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Monday, May 13, 2019

Talk Like Jazz (Autobiography)

By Joseph Cooper

Publisher: Weasel Press (March 18th, 2019)

Softcover, 268 pages 


“Because I visit the Remedial Center, I automatically equate my attendance there with stupidity. Hey you stupid stuttering faggot a jock says before pushing me into a locker. Another knocks books out of my hands. Girls cover the laughter in their mouths. It never before occurs to be that I might be stupid or even what stupid means. Only now that I have to speak more slowly thinking intensely of every word I speak and how I intend on speaking it I cannot help but question my intelligence. I only know that for the first time instead of being anonymous or invisible I’m an outsider. See you after class fuckhead another jock shouts. I collect my books and turn the knob hearing fractals of sound collide with silence.”
This is collection of vignettes from the author’s life. The title refers to his lifelong struggle with stuttering, a theme which dominates the text, spiced up with various sexual material. Like many people with similar afflictions he channels his frustrations and humiliations into his artistic endeavors.
Author Joseph Cooper
          In a sense, this book is a typical coming-of-age story of a young boy growing up in a savage town. What sets it apart is the episodic manner that the story parcels out the story. It gently leads you through his various stages of life - from naive early age, to the slap-in-the-face realization that he is different, to the irrational shame one feels in adolescence, to him embracing his differences- all the while still doing all the stupid shit a young man gets up to.
The style is “grammatically light”. The author, known mostly for writing poetry before this autobiography, eschews all apostrophes, commas, quotation marks etc. If you’re one of those anal retentive types that flips out over every misplaced comma you might wish to spare yourself some aggravation. The use of periods means that the disorientation is only mild, a slight bout of linguistic vertigo, rather than a full blow attack as you have with McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, where the lack normal grammar creates a surreal mental landscape.  It reminds of me more of Raymond Federman’s casual conversation style as in Double or Nothing or Smiles on Washington Square.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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