Saturday, November 1, 2008
YUM YUM I CAN'T WAIT TO DIE, by Sam Pink
I ordered a copy of YUM YUM I CAN'T WAIT TO DIE from the Jaguar Uprising Press back in July. Months went by, and I never heard anything about it or about the five bucks I paid for it through paypal. Then, after a period of self-imposed internet abstinence, I went to Sam Pink's blog and read that he'd printed up a limited number of copies of the chapbook on his own, and was mailing them free to anybody who'd email him their address. I emailed him my address, but I wasn't sure if I'd emailed in time to get a copy. Then I read on Bradley Sand's blog that TTB had posted a warning about ordering from the Jaguar Press Website. I went to TTB's blog and saw the post, which also recommended emailing him directly about Sam Pink's chapbook. So I emailed TTB. I still hadn't heard back from Sam Pink, and I figured he'd already sent out all of his copies and wouldn't have a copy to send to me. I asked TTB to send me a copy.
And then, on Halloween, I got two packages in the mail. One was from TTB, and the other (post-marked a week earlier) had no return address. My first thought was that the anonymous package held more hate mail from Fred Woodworth--maybe he was sending me another burned-out lightbulb or something--but when I tore it open, I found a copy of YUM YUM I CAN'T WAIT TO DIE inside. After months of doubting whether I'd ever get my hands on a single copy of YUM YUM I CAN'T WAIT TO DIE, I suddenly had two copies. I was excited.
Essentially, both versions are the same. The Jaguar Uprising Press version shows more human-effort in its construction--the cover is a glued-together construction-paper flag, and the binding is hand-stitched--but the Sam Pink copy is on higher quality paper, printed instead of photo-copied, and looks generally cleaner. I also noticed a few typos in the Jaguar Uprising version that had been corrected by the time Sam Pink printed his own.
Probably nobody really cares all that much about that stuff, though, anyways, so I'll limit the rest of this post to a review of the text--which is almost exactly the same in both versions.
DISCLAIMER: If you're the type of person who thinks that analytical reviews of literature somehow lessen the pleasure of reading, you might want to stop reading this review now. Also remember that this review merely reflects my own interpretations, and I don't really know shit about anything.
For anyone familiar with Sam Pink's blog, YUM YUM I CAN'T WAIT TO DIE is more of the same, but better. It's better because it feels more cohesive, more polished, more focused. The edge apparent in the writing on the blog is sharpened, honed like a razor.
For those not familiar with Sam Pink, this chapbook is an excellent introduction. Sam runs through the gamut of emotional tones common in his work, and explores a lot of his favorite themes. His writing, to me, feels like masterful satire. I say that because his writing seems inherently confrontational--it attacks things we hold in reverence--but it's generally handled in a light-hearted way, more of a "poking of fun" than a "scathing condemnation".
Oftentimes the attack incorporates juvenile humor, especially humor of the "toilet" variety:
Today I went out to a restaurant and got some coffee.
A girl walked by and went to the bathroom.
I could hear her peeing.
It turned me on and I felt weird about it--weird because I hardly knew her.
And getting turned on by someone urinating is a special thing--something that should be reserved for marriage.
And also, a lot of the time, the writing focuses on violent subject matter:
The next time we have sex I am going to rub my facial hair into your neck and chest until red lines form and then I'll connect the lines so they make a pretty picture and remember that I am only going to be alive for another thirty-fifty years and in the meantime I will change everything into something that retains the marks of my intervention.
In most cases, Sam hones in on something our culture considers sacred (in both of the above cases, I see the sacred object as "romantic intimacy"), and skewers it. What makes this skewering entertaining, is the generally affable (and if not always "affable", then rarely darker than "neutral") tone it's delivered in. We don't get the sense that the narrator is malicious, despite the often macabre actions he describes. We get the sense that the narrator is a nice guy, somehow, even when he is describing violent action. In the latter example above, we'd probably feel less attachment to the narrator if he used more aggressive language: The next time we FUCK I'm going to GRIND my STUBBLE into your neck and chest until red WELTS form...
But just when we're tempted to dismiss Sam's narrator as a nice, if somewhat troubled, guy, we get glimpses of a deeper, less dismissable pathos:
Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom or a private place when I am public so I can clench both of my fists and grind my teeth and kneel down and press my face against the ground until the energy goes away.
And that element of earnest pathos keeps the stakes higher in this world. It is the yin that balances the yang of Sam's humorous satire.
Speaking of yin yang, YUM YUM often drifts into a philisophical tone that reads like something from a taoist poetry book:
Wherever I stand the world feels my weight.
The world pushes back.
Wherever I stand the world holds its breath.
Because my hand is around its windpipe.
I am meditating on the idea of a cleaved earth.
But he balances that deep tone with silly absurdities:
Some people are such assholes that saying, "Look, again, I'm sorry I cut off my thumb and glued it to your baby's head because I thought you'd like him better as a unicorn" means nothing to them.
Hopefully my gratuitous inclusion of quotes is also helping you get an idea of the format of the book. This is no narrative, there is no plot. It's closer to an amalgamation of thoughts, and the writing reflects that by stripping down its delivery, leaving out excessive prose. Because of that stripped-down nature, YUM YUM feels very dense with ideas. I've read the book three times now, and I still find new gems each time I pick it up and flip to a random page. In fact, I think the nature of this chapbook encourages a more "dip in and out" approach--if you sit down and read it straight through you'll probably finish it in half an hour, but you won't be able to absorb a quarter of its brilliance. I wonder if the sparse print on each page is Sam's attempt to deal with this possibility--lessen the "words on the page" ratio to make people slow down, to increase the frequency of the pauses for page-flipping that the reader must take. When I first saw YUM YUM I thought it was just an example of un-economic layout (I'm a total cheapskate myself, and I'm about to publish a zine with an average word-to-page ratio of 400 to 1, while YUM YUM is probably closer to 100 to 1), but after spending time with the book, I'm beginning to realize that the openness of the text might be an example of form-following-function.
In the end, all of this analysis is peripheral to the point of the book for me, anyway. YUM YUM I CAN'T WAIT TO DIE is worth reading because it's compelling and disturbing and fun. If you're interested in getting a copy, try following the links at the start of this post, to TTB or Sam Pink's blog. Maybe they've got a few spares lying around. If you like it as much as I did, you might find yourself thinking about it and trying to understand why it works so well, which is what I've been doing for the bulk of this review. Chances are you'll be able to come up with better answers than me, but before you think you've got it all figured out, keep in mind these words from Sam Pink himself:
The message is always the same.
I am not trying to solve anything or help in any way.
The message is always the same.