Everything has potential. Even the worst storm brings new plants into the world, helps clear the air between the sky and ground, and gives people an opportunity to spend a weekend alone. —Beach Sloth
Beach Sloth reviews do not initially appear to be reviews at all, and many people I meet seem perplexed by his style. In comment sections on Facebook and in conversations at readings, people have raised concerns that his style is far too positive and lighthearted for a “serious” reviewer. This confusion is less surprising when compared to the overwhelming number of reviews that rely on a traditional format where the reviewer speaks from a place of authority, bestowing his/her opinion onto the reader as fact. If Beach Sloth reviews are measured according to this standard, then yes – he certainly fails; however, I don’t believe that these are Sloth’s aims.
Instead, Sloth reviews by providing personal reactions to a piece. Often moving chronologically through the work, he provides prompts for further reflection and draws parallels to a multitude of topics outside the work, ultimately creating a new type of review. In the Beach Sloth review, we examine meaning in an adjacent space created from Sloth’s own experience with the piece. He uses humor and playfulness to further separate himself from other reviewers. His writing is poetic, at times conceptual, and often references periods of history. In a recent review of Wolf Doctors by Russ Woods, Sloth writes:
Missed connections rarely happen in the world of Wolf Doctors. Individuals get together all of the time. Whether or not they can clean teeth and provide scrambled eggs really depends on a lot of factors. Yes it is easy to fall for anyone especially in the autumn as a leaf.
As with most reviews, it helps to read both Sloth’s review and the reviewed work. A Sloth review requires special attention because it is less of an analysis of whether or not the work lives up to the literary canon. I believe the reviews are not overly critical because Sloth values everything he reviews. This eliminates critique entirely, and allows Sloth to take more creative freedom with non-fiction writing. New Journalism, a style of writing developed by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote, aimed to infuse creative technique into the non-fiction realm. In “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson,” Tom Wolfe writes:
…and then at this point he puts his right hand up in front of him as if he is groping through fog, and his eyeballs glaze over and he looks out in the distance and he describes Junior Johnson roaring over the ridges of Wilkes County as if it is the ghost of Zapata he is describing, bounding over the Sierras on a white horse to rouse the peasants.
Similar to Wolfe, Sloth consistently utilizes literary methods in his reviews to showcase his own creative and descriptive abilities. Sloth places himself in the center of his review, his experience with the reviewed work propelling the simultaneous connection to the author.
A flattering Sloth review is meatier than his other reviews, illustrating meaningful connections and points for further discussion, referencing everything from pop culture to the Great Lakes. While traditional reviews often do this as well, Sloth’s, toolkit borrows from Conceptualism, Alt Lit, and Flarf poetry. His conclusions stem from the depths of conceptual Internet writing, where seemingly unrelated ideas come together to form a novel idea.
Open minds allow plenty of tidbits of information to come flowing into them. Media saturates everything near them. People consume the media because it costs nothing. Information is free. What is tricky is determining what information has value for a future point in time. —Beach Sloth review of Actual Person by Deanna Havas
Beach Sloth’s blog is the main vehicle for his work, and his site boasts over 550,000 hits. His readership covers 190 countries, and his recognition continues to grow. He has been cited in Brooklyn Vol 1., The Gaurdian, Dazed Magazine, and The Fader. When not writing reviews, Sloth writes his own poetry, which heavily influences his review style. The Yolo Pages reading at Mellow Pages Library showcased Beach Sloth among other writers featured in the anthology including Steve Roggenbuck, Sharon Mesmer, Jacob Bakkila, and others. His creative work has appeared in Spork Press, Electric Literature, Metazen, Reality Hands, and others. I Want to Youtube Down the Rivers of America is Beach Sloth’s first chapbook, with a collection poetry forthcoming this fall.
Sloth’s reviews and creative work maintain a consistent voice, yet Beach Sloth remains anonymous, hiding all identifying details from his readers. If Sloth performs or attends a reading he reveals his physical appearance, but few know his life offline. He has become a persona, a myth. And like Wolfe says of Junior Johnson, Sloth “has followers who need to keep him, symbolically, riding through nighttime like a demon.”
About the Author
Kalliopi Mathios is the author of the chapbook horse girl (Plain Wrap Press 2014). Her writing has appeared in Metazen, Dazed, Keep This Bag Away From Children, and Electric Lit. Kalliopi is the curator of the Blackmail Reading Series. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her on Twitter at @kalliopimathios.