Welcome to my micro-interview series, which focuses on recent releases I’ve found noteworthy. Past entries are archived here.
In this series I’m asking writers to respond to the two questions I most frequently ask when I’m teaching a book in the classroom: (1) what is the text doing / how is the text doing it, and (2) with what does the text connect?
These questions arise from my particular approach to reading and critical analysis, which is deeply indebted to Deleuze & Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. As they put it, “Literature is an assemblage…a book itself is a little machine…writing has nothing to do with signifying…it has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come.”
So, without further delay…
I present Gina Abelkop, whose recent book I Eat Cannibals has been described thusly:
“In I Eat Cannibals, the spacey-smart, anxious-bold, seriously funny speaker plays every possible role—zoo animal, redhead, pioneer, corset, priest—opposite women who are crushes, heroines and BFFs. The poems channel like mediums at seances, and they time-travel (though admittedly mostly just to shop), drawing Dickinson and Sharon Tate into a contemporary world of “spiritually iridescent horror” where the dominant mode of being is Complicit. “For what I’ve done / I’m sorry,” Abelkop writes, “I do it / every day.” Readers of this work are glad she does.”
—Arielle Greenberg, author of My Kafka Century and co-editor of Gurlesque
What does your book do and how does your book do it?
I Eat Cannibals works as an attempt at currently available time travel techniques, an unhuman survival guide, an ode to the powers of new wave dance songs, and a prayer book for Grass Valley/the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas/the Yuba River.
Looking at the cassowary is one way the book works as time travel; the cassowary as barely extant modern dinosaur, caught in the fuzzy temporal space between millions of years ago and now. To really see the cassowary is to see a short form history of the world, particularly if the cassowary you see is behind bars, as the one I saw was. Looking at the stars is another kind of time travel- when I lived in the foothills time and space were mostly measured by the Yuba River, where I felt more at home than I’ve ever felt anywhere, and the stars in the sky, which were brighter and more clear than anywhere I’d ever lived before. Attaching my heart to the land in the foothills offered me a brand new way to think about the world’s generosity as divorced from commerce and instead driven by the pleasure and freedom of immersing my entire body in the blue-green clear water of the Yuba, then warming it in the sun, and so on and on.
My ode to the life-saving properties of new wave dance tunes appears in this book through the final section, “Dora Sharlock Presents: Ladies of the ’80s.” In this section Dora, an 1880s dance hall girl recently settled in the western part of the United States, finds herself having auditory hallucinations of new wave songs of the 1980s when she dances at the saloons in her town. She interprets these sounds and songs as ballads for her fellow dance hall girls, who all live together in a pre- lesbian-feminist lesbian-feminist communal home, and her girlfriend, Annabella (named after Bow Wow Wow’s Annabella Lwin). Imagine hearing the sounds of synths and drum machines in your hear without any other context- whoa. Dora is also trying to figure out what it means to have ownership over (stolen) land and live and love on this “new,” lawless land.
I don’t yet know how to live with the great horrors and beauties of this world, do you? I Eat Cannibals as a whole is an in-progress journal of learning to live in the body you have and to transform your body to meet the huge range of experiences it is required to live through and in.
Having identified your book’s comportment, could you bring it into focus by describing its relationship to other texts? (By “texts” I mean any relatable objects.) Put another way: if we think about a book as a star in a constellation, or a node in a circuit, I’m interested in hearing about the constellation or circuit in which readers might find your book. Put yet another way: if we think about your book as contributing to particular conversations, could you describe those conversations and their other participants?
Here is the rather long list of film/art/music/literary/etc
Gina Abelkop is the author of i eat cannibals (co.im.press, 2014), darling beastlettes (apostrophe books, 2012) & trollops in love (dancing girl press 2011); founder/editor of birds of lace, a feminist press. curator of the interview series YOU MAKE ME FEEL at Entropy. she tumblrs things that make her happy over here. twittering happens here. she co-edited prayers for children. and she can be reached by email here.