TO BE TO IS TO WAS by Stephen C. Bird

TO BE TO IS TO WAS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection offers satirical short stories set in a fictional land.

Bird (Catastrophically Consequential, 2012) conjures a wildly farcical cosmos that bears just enough resemblance to this one to be evocatively familiar, a place he calls Amourrica Profunda. He chronicles the peculiar but often endearing searches his protagonists conduct for love and purpose. In 1978, after graduating from Mrs. Scheissbook’s School for Fascist Piggies, Sunnie Deelite travels into the Western Desert Region, a gay man afraid to be labeled “a queen, a nelly, a pansy, a screamer.” Despite meeting friends who introduce him to libertine sexual experimentation, he only finds the “wreckage of the squandered opportunities of a lost soul.” Isabella Gloucester—raised in Miasma Falls, Puta Jork—desperately wants to be loved but finds herself trapped instead in a meaningless tryst with Flim Philanderer, who is only “in it for the sex.” Isabella finally leaves Flim and reunites with “bellicose bad boy” Bobby Chooshingoorah, and the pair forms a popular musical act. But Bobby continues to pressure her into making “ghoulish sex tapes for the red states”—he eventually leaves Isabella over her refusal—and she dedicates herself single-mindedly and ashamedly to the advancement of her career. The author also leaps into the future—to 5950—and prophesies the decline of Amourrica Profunda, ruined by “Evilangelists” as ignorant as they are unyieldingly dogmatic. Bird’s eccentric, impressionistic tales sometimes interlock but not meaningfully enough for the assemblage to constitute a coherent narrative whole—the twine that ties the eclectic stories together is the backdrop of Amourrica Profunda. The author’s writing is reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s—he skillfully constructs a counterfeit world designed to deliver a hyperbolic parody of this one, both a caricature and a mirror. But Bird’s characters feel like fictional symbols and lack the fleshy depth of Vonnegut’s creations. In addition, Bird’s lampoons begin to take on the shape of didactic, knowing scolds, one of the principal dangers of satirical works. The book ends with reproductions of the author’s visual art, which is striking. 

Highly inventive but excessively moralizing tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-692-06946-2
Page count: 206pp
Publisher: BookBaby
Program: Kirkus Indie
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