Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From Nutsacks to Boners

Last night many theories were posited re: Sugar Frosted Nutsack:  It would be better read out loud!  It's about constructing your own reality!  The pedal hopper is a metaphor for the book: it's repetitive and tedious, yet still kind-of hilarious!  After reading sex tips by the gods out loud at the Taproom, I'm inclined to agree with at least the first theory.  Also, $1.75 beers at Free State.

Next up: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell.  It's all Ozarky and meth-addled, and there may or may not be chainsaws.  We are an official stop on the Read Across Lawrence docket: Tuesday Sept. 25, 8:00 pm, Frank's North Star!

Other #RAL12 highlights: Winter's Bone at Nerd Nite; Winter's Bone Smackdown Trivia at the Bottleneck, an All-City Scavenger Hunt to find Jessup Dolly, Liberty Hall Film Church, and Woodrell himself will be in town swigging bourbon, skinning squirrels, and talking Winter's Bone at Liberty Hall (for free!) on Thursday Sept. 27.  Check out all the deets here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hugs and Kisses Make You Forget Things

I've often written long and sometimes tedious reviews on this blog of our PBR Book Club pics, so this time around I will attempt a bit more brevity. Mark Leyner's controversial new "The Sugar Frosted Nut Sack" can be analyzed, expositorized and summed up thusly:

"Hugs and Kisses Make You Forget Things"

Not that this is neither humorous nor whimsical nor cynical while being all three. It's open to revision. But I won't gainsay it like Leyner does - the fact remains that Hugs and Kisses Make You Forget Things.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

PBR Book Club's Sweaty Nutsack Pedal Hopper Adventure: Monday, Aug. 27

I'm truly not sure how this pedal hopper idea came about, but hopefully it will get us in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Weirdest book club meeting ever."   Meet at South Park at 7:45 next Monday to sign waivers (presumably in case we're run over by the T) and board the hopper for an evening of intellectual discussion (while pedaling), Sunkist swilling, and pub-crawling.  Here are the (complicated) details via Courtneybelle:

"We need to meet up on Monday the 27th at 8 p.m. at South Park, on the side with the playground equipment. I'm hoping the Pedal Hopper will be obvious.  

Any alcohol we bring needs to be in non-alcaholic containers, like two liters or coffee thermoses. NO actual cans or bottles of beer or liquor can come with us. No booze labels. To this end, they recommend mixed drinks, since beer might not travel well in those conditions. They provide cups. I'll bring water, ice, and a cooler for whatever concoctions you all decide to bring. The pedal Hopper should or can stop at three bars, which we can sort out with the driver when we get there.

We have 16 spots total, so please let me, @courtbelle, know that you are planning to join us."
Find some Pedal Hopper info over here at the official site.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Karen's Take on Nutsack

Why am I bored with this book? Surprisingly, it is not the monotony or lack of direct plot in the book, but rather the lack of originality of concept.  Leyner has been called "post-modern" and "unconventional" by critics, but his style could be heavily influenced by children's psychedelic television programming of the late 1960's and early 1970's.  

In 1970 ( I was five), not much television programming was offered specifically for kids , and such staples as "Sesame Street" had not been created, yet. The exception was Saturday morning where some shows were hip enough to try to embrace the current counter culture.   There probably wasn't much research by the networks about if the kids watching these shows actually liked them, and the shows were not meant to be educational.  The plots were ambiguous, and included slapstick humor with a laugh track of people laughing hysterically.  The shows were either written by people on drugs, or what squares thought would be written if they were on drugs, or keeping in mind the perception of what people on drugs would like. 

One such show was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in 1969 called "H.R. Puffnstuf."  It's about a boy who gets stranded on a small intensely colored island where everyday things come alive, and where a witch tries to steal the boy's magic flute.  The Vh1 show "I Love the 70's"  says "So, the deal with H.R. Puffnstuf is, Sid and Marty Krofft did a lot of drugs when they were given a TV show..." 
"Puffnstuf" lasted only one season, but was kept in re-runs for three years and influenced a giant ad campaign by McDonalds. 

The words to the Puffnstuf's theme song are "Who's your friend when things get rough? H.R. Puffnstuf.  You can't do a little, can't do enough. "  Like "Nutsack," this show includes feelings of paranoia, the role of fate in people's everyday lives, and allusions if not direct references to drugs.   

The experience of watching these television shows as a child is pretty much the same as my experience of reading "Nutsack."  We are a sober witness to someone else's trip.

See the show:

See a short one minute clips of "H.R. Puffnstuf" here:


And here is another quick clip where the characters breathe funny smoke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUviYBmsXxc

Friday, August 17, 2012

Richard Sings the Praises of the Nutsack (to the tune of Billy Joel's Movin' Out).

So far the anti-Nutsack contingent is not airing their grievances on the blog, but I know they are out there, muttering into their PBR about the frustrating lack of plot in this "novel" and the infuriating monotony of the whole affair.  Fair enough, but I'd argue that, in many ways, those very elements make it perhaps the most fitting selection yet for the original "goals" of PBR Book Club: to read pompous, postmodern, meta, "difficult," works.

Courtneybelle's previous defense of the novel lists off various reasons that Nutsack may be rubbing its readers the wrong way, among them the fact that it _might_ be delivering religious messages (of one sort or another) beneath its many layers of navel-gazing and outrageous vulgarity.  Maybe.  Though it seems to me that Leyner's central concerns are the central concerns of so many of our chosen books thus far (especially Cloud Atlas and 2666):  the role of reading and storytelling in our lives and interconnections of life and art.

Leyner is especially interested in the idea of the "epic," and we find out soon enough that The Sugar Frosted Nutsack is an orally transmitted, constantly evolving work recited by blind bards while swilling Sunkist (the official drink of the Nutsack).  The "hero" of this epic is Ike Karton, a "SUPER-SEXY" New Jersey butcher, but the story deliberately lacks all the narrative momentum, the "journey," that we expect from epics and instead becomes mired in constant "exegesis" (a favorite word of Leyner, it seems), as each new addition to the epic is constantly parsed, leading us further and further away from the original narrative.  One could potentially see Leyner's book as a critique of "theory," which leads us further and further away from the work itself, but of course that's complicated by the fact that Leyner seems to fully embrace every post-modern and meta trick in the book (complete with a wildly clever loophole that absolves the "author" of all the work's faults:  the most annoying and lewd sections are actually "interpolations" by the God XOXO, trying to sabotage the work).

So...do I find Nutsack annoying?  Yes.  Do I find it smart?  Yes. Ostentatiously so, but undeniably intelligent.  And, most importantly, is it funny? Well, I just laughed out loud numerous times during the "75 Sex Tips From the Gods" section.


Surely our Nutsack meeting will offer many opportunities for participation, given the fact that it's meant to be performed as we down Sunkist while chanting "Ike, Ike, Ike" to ward away XOXO:

"But remember, when you chant "Ike, Ike, Ike, Ike, Ike" to fend off the spiteful interpretations of XOXO, it absolutely has to sound like Popeye laughing or like Billy Joel in 'Movin' Out (Anthony's Song),' or it won't work."

Another observation:  I'm certain than Mark Leyner is a lunatic.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Courtneybelle Embraces the Nutsack!

If You Don't Like This Book, It's Only Because XOXO Is Stealing Your Thoughts
                   "These portions can seem hoplessly corrupt. 
                   XOXO is winning the battle to ruin the book, 
                   But he hasn't won the war."

I like books that don't take themselves seriously and books that seek to make the reader feel ridiculous. A book that disregards the reader's comfort has balls.

Mark Leyner has chosen to write about so many modern foibles that he is certain to alienate.  He's also chosen themes that scratch the paint off every reader's well-glossed self image. And he had the GALL to do it in a format as scattered and deluded as a PBS telethon. How dare he make us work so hard to like this book!?  The Sugar Frosted Nutsack has shown itself, in the majority, to be undigestible. Which leaves one to wonder, if this book is not for you, it might be about you.


Yes, some dislike Nutsack's disrespectful use of repetition. Leyner's daring use of cut-and-paste forces the reader to absorb the same damn lines over and over. Hey, it works for poets and musicians. I choose to see it as a not-too-subtle illustration of the fact that we have each been a party to some mindless regurgitation or other. His use of repetition is frankly an insensitive reminder that, as we age, we build a myth about ourselves. Then we repeat that myth to maintain some calming certainty. Of course, Nutsack points out that myth is at best a half truth and probably a lie. 


No one wants that. That will put people right off. It doesn't even matter what an author has to say about religion, faith, or "spirituality". Positive or negative, the modern reader is sick to the teeth of hearing about personal growth by way of faith or how organized religion stifles individuality or whatever.  Jesus loves us? YES, WE KNOW! But for the love of beer, don't bring it up. Readers certainly don't want it suggested that God is laughing at them or, WORSE, that God thinks they're boring! If Nutsack does turn out to be some whimsical religious allegory, then that would explain the insulting repetition previously discussed. Religion is nothing without repetition. Yeah, yeah, Nutsack delivered up a crude but endearing pack of gods at the beginning. But how was the reader to imagine the author would have a serious message of any kind since his book began with drunken gods returning from spring break?

Clearly, that was all a clever ruse on the part of Leyner to trick us into reading about religion. What a dick move!  He lured us with the title: his promises of sweet, sweet testicles. Numbed our suspicious minds with fast-talking overuse of pop-culture references and an unlikely yarn about over-sexed street gang gods till we couldn't trust that there would be a serious word written in this book. Next thing we know, he'll casually write something like,"'noncanonical blooper." Then, BAM! We've accidentally read some joker's scathing yet quirky take on religion. For all we know, Nutsack will subtly suggest that we're not special.


This is a dangerous approach for an author. But, I have to say, Leyner tried to slip it in like a wayward  game of "just the tip". What can be said about our overly-sung hero, Ike, Ike, Ike, Ike! A legend in his own mind? A rebel without applause? Who knows. But if an unemployed butcher from Jersey has a devoted blind bard fanbase, then logically anyone could.  Ike is a perfect specimen of the self-centered American reality TV narrative that we are soaking in today. Everything is simultaneously true and false. Each of us has become the star of the movie in our mind. We have lost internal dialog. We've begun narrating our own lives to an invisible audience of blind bards! Those of us surviving the high water mark of social media are no more a hero than Ike. Nevertheless, odds are good  that our breakfast food is as well-publicized as his. Our whole society is based on the premise that we are all unique little snow flakes. Nutsack takes aim at the way we are building mythical selves and firmly wallowing in cultish self-obsession? What a cock!  Of course we expect our memory to be eternal. Each of us having written our own biography 140 characters at a time, how could we fail? Oh, it wasn't bad enough that it has turned out to be a book about religion, then Nutsack wants us to have a moment of honest perspective. Come ON!


Christians don't like to be reminded that they aren't supposed to eat bacon. And readers don't like to be reminded that their personal behavior is inconsistent or inhuman. We bristle at the notion that we behave illogically, as it calls our personal judgment into question. How can we face the indignity of being more connected by technology as a species and yet more estranged from each other than ever before. Community has become crowdsourcing. 

Will humanity become a confederacy of acquaintances? What does "relationship" mean now? Would my Reddit friends bail me out of jail? Can we maintain humanity merely by watching more videos of cats? More importantly, will Nutsack answer these questions in the last one hundred pages?