The Sugar Book review at Entropy

by on Apr.13, 2015

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Entropy Magazine recently put up my review of Johannes’ excellent new The Sugar Book. The cover and design of the book reminds me of what a reviewer once said about Brett Easton Ellis’ Less than Zero — it’s like a “piece of black candy.”

Here’s the first part:

1. Poetry of the Planet

In his book on “cosmic pessimism” entitled In The Dust of This Planet, Eugene Thacker lays out what he sees as the three concepts that constitute our sense of reality.

There is the World, which is the zone where we act and interpret and perceive, “a human-centric mode of being.”

There is the Earth, which is “the world as an object” and encompasses “geology, archaeology, paleontology,” etc.

Lastly, there is the Planet, which is the “world-without-us.”

Planet is difficult to grasp, being non-human and against our humanist assumptions about history, meaning, consciousness (as Thacker points out, consciousness itself is simply a roll of the evolutionary dice). In fact, he argues, some of the best attempts to deal with the idea of Planet come not from philosophers themselves, but from what he calls “dark mysticism” and from the horror genre. Horror, in both literature and film, has often challenged the humanist World with various emanations of Planet, “expressing them not in abstract concepts but in a whole bestiary of impossible life forms — mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck.”

I bring this up because Johannes Göransson is one of the major poets of this concept of Planet, and also because he often uses genre (horror, but noir too) to help convey this sense of the non-human. Poetry, of course, has long dealt with the nonhuman, going all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, and some of the best contemporary poetry addresses these non-humanist realms. Lara Glenum, Joyelle McSweeney, Arda Collins, Feng Sun Chen, Rauan Klassnik, Ariana Reines, and Lucas de Lima all write powerful poems relating to Planet. Göransson’s particular focus is the intersection of the nonhuman with masquerade, or how the undermining of human-centric assumptions leads to a sort of ontological/political masquerade.

In Göransson’s poetry, there is no self-congratulation about being on “the right side of history.” History, having no human face, no Mind, and no anthropomorphic Hegelian Spirit, has no sides. There are only events. There’s only Los Angeles.

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