Someone just punched me in the gut. His name is Phil Jourdan and the punch was delivered via his collection, What Precision, Such Restraint. His story, “Behold the Antique Show (Vomit as a Talent)” is perhaps the most disturbingly vivid parable for writing I have read. Of course, like most parables, I see what I want. In this case, our heroine struggles with bulimia, puking out food after every meal. Soon, her barf takes on a special nature as a beautiful pocket watch with a golden chain spews out.“And so there followed a semi-regular stream of such rare and antiquated items… A wedding ring. An emerald necklace.” The vomiting becomes an obsession as she looks forward to the new treasures that will emerge. Two problems mar the situation. First, she starts to lose weight at an alarming rate. Second, the treasures turn into useless keys. While I wouldn’t call the stories in the collection barf, nor would I in any sense want to make light of bulimia as a disorder by comparing it to literary efforts, the mystical nature of the imagery stunned me and reminded me of the stories in the collection. Phil Jourdan is regurgitating his life and each of the stories emerges from within his throat, covered with guts, chorizo, and a lot of noirish grime. There is a boldness in the language, an enthralling engagement that dares you to read more. The ideas are wild, as in the “punctuation police” from the story “Punctuation” who are “giant insectoids with human voices and inhuman gurgles” or a fascinating discussion at a conference about flies: “The fly is the martyr, the sufferer, the dog of animals… Of all the great poets, I believe only Blake ever managed to capture something of the condescension with which we address the Other that is the fly.”
“If the problem is that, through verbalization of my desires, the unconscious loses its power, maybe I need to find a way to remove language from the equation altogether, right?” Freudhacking is the subject of “That Lombardi Thing,” and it involves flipping the subconscious with the conscious persona. But this brings to question, what exactly is the subconscious if not an artificial construct of the mind theorized by Freud to explain inexplicable phenomenon. “Is the unconscious a structurally necessary part of the mind? Is it there from the start? Is it something you can get rid of? What’s in the f-c-ing unconscious, you know?” Simple questions that compel uncomfortable answers or even more disturbing- uncomfortable silences. Told in second person, this story details Lombardi’s quest to successfully undergo Freudhacking and the implications of what happens if someone actually succeeds in disconnecting language from reality.
“Ex Libris” is a brief tale about romance and love. Personalities are symbolized through differing sets of books. It’s a wrestling match played out between libraries of lovers as they merge, clash, then schism apart. In the same way, don’t be surprised if that’s a reaction to many of the stories contained within. Jourdan comfortably juggles myths and literary classics with powerful prose. “How to accept seeing my books next to hers, or between hers, or on top of hers, or open and lying next to hers, or in between her pretty little hands? What if she noticed my inscriptions, my underlinings, and began to understand what had shaped me, the things I had found worthy of my time, the aphorisms worth circling in case someday their wisdom might come in handy? What if she somehow managed to piece me together simply by knowing what I’d read…”
Now please excuse me while I go barf all over What Precision, Such Restraint.