F IN, by Carol Guess (A Review by j/j hastain)


Noctuary Press

70 pgs./$14.00

 I enjoy moving into the space of a book with the feeling that I can trust what the writer has told me about it. Guess indicates that F  IN “began as a ghost story.” What is the difference between what something began as and what it becomes? And how will that becoming (which involves a “((ubiquitous) dead girl” (a becoming which can’t be controlled in the same way that indicating what a project’s beginning is can)) end up altering, terrorizing (“I’m going to have to hurt you”) or enabling me?

The figure on the cover of the book reaches one way but looks another. This is how a “heroine [with] agency and appetite” would have to proceed: moving many ways at once (“if I didn’t have a twin you wouldn’t be seeing her ghost”). I find myself wondering if a blackbird or a mother or a sister will emerge (“the dead come back; it’s just a matter of naming”) and bite this figure as she tries to finger her way to the gold locket, the hope for a golden egg.

What is the most honorable way for me to approach a self-named “erasure”? Knowing “compression is vital to [Guess’] aesthetic” is it honoring to simply enter the succinct yet spacious realm of these pages (some of which only have 5 words on a page) as one would an empty, deteriorating house? Is it an inverse-violation that my desire is to grab red crayon and draw shapes of liminal organs in the agoraphobic clenches of F  IN? Does intentionally filling an erasure rape its sparse confidence? I am sorry if it seems that I am obsessing over this; this is a real ethical dilemma for me. I am just not sure: am I really to “erase place” along with how this book began? Or is there something more I can add to its haunting noir? 

For me, F  IN becomes by way of a queer kid (“poured her heart out only to horses”) (who “found out (found out about queer desire?) on [their] own” (we always find out on our own)) who is growing a beard in a “city of clear-cut identical floor plans.” Of course if they marry they “don’t want to marry a boy” (“a man setting a woman in fire” / “the groom’s mother blindfolds the bride”)—they want to “listen to the bell inside” and marry the person who they want to be fucking (“the dress should be able to go on with its life” not remain here plaguing the body for whom wearing it is an inaccuracy of identity). I imagine the feral forms of love that are taking place within schisms (splices of “floor plans”) where the lovers can be obsessed with visual versions of silence. I sense the ghosts getting each other off (drunk (“it isn’t easy to get a ghost drunk”)) as heart beats close in on other heart beats.

I am ¾ of the way through the book before I am given details which make me realize that the book ends with them (“they told each other that although they fooled other people, they wouldn’t lie to each other, or lie to themselves”) “driving her ex-girlfriend’s dead sister down the road.” When the book closes with setting “the dead girl’s shoes on fire” I know that “speaking to chairs” and other “daily violence[s]” (chars) have somehow gotten the queer kid (you? Me?) from a here to a there (“message disturbing the surface a seam”). The rocks (which must be lifted as the body is lugged from the car to the ledge) are also “gumdrops on fire,” and as that particular rock is lifted a note blares forth (the kind of note that is sung, not paper: the kind of note that sprawls Duras’ dead girl’s mouth back open after it has been sewn shut).

Somehow, if you can, get in here with me. Guess’ F  IN is f   ucking gen       ius.



j/j hastain is the author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), anti-memoir a vigorous (Black Coffee Press/ Eight Ball Press) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain, Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin and Aufgabe. j/j has been a guest lecturer at Naropa University and University of Colorado.