Level End, by Brian Oliu (A Review by j/j hastain)

Origami Zoo


Equipped with an initial warning page in regard to the dos and don’ts of Brian Oliu’s Level End, we enter this book as we would a rigorous vertigo: an exercise in sense and emotion, an interaction with twitch. Luckily, we are immediately schooled in regard to how to approach this read: “Do not see ghosts. Do not touch light”/ “Distance yourself from the narrator as far as possible.” We are being shown (before we even get there) that this image may be permanently “burned” into us. And let me tell you, after finishing this read, it is burned into me. I still see it, feel it. It is somehow steeping me like its own cacao-cinnamon tea (“something that is you but made of magic”).

As I entered Level End, I scrutinized this narrative for its base/s. In many of the pieces we are initially brought into sentences with the following line: “When I arrived the music changed.” But after that, each of the pieces seemed to diverge a bit from that initial point of entry.

We go from what feels like inhabiting the overly emotive pixels of a video game moving its figures along (“it is dark in here and you are the only thing that can see”/ “everything I am into something I am not”/ “the eyes from which we see ourselves”) to what feels to me to be surreal time travel and relations within that (“a red not found in nature”/ “all anomalies dabbed over”/ “carry me over felt lines until someone, anyone, can see where I am going”) to a sort of qualitative transdifferentiation (lineage reprogramming: “This is the room that you are locked in- deep within a house that someone else has built”/”we fight through smaller versions of you to get to you”/ “your head where your heart has been”/ “this is what you asked for, and this is what you will have: something larger than you, something rain soaked and wet like a new child, something evil, everything evil, something that can read your thoughts, something that is a thing inside a thing inside of a thing like a nesting doll”). In all of this traversing that the narrative engages us by way of, there is the creation of a sense of looseness in the body. I feel myself becoming a clay doll not yet fired in a kiln. Shapeable and so, being shaped (“to be swallowed whole like a fish is a noble way”)! Continue reading