Whoa! Honestly, Rodrigo Toscano’s new book Deck Of Deeds feels to me like the “re-particulated image of his half-decapitated neck holding up a fully decomposed face working its way into my tense.” In other words, I feel made more pixelated and also more devastated by way of moving through it. I feel my mouth (mouth is a site of extreme emphasis in DOD) being altered. Turned sulfuric or turned toward_______.
Cathy Wagner comments that DOD is “an American-values flipbook, or a realism themepark that keeps bubble-nucleating (“Lipids are known to spontaneously form bilayered vesicles in water”) itself in the tax loophole”—this is a very astute comment about the book (“The heart rate spiking, the extremities of her fingers and toes electrifie[d], the eyes popping wide open…nothing makes her feel more alive than having the phrase “Core American Values” toss her around, having “its way” with her, the whole of her being as a plaything for its mad desire”), although what I have to say about DOD is a bit more somatically oriented (“Frontal cranial orgasm” / “recombinatory excess”) and lyrically interested (“Who work for the emerging genre” / “A fucking real poetics, or not?”)…
On the level of body experience I moved through this book with both the feeling of distance from the content that was being performed, as well as the feeling of a deepening proximity to the content that was being performed. I think that this means a couple of things: this book is inclusive and it also operates on its own terms. I read part of its own terms as the desire to torque a reader’s psychic location as they read it.
What is it to be taken into a sort of crass and slanted post-apocalyptic (“The seconds right before the cessation of all sensation”) or mythological zone (“It always did like to play “inter-galactic artist,” right?” / “That he did indeed spring up and give chase to the unicorn with the intention of breaking off his horn” / “The last moment of sanity she remembers is the look of her own short brown hair flared out onto her face in the mirror, sticky and messy, the Pre-Cambrian rock in the middle of the field there also”) as the place of DOD is (“Sometimes this violence scares the baby, but he feels very calm and in command afterward”)? This crass and slanted place is a place of pleasures as well as a place of discomforts. Thick with various cryptolects, the space of the book is quite motley—maybe DOD is a poly-god gloating or gagging (“Ethics have gotten much denser, more padded” / “They’ve almost lost count of how many Poly Gods they’ve prayed to together”)?
I notice many grounding locations (of which the list I include is extremely minor)–strong arms of architecture (in DOD): Museums, Stanford University, “oldest road in this part of central Missouri”, Dubai, Aruba, Denver’s own “Cherry Creek Reservoir.” These feel to me like they accomplish a lot in the book. They are there as contrast to the wild and more ephemeral notions and scenes (“Radiance of one entity transporting another entity into another realm”) that appear regularly in the book. The term dystopian has already been used as a descriptor of DOD, and I think that is because it is a fact of this text which focuses on “fusing “lost” cultural threads into entirely new ways of being.”
Is DOD saying: “I want you to de-codify me”? Or is it “demand[ing] that every breath of it be captured and gifted back to it as ecstatic continuous pleasure”? This matters to me as a reader because I think it affects how I enter the book. Am I meant to gesture or lend myself to resolving some of the socio-cutural and geological prompts that exist within the book? Or is it more likely, that what is intended is that I “either critically evaluate, be disturbed by, or simply enjoy” the work?