I, A Me-ist or The Portable Board: By Mykel Board, 382 pgs. By Keith

Hideous comic-style cover, extensive use of Chalkboard font, and one of the most awkward book titles in recent memory; Board’s already got a jumpstart on annoying the reader, even before you crack the book open. This is, with a few minor exceptions, selections from his long, long tenure as Maximum Rocknroll columnist, columns that date back more than twenty years. I would gather that a pretty high percentage of people reading this have read at least excerpts from Board’s columns over the years. I know I have.

That said, I’ve never really cared for his stuff. I started reading MRR around 1990—Board had already been doing his column for years. Even then, I think he, Jeff Bale, Larry Livermore, and Tim Yohannon were possibly the only original columnists left. Whether Board will consider this a badge of honor or not, I have always considered him, especially as a young teenager who was absolutely floored on this punk thing, the black sheep of the MRR columnists. He generally began most of his columns with some odious and detailed misadventure involving bodily ailments or fluids, he rarely talked about punk music itself (shit, he ripped on punk half the time), and as a kid I didn’t really have the interest or patience to decipher what the fuck he was usually trying to get at. His writing just didn’t speak to me and I generally thought he was usually just trying to talk his way out of being a shithead.

His writings here are pretty much as a remember them: philosophic, argumentative, and, at times, incredibly condescending and solipsist. But there were times while reading I, A Me-Ist… that I found myself grudgingly agreeing with him. I still feel that he’s full of crap most of the time, and vain, and oftentimes picks the wrong targets in his attacks. But he’s also a textbook example of (and he’ll love the reference, I’m sure) “the personal is the political.” He writes about his everyday experiences (which, to his credit, are generally not like a lot of peoples’ everyday experiences) and points out the inner political workings and ramifications of them. He’s been the constant aggressor for years in a battle against regimented thought and the conventions of “social propriety.” And he’s never dumbed things down, he’s never assumed that the fourteen year-old kid reading his columns, in 1990, or at any other time, wouldn’t be able to understand what he’s getting at.  

The book’s thick. It’s divided into sections (“Age,” “Sex,” “Music,” “Politics,” etc.) and columns are then put in chronological order within those sections. Each column is prefaced with a blurb from the author: what the intent of the column was, how it was received, and how he feels about it now.

Like I said, my opinion of Board’s writing hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. I’m still not terribly moved by what he writes about, or the manner in which he delivers it. Whether he’s getting something shoved up his ass or trying to get laid on Mongolia, I still find myself getting a little bit bored after a few paragraphs and going to the endnotes he usually places at the column’s end. At the same time, I find myself almost admiring the guy. He’s spent nearly twenty-five years annoying, dismantling, and challenging people’s ideas of morality and propriety, and then documenting it on paper.  While I was a fourteen year-old kid who wanted to know about bands and what they sounded like, Board was interested in what people thought; he’d already been gauging and assessing his own convictions and beliefs for dozens of years before I came along. So the fact that he has a book out—a physical, tangible collection of his work—it seems more a testament to the guy himself, to his own search for truth, if you’ll ignore the hippie, quasi-spiritual overtones of that. To the fact that he’s remained seemingly indefatigable, relentless, and always willing to stir the shit.

In a scene that’s sometimes into being shocking just for shock’s sake, with no real questioning of the intent or ramifications behind it, and, transversely, one that’s so denuded and asexual and polite, we still need guys like Board to constantly piss us off because he’s right or to annoy us or make us roll our eyes because he’s so full of shit. We need guys like Board to keep throwing words into the void and seeing what sticks. While I’m still not a fan, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that guys like Board keep punk, if not dangerous, than at least constantly on its toes. Guys like Board remind us to not only question ourselves, but everything. He asks us, intentionally or not, why we’re here, and forces us to decide if it’s still worth standing up for. If you’re a fan, you’ll be thrilled to get this book. If you’re not, this book won’t change your mind, but it might just allow you a kind of grudging respect for a man who’s never shied away from controversy, certainly not at the sake of etiquette, “appropriateness,” or even his own reputation. –Keith Rosson (Hope And Nonthings, PO Box 14810, Chicago, IL 60614-8010)