Book Review : Jordan Krall - The False Magic Kingdom Cycle (2014)
The sweeping magnitude of American authors' failure to capture the events of 9/11 in any form of pertinent or meaningful fiction has been wildly entertaining over the last fifteen years if you are, like me, into watching spectacular train wrecks. Don DeLillo, Jay McInerney, Jonathan Safran Foer and various other celebrated American voices have met their Waterloo in the shadows of the World Trade Center. Up and coming American author Jordan Krall's collection The False Magic Kingdom Cycle raises an interesting question in that regard: were we doing it wrong all these years? Was it the American people who changed the most after the terrorist attacks or was it the American imaginary?
Fitting The False Magic Kingdom Cycle into a genre or a category is difficult because it doesn't try to be something precise. It's a series of loosely connected, fragmented Ballardian vignettes featuring American people drifting towards their impending doom like blindfolded death row prisoners. I didn't even realized what it was about until Jordan Krall started dropping jet fuel references. Unlike his predecessors, Krall doesn't try to dramatize the events of 9/11 or place the American people on the right side of a moral conundrum. The False Magic Kingdom Cycle doesn't demonize anybody, but takes a cold, hard look at the world we've built and the institutions that are devouring our lives. It shows a sense of perspective I've never experienced before in 9/11 inspired fiction: what if WE were the problem and this had been invevitable all along?
The False Magic Kingdom Cycle is one of the few, proud contemporary books that has a jagged edge to it. Reading it feels dagerous like it was forbidden. Jordan Krall's writing reminded me of these blissful times where I fell asleep in front of the television and woke up to something so gloriously weird I didn't know if I was awake or still asleep. Perhaps my favorite narrative strand was the story of recurring character Barry, who stumbled upon a mysterious store called Hideo Video in a quest to find inspiring entertainment. The store distributes terrorist attacks and civil unrest footage the way YouTube or LiveLeak does. Barry ends up buying an audio recording of city soundscrapes that promise to make him happy. The dreamlike and the mundane mingle in The False Magic Kingdom Cycle and I thought this was one of the most striking example. Barry was my favorite character despite his debilitating impotence because he tried harder than anyone else to break through the blinders of his reality.
Jordan Krall's writing was warmly recommended to me by several trusted source. Reading The False Magic Kingdom Cycle made it clear to me why critical and demanding readers are fond of his work. The scope of Krall's writing can range from intimate to sprawling over a couple hundred words only. His imaginary is dynamic and turbulent, yet he has a deceptive sensibility and a strong comprehension of the human condition. His writing is wild and violent, yet he can never hide the fact that he gives a shit. The False Magic Kingdom Cycle manages to foreshadow an event of massive destruction and echo the loneliness and alienation of that contemporary disease that is the search for fulfillment and happiness. Such an ambitious scope in a such fragmented narrative is quite impressive. Jordan Krall is the real deal, guys.
Patron saint of this blog Chuck Klosterman hypothesized in his latest book But What if We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if it Were the Past that the most important writer from this era is probably a total unknown today and that he may be publishing his writing on the deep web. Jordan Krall is little known and publishes himself through cult indie press Dynatox Ministries, so he's not that far from Klosterman's portrait and the strength of his vision makes me think historical perspective will be kind to him. The False Magic Kingdom Cycle is a powerful, disorienting and wildly authentic portrait to live in a world you've lost confidence in. It's by far the best fiction I've read about the events of 9/11 and I've read quite a bit of what was written. Expect to see more of Jordan Krall material on this site in the future. I'm now a fan.