November 7th, 2011

Noo Journal

Rave review of Amazing Adult Fantasy
Jonah Vorspan-Stein

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AD JAMESON’S Amazing Adult Fantasy opens with a brief indictment: “Fiction may be the worst thing about the 21st century.” The stories that follow—fabled, sardonic, sharp—venture to strip fiction of its conventions, substituting in their place a new narrative logic: one that brandishes an acute playfulness and grandiose sentiment, one of mustachios and infatuation, the most mature kind of absurdity. These are stories about obsessions and deficiencies, about people who glare every bit of themselves, who feel the world on its largest scales. In these stories, astronaut Buzz Aldwin falls into the bad graces of NASA, a girl shares her various and mutually exclusive truths about Oscar the Grouch, and Bronx monkeys devote themselves to preserving earth’s aurora borealis. While these are certainly stories of insistent and shifting forms, they are also stories that always endeavor to a literary beauty.


Perhaps the most impressive condition of Jameson’s writing is the fundamental inseparability of language from story. Sentences echo sentiment throughout a wide range of narrative forms. In “Indian Jones,” the narrator manically spouts examples divulging a romanticism of the title character. The language, in mirroring the form, is hilariously, hyperbolically chatty: “Lavished in courtyard sunlight, secure in the company of his dog and his many statues, Indian Jones is God.”


In another, equally funny story, “Rock Albany!” frames its protagonist in more sympathetic, modest terms, and the language flourishes with occasional moments of lyricism: “About his head, the windswept melons chattered, and Rock knew that, rather than standing in a grove, he was perched on a cliff, below which glistened his beautiful new life.” In both stories language is the engine by which the narrative is driven. Both stories contain sentences that made me put a hand in my pants, but when I did so it was never with that individual sentence in mind. Instead it was with the amalgam of sentences like it that animated the writing.


There are several things new about this book. Not the least evident of which is that these stories are at the same time fables and experimentally contemporary. There is a timeless quality to fables, a feeling that the emotional journey of the story will endure outside its characters, its author. It is the tendency of fables to not exist specifically in time or place and to avoid dropping fully into scene, presumably so as not to use inventory that grounds the story, which could thus confine it. AD Jameson breaks firmly from this convention. The stories here are hip and unambiguous, with shuttlecrafts, bootleg DVDs, and iconic character names. They are undeniably of a time: today’s. Still, the narratives are so grand that they seem to rise above the characters and settings that harbor them.


It is this coexistence that gives birth to an entire style, featured occasionally here, wherein the story is presented as a cinematic synopsis of events. In a tone consistent with much of the book, Jameson delivers several marvelous and theatrical stories, but he delivers them with an even and at times deadpan attention to the simple facts of plot, as would a retelling of a movie or television show. There are stories where this style is explicit, and others where it is slight. In “Ota Benga Episode Guide: Season 3,” Jameson tells a story by simply summarizing twenty episodes of a fictitious television show. Another story features seven reviews of invented movies. In this style, Jameson manages to combine a grand or timeless narrative with a self-referential humor. These stories bring out the hilarity of melodrama. By delivering events evenly, Jameson juxtaposes the conventions of commercial cinema with those of literary fiction. He makes fables out of satire, inventive stories out of honed, pitch-perfect wit. Conscious of its heritage and its time, of Barthelme, Edson, Bernheimer, and Bradley Sands, here are some of the most hilarious and imaginative stories in my recent memory.


[The above article was originally published in Noo Journal.]