canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

by Jon Paul Fiorentino
Insomniac Press, 2005

Reviewed by Nathaniel G. Moore

The year is 2039. Giselle is on Hardcore Final Jeopardy and it’s her turn.

"Ailments and Canadian literature for a thousand Alex."

"He wrote poems about pills and prose about wheezing."

"Who is John Ritter?…John Stamos?"

"No I’m sorry Giselle, the correct answer is Who is Jon Paul Fiorentino?"

It is hard to think of any other artist from Winnipeg with the exception of Chris Jericho, who is able to blend deliberately funny zingers with stern and powerfully guided craftsmanship, as well as watered-down Western philosophy. Yes, for these artists, it’s all about the delivery. And with horny paperboy verve, and kill-yourself self-depravation-since-birth, Fiorentino delivers something quite funny.

The bard’s latest effort, Asthmatica (whose oh-so-exquisite logo was done by Toronto’s Marc Ngui, so hot right now, Marc Ngui) is again another immoral and unethical exploitation of the writer’s own personal health problems, which seems to be his raison d’etre. We write about what we know, or what doctors tell us weakens us, which is just as good as any raison d’etre, and a lot better than most.

Let us be thankful JPF is not getting attention for books called "Hello Canoe Paddle!" or "Craftamatica".

Where to begin. The titles alone justify bookstore patrons to flip through and ignite with laughter, and they do. Examples: "Sissy Fists" , "Hail, Satan" or the classic "I’m Having A Seizure, What A Lovely Way To Say I’m Epileptic."

All right. Well, the first person thing really works. Fiorentino has a witty and clever vice fettering the reader to the work, driving fast with the punchy dialogue making us pine for fresh air as we’re forced into the backseat to hear his Great Aunt yell "Keep your eyes on the road, you stupid fuck."

But wait, there’s more.

Fiorentino controls his abject biography with an acute dedication to humiliation, and a humbling sincerity that is all too human. We want to see him fall, because, it’s natural, isn’t it?

From "Let Me Be Your Alpha Male":

"I ripped my mask off and charged toward the kids like a raging, asthmatic bull. I inspired no fear."

With Asthmatica, Fiorentino is trying to "kill" the legend of himself, or a reasonable wheezing facsimile, and succeeds with bone-picking ease, because the subject is, like ones kidneys, available for slaughter, the self—there to paw at, there to ponder—is a hilarious bank of mockery from which the author has not overdrawn.

From "Asthmatica":

"Asthmatica is a powder, a spray, a tonic, a choice. Asthmatica is a state that can only be achieved through daily meditation, rigorous self-reflexivity, and eight metered doses of salbutamol daily."

The testimonial nature of his prose, which is lucid and engaging, help to sell the jokes, the heartbreak, and the adolescent rash. Whether or not Fiorentino wants to be the ambassador of the wheezing elite or is just doing what he does best is of course, up to him, the reader, or his doctors to decide. Perhaps sponsorship is next for JPF?

Whether mowing the lawn, coping a field, trying to outwit neighbourhood bullies, or being leered at by pedophilic swingers whilst peeing at a sports complex, Fiorentino has spared no expense in this, one of the world’s greatest collections of Asthma-inspired prairie humour.

Despite a very obvious comedy, dark comedy (if a genre buzz word is required) the stories here are visceral, non-boring, inventive, jaded, depraved, romantic, but also straight-forward. The familiar use of self-deprecation is there, but new brands in the Fiorentino embassy are emerging like comedic short-fused dialogue and a fresh landscape of reference points (popular culture, body image complex, familial stress, romantic nightmares, employment probation) with a more expansive narrative that considers a larger cast of characters.

It’s smart though, Fiorentino knows big words. No lunch pale ass-scratchers are going to appreciate this, but then again, few lunch pale ass-scratchers are sitting around reading TDR anyway, so really, we can move on.

In this book, perhaps unlike any other, he is artist before writer. The thinking man’s asthmatic, the Picasso, nay Andy Kaufman of asthma.

Finally, with much hope, Fiorentino is providing the blueprints for something. Perhaps though, with the right amount of stabilizers or complex carbohydrates, lunch pail ass-scratchers would be rolling over in their pig slop over these stories and learning a thing or two about acceptance.

We’ll let you know.

Nathaniel G. Moore is TDR’s features editor and a performance artist trapped in the body of a narcissistic Canadian writer. This fall…Bowlbrawl (Conundrum Press) Download the Official Bowlbrawl Quicktime Teaser Trailer: 







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