Author Ryan Bartek (AKA Quixxxote, AKA Filthpimp, AKA GhostNomad) starts Anticlimax Leviathan with this epigraph: “There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.” I’ll start my review by saying there’s only one big thing I can say to you about this book, which is not to read it. But you’ll want a synopsis, so here goes.
Ryan Bartek, who starts referring to himself in the third person after a couple chapters, is a dude from metropolitan Detroit. He grew up in a bleak, blue collar neighborhood. He worked shitty jobs. Listened to a lot of black metal, had some wild lovers, and zigzagged across the country, like a Greyhound Kerouac, and ended up stopping in New York long enough to lead a parade of Occupy Wall Street folks across Brooklyn Bridge into a wave of “Darth Vader cops,” who he confronts “alone.”
What happens in between is a lot of hellish bus terminal purgatory shit, scheming performance art pieces like “free therapy,” and telling stories about traumatized women who’ve disappointed him in one way or another. Bartek’s a thirty-something year old man, but when he writes about the ladies, he sounds like a crybaby seventeen-year-old singer from some Victory Records group. One choice instance—it’s part of a list he’s written—involves his ex, Jezzi. He’s annoyed Jezzi can’t date him anymore after she’s been abducted and gang raped. In his words, “she could never deal with it and left me for Jesus.” Poor Bartek!
Other classic Bartek moments: he refers to himself as one of “the blackest white men [he] knows” but he also owns a “Fuck Eminem” shirt. He mentions writer Henry Miller ten times in a three-page spread, but insists he has “no influences, only kindred spirits,” and I guess it’s true. At its best, Bartek’s prose is zany and hyperbolic. Here’s a shortlist of his phrases that might be used as alternate book titles: Puppet of My Own Wretched Miasma, Withered Gasoline, Cataclysmic Shift of Alienation, Façade Sarcophagus, Garbage Dumps and Opera Houses, Vacant Rubber, Stomping Phantasm, Clownbaby, Horde the Abuse. At its worst, I just wonder if he could ease up on the syllables and get on with his blessed story.
Anyway, Henry Miller, back to him. Miller wrote some great sentences. They manage to sparkle through his tedious misogyny. And sometimes you just have to sigh and shrug because he was a Bro Writer living in a time when treating women like shit was all part of the plan of “turning them into literature,” and blah, blah, blah. But it just doesn’t work like that in the 21st century, especially if you’re selling yourself as a progressive punk and the tip of the Occupy Wall Street brigade. No thanks. –Jim Joyce (Anomie Press, bigshinyprison.com)