Book Review : Sean Kilpatrick - Sucker June (2015)
* Audience choice for February *
I loved him, I really did - that led us into this corporate nightmare of being unified.
Sean Kilpatrick is English language's premier terrorist of the imagination. I've been a fan of his since I've discovered his movie reviews a couple years ago. His work is awesome, but it's somewhat like absinthe: you need a strong taste for adventure to appreciate it. I do have that taste, so I didn't balk when you guys chose Kilpatrick's Sucker June for me to review this month. Unlike for last month's choice, I was actually looking forward to it. And guess what? That nasty little tome delivered. There is no coherent review of Sucker June available on the internet right now, so I'll try my best to break it down. Long story short, it's the equivalent of a hyperviolent, subtitled Eastern European cult movie that you're not sure you've understood when it's over. Does that make sense?
The plot of Sucker June goes as follows: an unfortunately married woman is having a lot of rough, graphic sex with whoever isn't her husband. And I mean, she is FUCKING like her life depended on it. There's a violent desperation with how she abandons herself to complete strangers. Now, why would a woman treat her life choices with such overpowering disrespect? Good question. In fact, it's the very question Sean Kilpatrick wanted to answer when he decided to write this book. So, after a while, Sucker June starting exploring the past of this unnamed woman (probably named June now that I think of it) and it starts getting ugly. Quite ugly, even by Kilpatrick's standards of literary hostility. What Sucker June doesn't pack in its prose, it delivers in emotional violence.
So, the first thing Sucker June reminded me of is Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac movies. I suppose it is why there's a naked, lustful-looking woman on the cover. The main theme of Sean Kilpatrick's book is desire and Sucker June is an attempt of de-fetishizing it. Conventionally, desire is portrayed as something you should follow, like the voice of your inner self guiding you towards happiness. What you want, in conventional storytelling, is almost always what's best for you. Kilpatrick has a thing or two to say about that. Desire, in Sucker June, is a source of destruction. It pulverizes the protagonist's marriage, breaks her body and keeps her prisoner of traumatic events. Her problem is that the alternative she has isn't going to save her either. June - for lack of a better name - has to choose between consuming herself and living a life that isn't hers and the former is a no-brainer for her.
I want to prove the world is flat. My absenteeism is symptomatic of my being there. I miss not having been born yet. I trip over the moon to shave my legs. Who speaks evil of tampons? Toxic for one's perch. Tho who try to ignore me jerk themselves into hospitals.
Let's talk about Sean Kilpatrick's use of language in Sucker June, for a moment. It's always been one of his principal calling cards. His prose isn't as cutthroat and corrosive as it is in Anatomy Courses, which he co-authored with perennial favorite of mine Blake Butler, but it's not anything close to normal anyway. Kilpatrick toned it down noticeably because he had a rather multifaceted story to tell, which I believe is a first for him. Still, the best way I can describe the experience of reading him is to discover a makeshift language built from the words that usually constitute English. It's dissonant, sometimes confusing and oddly powerful. I've compared the experience of reading Sean Kilpatrick to listening to late-era John Cage before and I still stand by it. It's not for everyone. It will be noise to some of you.
I've gotten a major kick out of Sucker June. It's raw, filthy, offensive and operates within its own set of rules. I have a strong taste for provocative stories, so don't take my word for gold here and browse the site for other reviews before buying this book because it might offend both your morals and your artistic sensibilities. Sean Kilpatrick is a destroyer of narrative paradigms. His role is to break conventional storytelling into pieces and create new and exciting possibilities from their corpses. His work is not life-affirming or inspiring in the traditional sense of the term. It's the literary equivalent to industrial music. There's a freedom and a vision to it that not many works of art can brag of having. Reading Sucker June is like playing Lars Von Trier movies backwards to a soundtrack of Throbbing Gristle. It's alluring, provocative and you just have to deal with it.