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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Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me
A Review of Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me
by Elizabeth Mikesch

Spencer Dew

“We apply abroad to teach the English language,” reads a sentence here, innocent enough, innocuous, under-the-radar even, at least for what it really is, for what each and every sentence in this stunning little collection is, which is what Cezanne’s planes were, his plates and table-tops, tilted, visioned in a new way. The English language, in these pages, has been manicured and curated, curious snippets culled, freaky phrases framed. But don’t take my words for it. “I am subletting from a go-getter,” or “You shook snow,” or “I came out a debutante,” all ring with some fresh thing, perspective shifted, foreground leaning. They’re so shiny, you want to collect them all: “Here came the casseroles” or “I did not believe the answer keys” or “The women there are spindly, thickly liquored.” “I view ways how to frame shots,” a voice says, if that’s the way to say it—in any case, the words are here, irrefutable.

But Mikesch isn’t just an ear for whatever’s clever. The work here pushes deeper, challenging hardwired intuition (“I enjoy his vagina”) and reveling in disorientation that at first blush codes as just shy of babble but, upon consideration, is as straightforward as an olive pit:

Í commissioned a tattoo of the perdurable look on my face, a portraiture line for line, which most tsked. This lasted until my third sojourn. I wore a bandage to cover the hole where my ink used to lie. It grew into my skin. I itched out the dressing and a cream came forward. Now I drink punch.

There’s a followable narrative there, solid as it is streamlined and greased. A pig with lipstick: why didn’t I think of that first? Domestic drama between a couple plays out like this, for instance: “The continental and obligatory morning meal pecked at for reasons of inclusion” and then “He hangs from her rearview, pollutes conversations, if this is what they could be called, to concern in chief, their quote telepathy unquote or the mega meaning of the two of them fighting and fucking like the rest of us sore of gum occasional smokers.” Niceties is a mixtape of earworms, extended play length. This stuff is amazing.

And the range! “He says I want to hear a foomp when those panties drop” all the way to “It was the horror of summer, its cursive hours.” From “I aim for inducing sneezing to stick a digit in twinky sphincters” to “The eggs boil, keep company” to—in the context of sex, no less—“I used his butter up.” There are little unexpected orgasms on behalf of the text, too, as if crept up on the speaker the sheer wild delight of what’s getting said: “Ah! Dwell, dwelled, dwelt.” This is such raw pleasure, these pages.

Official Calamari Press Web Site

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