Saved by the Dead
Liquid Light Press, 2018
$12.00, 50 pages
Although surviving members of the Grateful Dead have formed bands under other names over the years (Other Ones, The Dead, Further), when Jerry Garcia died in 1995, the band broke up and the phenomenon of the endless jamming tours for which they were famous effectively came to an end. So it’s been more than a generation since they ceased to be a music group. Reviving the memory of the Grateful Dead, Robert Cooperman’s Saved by the Dead is a lovesong to more than the band, but to the fleeting nature of youth as well, his own.
In several of these poems, the narrator encounters kids who weren’t even alive when the Grateful Dead were around and reacts to their bemused expressions. In “Never Trust Anyone Younger Than Thirty” (a play on that old Yippie slogan, never trust anyone over thirty), a bank teller reacts to Cooperman’s look of dismay when she reveals she hasn’t a clue who Jerry Garcia is. “‘Oh yeah,’ she’s trying / to placate a good customer now. / ‘I should’ve known that.’” In “Music at the Dentist’s Office,” it’s a young assistant who says, “Who are they?” when Cooperman requests Grateful Dead music to accompany his dental surgery. But at a copy shop in “The Jerry Garcia T-Shirt” another kid sees the t-shirt Cooperman is wearing…
Welcome to The Monkey House
By Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Delacorte Press, 1968
In this little collection of short stories Vonnegut tries to show that it is possible for a people to develop an elaborate technology while remaining basically stupid, corrupt, or both. Technology, in fact, often seems to strike us dumb—and I take that to be one of the central theses of Vonnegut’s book, as well as of McLuhanism. When Vonnegut anthropomorphizes a computer, as in “Epicac” (1950), he suggests that technology sometimes develops according to its own whims, its own laws, its own somewhat obscure logic, and in the end we who consume technology may find ourselves wishing to follow the heroes of “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” to jail, preferably to be placed in solitary confinement.
The smog-breathing inhabitants of Los Angeles—if you asked them—would say that they ultimately will prevail in their struggle against dirty air by finding scientific means of controlling auto-exhaust emissions, an approach that seems destined to fail simply by virtue of the fact that automobiles proliferate at a rate that vastly exceeds our ability to control their output of poison…
Hunger and Hallelujahs
by Philip Elliott
Fiction, Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018
$10.00 (Canadian), 22 pages
The unnamed Irish girl at the heart of the nine flash fictions that make up Philip Elliott’s prizewinning chapbook, Hunger and Hallelujahs, is, as the title suggests, on a quasi-religious quest of self-discovery as she wanders across the United States, a junkie mendicant in search of her soul. In some ways she seems like one of the nihilistic 1980’s/1990’s party girls that Jay McInerney chronicled in fiction, only she’s grittier, more self-reliant, more on a mission. “We’re all just waiting for our moment to redeem ourselves,” she observes at the conclusion of “Cocaine and Karaoke,” after she and another random character dump the dead body of a person they’d been trying to rush to a hospital.
Each of the nine stories is like a flashbulb of illumination, in the manner of flash fiction, but the series also forms a very loose narrative. When we first meet the protagonist, she is hitchhiking in an Alabama rainstorm, having been dumped by her previous ride for refusing to give the driver a blowjob. “Saviours don’t come out of the rain,” she observes, to start the story, our first introduction to her. She is picked up by a Bible-thumping ex-con who is just out of prison, going home to his true love, a woman called Darlene. We learn that her vague plan is to go out to Hollywood and become a star, but mainly she is driven by…