Green Integer ($12.95)
by Michael Price
Paraphrasing Frank O'Hara, the poet Ted Berrigan said "works of art that are not very amusing are usually not very amusing because they are not any good." He goes on to say that "amusing" does not mean funny, but rather something that "turns your muses on. That it makes you respond to it. Your muses respond to its muses—it is amusing to read a poem like 'Kaddish,' for example, which is about a rather gruesome subject matter. It's amusing in that it's beautiful, it's wonderful, it's gorgeous, it's touching. It's also horrifying, it's scary, it's vulgar. It's shocking."
My reasoning for this extensive quotation is to call attention to Michael Disend's primordial sutra-novel of 1969, Stomping the Goyim, recently reissued by Green Integer. Disend's prose works so very deftly at amusing, touching, and horrifying, all the while managing to be beautiful, wonderful, and totally original. This is possible because it is a book of truth—not in the sense of "not false" but rather as a force of purity, a work capable of returning the nonexistent to existence, so that what is gone comes back. To try and approach it with the standard academic crash test goggles is to miss the subtlety of wisdom beneath its unrelenting record of the post-psychedelic fallout, replete with draft dodge, poly-sexual revolt, and poetic beauty. Disend acknowledges and embraces the dichotomies: "Bad self can be assuaged. There is a path. Bad self is what this book is about.... But changes keep us dancing. Love has so many possibilities."
Like Kerouac's novels, Stomping the Goyim is a work of poetic fiction. Disend's prose, with its sure handling of wit and ironic dialogue, moves muscularly across the battlefields of a country ravaged by spiritual war on all fronts. No one is spared: Jew, Goy, Wop, Homo, Bimbo, Nigger, Honkey—all make their appearance in the book's depiction of a dark and trembling time.
Liz the localized troll did well: hooded her face and wept until, led by an irate, ring-tailed Arthur Ogle, my congregation reeled in from the living room. And they stood there, staring, captivated by Liz's dyke haircut, the tears. More—they gazed quivering, they leered blasphemously. A character delineation occurred. A paralysis in cotton panties. As the Bihders knew the menace of the Spoddy circle, we saw their teeth melt in the thrashing energy of dope . . .
Organized Bihder religion: a horde of women thrusting themselves upon the universal cock.
"I LIKE TO BITE!"
Although some readers may be tempted to write off such original and seemingly difficult prose as a mere cut-up of the stream of consciousness, what is actually at work here is a flexible, open receptivity, a direct feed from the absolute CREATIVE. There is a non-conscious sensitivity here that must not be missed: for it fails not to amuse in every sense of the word.
Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2003 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2003