A Review of “Editorial” by Arthur Graham

Spencer Dew

This self-published book of prose is all over the place, veering through time and space out into flights of sci-fi and fantasy, with shape-shifting characters, a recurring self-reflexivity about narrative and editing and fiction and lies, and a bulging bag of so-called postmodernist tricks, some of which seem designed like knock-off versions of the name brands Kurt Vonnegut and William S. Burroughs. There’s a little Dr. Strangelove in here as well a bit of chemically-filtered Michael Crichton fragments–the U.S. government loads up into a post-nuclear ark, in the far-flung future a virus eats all materials on which writing might be preserved. There’s no small amount of attention to alcoholism, which may or may not hold larger, metaphorical meanings, and there are statements, amidst the cartoons and comic anecdotes about masturbation, such as “The lies of the author are thus supplanted by the lies of the editor, which somehow results in the conveyance of truth, or a kind of it anyway….” The ellipses are original, as are quite a lot of chains of Xs marking the text as censored in some way.

Consider this example of biographical, historical writing:  “XXXX XXXXXXXX was born to XXXXXX and XXX XXXXXXXX on XXX XXth, 19XX CE in…,” etc. Graham is interested in how all language use is paraphrase, how all acts of memory are instances of editing.

‘Historian’ (or in this case, ‘biographer’) is the name given to the individual charged with plumbing the depths of time, taking each notable occurrence and describing it with the appropriate level of detail, context, and (perhaps most importantly) speculation…. The true fullness of history is invariably reduced to a flat, empty point on a timeline (or a chapter in a book) where it remains–dead, static–until the next brave soul dares to descend into its turbulent depths.”

Editorial brings no real new perspective to such considerations, however. Stories rather predictably turn out to be “not what you expected,” even if the predictable, in most cases, is boilerplate absurdity. Scenes are written and edited as they unfold (or explode), with various authorial or editorial presences playing first person protagonist, etc., which is, precisely, what you would expect.

Oscillating between “more pedestrian–more printable” bits of rehashed class notes on various waves of navel-gazing and attempts at associative pyrotechnics that do little more than fizzle (“your catfucking mother with reptammary glands suckling frogs and pigs alike in a bucket of nuclear war winter time in Reno Nevada has never been so hot girls in school on paper…”), the 136 tedious pages of Editorial will likely strike its readers as–to quote one of its autobiographically plumbing voices–“self indulgent in retrospect.”

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