canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


Portable Altamont

by Brian Joseph Davis
Coach House, 93 pages

Reviewed by Janine Armin

Do we all battle pop culture? God knows thatís all I do, and most of my generation it seems. We simultaneously relish in the satisfyingly unattractive candidates on Americaís Next Top Model, while claiming to have never watched an episode of The Simple Life. But why do we seek justification? Brian Joseph Davis proves that there is absolutely no reason. Why resist the banal, when it can be this funny.

James Joyceís work is packed with in-jokes and references only a man of his age who lived within twenty feet of his house could possibly get. Of course this isnít the point of his work. It is the twists and turns of phrase among a million other things that will make a book outlast its references. Aside from the riffs on names that will fade into the Etalk archives, Davisí humour is as true as it is ball-busting.

In the infamous words of Amy Sedaris on the sorely underrated sitcom Strangers With Candy, "the names change but the hassles remain the same." So it will be for Portable Altamont, when in twenty years we find ourselves interchanging names like James Spader and Tony Danza with similar stock celebrities, biting our tongues to stifle snorting sounds.

In this wonderful collection of mini-chain letters in which celebrities are often the first line, no one is safe. Davis is the indie representative for In Touch magazine. He is a philospher our disillusioned generation can count on. Sandwiched between English degrees rendered meaningless by the retail jobs that follow and Jessica Simpsonís obesely successful tits, what do we do with all this conflicting information? If we follow Davis, we should make asses out of the people who oppress us with their constant self-exploitation. And jokes about Margaret Atwood ("whose human beatbox routine is weak") also help. Then we should laugh, and Davis makes sure we laugh until it hurts.

We laugh at Val Kilmerís melancholic inability to move a glass "telekinetically / to his lips." Or smirk at Keith Richardsí dissent into the same fate as Dorian Gray, with only Christy Turlington "wringing her hands" and Elle Macperson "as pale as death" to mourn his loss.

In what could be the next runaway hit drinking game, certain poems are more indicative of tequila intoxication than others. The notes are written at that point, when youíve been partying now with the same person for four days and can hardly see through your tears. The sun comes up over the sea of empty bottles just as you reach the revelation: "Sean Penn doesnít cry anymore." Rolling on the floor intoxicated by your own sense of comic timing, you note in the "errata" that "Sean Penn still cries." Yes. The fluorescent manuscript is finalised when you get a book deal, or piss your pants.

 

 

 

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TDR is produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

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ISSN 1494-6114. 

 

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Nous remercions de son soutien le Conseil des Arts du Canada.