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Epiphanic Zinger


[Being a review of Krystal Languell’s Call the Catastrophists*]

Personal anecdote followed by utterly shallow pop-culture reference. Sweeping claim of quality. Comparison to artist from another discipline. Description of content, return to pop-culture reference, return to personal anecdote. End of introduction.

Save These Instructions

Three men were not well and one died but not the one I thought would doesn’t matter now another cascade suddenness literally ashes not only is it possible it’s a fact if one dies then my entire family will which is obvious the next time I get a Google alert with my full name it better not be another obituary if so I will need someone to slowly feed me a handful of candy I will be childlike and difficult.

Extreme situational juxtaposition or incongruity followed by specific details then a short anecdote that brings in another voice or character. Rhetorical question or general statement. Return to specificity from beginning, but with modulation. Surprising use of simile or metaphor, disregard secondary characters in favor of meaningful interiority: idea, image, epiphanic zinger.

Labored explication of first line; labored explication of seventh line; eschewal of remainder of quoted poem. Repetition of first line for effect. Transparent attempt to cover up failed attempt at restatement of sweeping claim (cf. introduction): less grand claim, made with more conviction.


* A brief epic and we are in a land of Catastrophes: Hungary, Romania; missing Indiana. We’re swallowed in a language

She Doesn’t Understand

A neighbor across the courtyard threw a jar of tomatoes at guests leaving our apartment because locals are day drinkers on their national holidays they don’t like to stay up late in the morning Colin asked me to interpret the last time I was delighted by helping a man doors opened housewives scolded in French as well as if my Nem ertem meant I don’t see the problem rather than I don’t know the words you are using.

It’s interesting to explore the intricacies of this language, we think. There is novelty. Surprise. Horror, too; shadings our own language seems incapable of: “A process occurs when you give up your language and start calling things by new names but there’s not a term for how new phrases infiltrate your reflex it starts with gutturals and when you try to give it up try to back out the primal language dialects but you will understand shouts of surprise from the last place to wipe clean.” But by this point we have crossed the border of Catastrophes into Salvage. What are we making? We end the book with Continuum; those Instructions? They’re here. Not at the end– there’s air there, the lines lose their tangle and possibly some syntax is repaired. (“I understand; sometimes I’m at the zoo, and I am the zoo.”) But close to the end, where they might do some good. Here’s the end:

You’ll want to think the end isn’t your fault. Get organized. Go for a hike. Start a non-profit.

I don’t do that kind of thing, but I’m not the one who wants to live forever.

2 thoughts on “Epiphanic Zinger

    1. Nick: judging from the intersections of our interests, I would agree — you do. There seems to be a lot of focus on how fun the book is (it is), but I think that Languell has something pretty interesting to say about language, too.

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