about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.

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48 Pornos
A Review of 48 Pornos
by Tyler Gobble

Spencer Dew

The pitch as genre, with that fire of urgency. The elevator speech: “Get this,” these stories begin.

Or flashes, to use the contemporary term, micro-narratives reduced to the sharpest iceberg tip. From story down to joke, just setup and twist.

Yet the absurdity here pushed beyond humor. One piece, in full: “Get this: A naked tranny on a train surrounded by owls.”

The absurdity is inherent, perhaps, in the tradition of the flash, a fragment of the oneiric. Get this: Kafka looks out at the street.

But the absurdity is also essential—or so Gobble shows us, in something one might even say resembles a concerted argument of this book—to pornography. Pornography is at once shorthand for that which is solely functional and, in the present moment, a proliferation, more than industry, of images. You start to masturbate, say, and then you click and click and click. The vagaries of desire, manifested in measurable form via engagement with technology: you want something, and this is not quite that, and there is always the promise of more, more. Gobble fingers an emptiness: “Get this: A milf rubs two dildos together and nothing happens. The video lasts for over an hour.”

Another precedent to this form, this logic-that-defies logic: the koan. Language used to, for the novice, express suspicion of language and, for the more advanced, to rupture language altogether. Push on through. “Get this: Two guys are in the front yard, taking turns on the slip-n-slide. They start fucking, until nothing is left. No slip-n-slide, no ground, no water, no two friends on a nice day.”

Ultimately even the moon disappears, and the sex is forgotten. Pornography here is a focus for meditative activity, a tool for transcendence. More predictable elements are here, digs and critiques, deflations of expectations and gestures toward politics, economics.

But when this short book is at its best—and it has many such moments—the walls of the conceptual, the real, collapse, and we are left with something else: with a gazelle costume, with copulating clouds, with Santa Claus, then with nothing. The orgy is no longer an orgy, and from the simplest of repetitive motions, the basest of needs, the most biological of functions, we are given a glimpse of transcendence.

Get this: a gateway opens. Satori. “Everyone and everything is consensual of course.”

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