather, a colonial pageant is an annual debutante gala for young women making their debut into “capital-S” Society where the debutantes wear colonial period costumes and act out a pageant. For example, two prominent members of a given philanthropic-type Society will don costumes to portray President George and Martha Washington. Audience members are participants and portray contemporaries based on the story line, which changes every year to honor the first President and his First Lady. The debutantes and their escorts who are presented usually either have family in the Society or are invited guests, etc.

Göransson’s pageant is almost nothing like this.

In fact, to pull off Göransson’s seemingly impossible pageant—as Aaron Kunin has previously noted—you’d have to resurrect Charlotte Brontë, Adolf Loos and Ronald Reagan, not just wax simulacra and trained actors to play them. Also, the actors would almost certainly have to be escaped mental patients and the pageant staged in a crowded suburban mall. Göransson’s pageant will feature recurring themes of (but not limited to): riots, “invented erotics,” natives, guns, “jacklighting,” burns, penises, diseases, fish, untruths, organs, ridiculousness, animals (particularly horses), shells, meat, irises, hospitals, insects, fire, gasoline, The Twist, lye, sexuality, cinema, executions, necrophilia, the pleasure dome, photographs, Hollywood, anorexia, vaginas, eels, gasmasks, napalm, birds, orifices in general, strychnine, lipstick, wax, eyes, seizures, foxes, megaphones, shrapnel, cake, bodily fluids & functions, dolls, disinfectant, ovules, ganglia, cancer, feces, revolution and The Fall of the House of Usher. And like the pomp and circumstance-filled Society pageants, Göransson’s will require a good amount of audience participation, willing or otherwise.

If you find that this list makes you inexplicably aroused, excited, sickened, hungry, anxious, warm, terrified, fuzzy, violent and/or all of the above, this book is unquestionably for you.

The title of the book also really got me thinking, really made me question whether or not “intricate” and other adjectives (and nouns) could perhaps by some dark typographic alchemy be verbified as it appears to have been here. Of course it can and it’s a really cool stylistic device Göransson employs throughout the book:

My inner child is like a host on which I parasite… The colonial exhibition is hard from asphalt, but we wealth around in women’s burnouts… Don’t let passengers near it. They will turn everything into immolations… I know how to conduct a homelessness… I am buying a new widow and I will pig and pig that girl collapse… I performed an exoskeleton with an open mouth. It was my mouth… Etc.

Entrance to a colonial pageant… demands its reader to engage it on a close sentence-to-sentence level and rewards the reader with some truly spectacular prose. Prose that, page after page, begins to infect the reader, begins to parasite the reader as host, parasite the host’s inner child, wealthing around in women’s burnouts before, finally, immolating the host, the reader.

We make bodies.

We make bodies by the thousands.

In the desert or on TV.

~~Joseph Michael Owens has written for PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, The Houston Literary Review, InDigest Magazine and Grey Sparrow Journal (CELJ’s Best New Literary Journal of 2010), where he is a regular contributor to its “Man on Campus” section and an associate editor. Additionally, his short story “We Always Trust Each Other, Except for When We Don’t” was nominated for both Dzanc Books‘ Best of the Web 2011 anthology and storySouth‘s Million Writers Award. Joe lives in Omaha with five dogs and one wife.~~

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