Here’s my hypothesis: Since this is a perzine with pictures, I’ll make the leap that Al Burian is afraid of direct communication. This book is fraught with endless pontifications and crippling non-commitment. The visual aspects of this book are fine. It’s well drawn with simple, sparse lines. The text of the book mirrors Al’s own words; it’s “bland tofu in the vegan entrée that is life.” Blandness isn’t an ingredient that makes a great – or even decent – book. He’s so nostalgic and so non-confrontational, I just kept thinking, “Fuck, stop your complaining.” With lines like, “We moped around aimlessly. It was awesome,” as an essential core to this book, Al thinks too much without coming to a conclusion, acts too little, and makes (mostly negative) assessments of people he comes in contact with. Then he romanticizes many of the interactions in retrospect. Not very compelling reading.
He’s decidedly half-assed through out the entire book. When he goes to New York, he complains that the “taxi cab is considered a standard mode of transport, for god’s sake.” I dunno, Al. Blindly, I was able to fly into NYC, take a bus to a train, go over thirty miles, walk five blocks, see a great punk band, then get back on the train and the next day find a pool to skate, all without a car or a cab. No problem. There’s no fucking way you can pull that in LA. The train doesn’t even go to the airport. Al comes across as a grade-A wiener to me. I want to slap him around and kick him in the ass, and say, “Dude, all you have to do is ask to see if there’s a bus instead of a shuttle to find out it’s way cheaper.” (Instead, he asks if the shuttle is ten times faster than the bus (it’s ten dollars instead of one), then gets a black squiggly thunder cloud above his head and storms off.)
The problem is whittled down to this sharp point. In the movie, Barton Fink, Barton is this playwright who is supposed to capture the essence and soul of the everyday man, while exploring “the life of the mind.” Charlie, who Barton thinks is a simple man, starts off many conversations with, “Oh, the stories I could tell,” and Barton cuts him off. Barton never gets out of his small, closed universe to hear other’s stories, thinking that the best stuff will pop right into his brain. Barton should just sit down and listen – to the postal worker, the waitress, whomever – but instead, as with Al, he faces these people with either disinterest or contempt. That’s too bad. It’s a rich world out there and unsuspecting people can provide you with startling insight. This book provides none of that. It’s a closed, dead-end circuit.
If you get wet reading the Utne Reader, or think that The Shipping News was riveting, Al’s right up your alley. For the rest of you, may I suggest a good book? Pick up Revolt of the Cockroach People by Oscar Zeta Acosta. It has nothing in common with this book and is well worth looking for it. –Todd (Microcosm, PO Box 1443, Portland, OR 97293)