Smile Politely

Mysterious local author Q. Synopsis piques interest with Objects Everyday

Upon finishing this intriguing, short, collection of short fiction, I was left with not only unimaginable imagery but plenty of thought-provoking themes that I continue to mull even weeks later. There’s not a lot new about the concept of what we own beginning to own us — that thought can be traced back to the ascetics who began practicing the day after someone invented stuff — it’s the way Synopsis says it that grabbed me and made me look at everyday objects in a new light.

Or maybe it was the light itself creating those thoughts in me, as the book may assert. The basic concept of these interconnected stories is that the inanimate items you own actually have animus, their sentient wills allowing them to manipulate you physically. It is never revealed whether this is a new phenomenon, this awakening, or if our tools and utensils have been biding time until the world was ready to be taken over. Maybe they needed to get the jump on the Singularity, or maybe something we did created the correct conditions for this to suddenly happen. However it happened, within fewer than twenty micro-fictions, the objects go from playing us to hunting us, and along the way we hopefully learn a few severe lessons.

He had me at “[this page has been intentionally left blank]”, the first leaf of the book. Not only does it grammatically correct the standard phrase “this page intentionally left blank”, but this particular oxymoron has long amused me. It’s compounded by being a pun, as the left page is written on and the right page is blank. This running gag carries through the entire book, but morphs along with the story arc.

Perhaps it says more about me than the book, but making the first voice of the story that of a hipster who has found himself ideologically trapped by his clothing and watering hole provided me with an immediate chuckle and determination to proceed reading. Realizing that he has created his own prison with his style choices and routines is an easy entry into a difficult story, and one that lets you think about some Philosophy 101 while dismissing the character as a hallucinating drunk. Throughout the rest of the book, beginning and ending with a flashlight, the stories progress in flawless hand-offs, one word tying into the next story seamlessly. The pieces build a comforting frog-pot-bath until, like the narrators themselves, you find yourself in water that has boiled itself without your help.

Synopsis takes on ideas regarding agency, or lack thereof — such as alcoholism, wealth, language, fame, economics, violence, even the arts — all things people feel passively, if still passionately, about. We say people are moved by, victims of, slaves to these things. Objects Everyday allows one to consider what those phrases would truly mean.

With all the –isms addressed by this work, there were only two concepts I found lacking: the glancing mention of labor, and the slightly off-kilter perception of feminism. Despite the fact that laborers would be on the frontlines if inanimate items began acting out, it’s examined only briefly in two very short pieces, and seems conspicuous in its absence. As a woman reading this work, I identified more strongly with the typewriter’s manifesto than I did with the “trophy wife” who finds her own body turning against her. The former seemed like a better metaphor for the female-as-object, but when he attempted to call it out directly, the words fell a little flat. I think both of these things could be attributed to the fact that the work was originally published in 1991, and these two issues have become much more urgent and prominent in the last twenty-odd years. Or it could be that artistic guys just don’t get the plight of the working woman. No way to tell. 

On the other topics, however, I found these thoughts to be just as pertinent today, especially the piece on violence. Some of the thoughts provoked by reading œ had been unconsciously simmering for months or more, but were only fully pronounced when the ideas were articulated by a skilled writer. Others had been intentionally moved to the back burner so I could ignore them, and reading this book made me have to look at them again. Thanks for that, appreciated. And a few were so novel that I was actually glad to have them pointed out.

One of my rarest pleasures is a short book that I want to read and that I know I will re-read several times throughout my life. I consider Objects Everyday to be one of those titles, and I recommend you check it out for yourself. It’s available from (Spineless imprint) i-beam books for $23 that belong to themselves anyway. Get the townie discount by buying it locally at Exile on Main St.

Smile Politely received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review. All images poorly-scanned by Rebecca Knaur with tacit permission from the publisher. 

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