The Puppet Wedding
Smiling Mind Documents
Unpaginated (11 pages of text, ~32 lines per page)
50 pamphlets printed and distributed by author
Reviewed by Clara B. Jones
“I’m drawn to subversions of compositional requisites or genre.” J. Gordon Faylor (2014)
I suspect that readers will agree that some writers’ works are so stimulating and singular that the impulse to share them with others cannot be suppressed. J. Gordon Faylor (photograph—publisher and editor of the experimental literature house, GaussPDF) is, for me, one of those writers. In a previous review, I wrote that his novel, Registration Caspar (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016), “is an extreme and extremely compelling tour de force of experimental literature in the tradition of ‘associative’ (and ‘collage’) writing and, possibly, long-form (‘epic’) poetry.” The Puppet Wedding, like Caspar, is a “transrational experiment” (Viktor Shklovsky), fulfilling Marjorie Perloff’s description of collage poetry whereby “each element in the collage has a kind of double function: it refers to an external reality even as its compositional thrust is to undercut the very referentiality it seems to assert.”
Collage writing, then, is a “mode of juxtaposition” or admixture of elements, often using words, phrases, sentences independently—not necessarily following logically from each other and not necessarily meaningful in any normal or expected sense as relations or whole compositions. Related to this, a- or anti-logical elements may surround sensible elements (“They’re not devoid of dependency, no matter how you’d/get that in your head? Leave it to the realist to succeed.”) These conventions remind one of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s formulation, “language games,” yielding writing that does not require context or proper grammar for meaning (“The ideal likeness is actually quite a few critical/projects and works by that likeness.”)
The Puppet Wedding is, ostensibly, the story of two “pups,” Pint and Brindy, characterized, like the text, itself, as non-binary and fluid. Like many experimental works, words, some with double meanings (e.g., “puppet,” “gnat”), are repeated throughout the composition, creating referential integration and unity for the composition as a whole—in relation to fragments or parts chosen intentionally though, more or less, standing on their own.
“I knew, Brindy, I knew that the funny
thing about forgiveness
is that it’s only half me. We have to investigate our emotions
together. I don’t feel too detached from the
question of sloughing though posed that’s yours.”
Like the best collage poetry, upon first reading, a group of lines, or, even, a whole stanza, seem to cohere and to make sense; though, upon further reflection, don’t make formal [operational] sense at all. As advanced by postmodernists, the reader is in control of interpretation, and I spent a fair amount of time attempting to figure out who the poem’s narrator might be. Ultimately, I settled on the idea that they were the puppet-teer, an entity whose boundaries sometimes intersect with those of Pint and Brindy, a kind of “doubling” whereby the human (?) puppet-master’s anxieties and neuroses are projected onto inanimate, though, animated and “defamiliarized” dolls (“Theirs, that’s doubling/rule by perceiver independence…putatively gnatlike and transitory…,” “They look exactly like our kids…”). Throughout the text, Faylor provides direct and implied references to psychological (“perception-dependence”), including, Freudian (“sublimation,” “latent reality”) processes, suggesting to me that all of our actions (behavior, motor patterns) are symptoms of our divided selves. Like puppets and puppet-teers, we are never in control (“perceiving gnats’ and humans’ tendencies alike,” “I can’t give up our sensory-motorized world,” “pinched nerve after nerve by my conks”).
the reality which’ll play subtexter to your
sensory-motor system sans permission, slivers
rife with stimuli inert non-occult artifacts
for growing decrepitude.”
“Not a single living person can
deny their ground state breaking symmetrically
with the pups’ perceptive state, rooted in our memories
of childhood, of little kids playing people.”
In The Puppet Wedding and in Caspar, Faylor, demonstrates that he writes books to explore moral themes. In the pamphlet under review, puppets, as well as, their master, exist in a world that makes little sense. Though the puppet-teer’s milieu may be existential, they reach out to inform the reader that their identity is not one-dimensional: “I get to speak at weddings once a year.”—possibly a cri de coeur. In one of the few passages of the text that clearly advances a “message,” Faylor writes:
the foremost concussion of our world, your
world-puppet—human against human—
the subsumption of money to truth,
not only perturbs that lacking is me.”
These words may represent a moment of clarity for the puppet-teer, though they rapidly return to a world that is strange and difficult to make sense of. However, rather than conclude that The Puppet Wedding bears a nihilistic message or characterizes the future as hopeless, I prefer to think that I have been reminded by this complex and important composition that I must write my own future. I look forward to J. Gordon Faylor’s future work and other opportunities to perceive, in novel ways, experiences that may have become all too routine.
Clara B. Jones is a Knowledge Worker practicing in Silver Spring, MD (USA). Among other works, she is author of Poems For Rachel Dolezal, published in 2019 by GaussPDF.