The Annotated Boris: Deconstructing the Lyrical Majesty of Boris the Sprinkler (: By Rev. Nørb, 288 pgs By Todd Taylor

Mar 07, 2013

Nørb’s self-published book is crazy. I don’t say that lightly. It’s batshit, but carefully constructed. I believe that it’s designed to be digested bit-by-bit, poop-by-poop. But I think that reading it in small pinches may rob it of its collective power. The premise is ludicrous. The execution is on-the-page mathematical. Yet, there is precision in the mayhem. Overarching themes and stories bridge the dazzling array of min-oo-tia.

In the major publishing world, there are trends in what types of books get published, what types of books receive awards. One trend is what I call “cute deconstruction.” McSweeney’s has made an empire selling yuppies their own irony. A fatal hole in cute deconstruction is that it often eliminates two important things—soul and heart—while replacing them with literary artifice and novelty, things like constant shifts in narrative, perspective, and time. I’ve read two books that have recently won the Pulitzer Prize that do this constant shifting while name-dropping and coveting expensive wines, designer clothes, and bourgeois neighborhoods. People love these books. People adore slick advertising.

The premise of Annotated Boris is this: Reverend Nørb, the lead singer and a major songwriter for the Green Bay, Wisconsin punk band Boris The Sprinkler, answers the simple question that he was never asked when the band was active. “What’s the meaning of that song?” Nørb jumps in, line by line, through his extensive catalog, zinging like a superball of energy from one topic to another, culminating in no less than 982 footnotes.

Let’s address the blessings of this book. 1.) It’s real. This isn’t literary fiction. Boris The Sprinkler was a real band and Nørb has a photographic memory and astonishing recall. He wrote his memories down. In book terms, that’s called a memoir. A bonus is that a large part of the subtext is the meteoric rise and just-as-quick downfall of pop punk in the late ‘90s, early ‘00s by one of its very involved players. It’s as honest as any account I’ve ever read. 2.) As Nardwuar the Human Serviette is to Canada, Nørb is to America: a true original—a loner, Dottie, a rebel—who’s secret weaponry isn’t mere shtick but knowing more than anyone else in the room about a certain topic and working harder in the background than they’d ever suspect. As much as Nørb’s a dude in an antlered helmet guzzling two-liters of diet soda and spazzing out, there’s a deeply individual person who doesn’t feel—and will probably never will—he fits in with society at large. That’s the opposite of a manufactured “image.” That’s a lifetime of not fitting in.

My own harebrained theory about the book that partially warranted the long, deeper, continuous read, I call, “If Stewart Could Talk.” I think that Nørb’s penis takes over writing duties for sections of this book. It never takes the first person perspective of Nørb’s dick (thankfully), but many sections about sex and women (from conquest to frustration to springtime to droughts) are told with an overlay of sadness and inevitability. He’s a tall, thin, heterosexual, geeky guy who likes to have sex and thinks about it a lot. He’s honest and straightforward about his yearnings; and I found them more aching than jocky. Always consensual. I know some knees are already jerking, so I’ll be brief. As humans, we all have some of the following: holes, breasts, and penises. They’re not doll lumps. It’s time they came out of the dark, if we’re going to honestly examine sexuality, punk or not.

In closing, Boris is an intense, potent book, one that could be dismissed as “niche,” but all that means is that people more powerful than you have put you in a hole and are telling you to stay in that hole so they can steal your story and call it their own. Fuck them. Hail Nørb. –Todd (

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