This is a kaleidoscopic and dystopic novel about collective madness and paranoia. It is the antithesis of those novels which hoped to heal the wounds post-9/11. Instead these 225 pages allow the wound to get reinfected. The only band-aids here are dirty, blood-encrusted and peeling at the edges. Yes, this is not an ‘easy’ read. Your Cities, Your Tombs removes the heart of conventional narrative and shoves it in a blender, and in the end, reminds us not how far we’ve come, but how fucked up we really are.
The America in Jordan Krall’s book is a world lit by flickering florescent ceiling lights; where wall-to-wall-carpeted rooms are cluttered with cheap office furniture, plastic bags full of empty prescription bottles, and cardboard boxes stacked with instructional ‘how-to’ VHS tapes (in which the tracking is always out of whack). In this world, we have ten hour work days, which are followed by stretches of nail-biting insomnia. If there are any dreams to be had, we simply exist in them only as spectators, watching skyscrapers implode and explode in slow motion on a continual static-filled loop. This is a place where everybody has their own pill, their own fantasy on how the world will end.
Rapid and brief, yet hypnotically layered, Jordan Krall’s ‘novel of effect’ plays with the kaleidoscope narratives of post 9/11 literature; not as a meditation (as Colm McCann did with his Let the Great World Spin) but more as a mind-fuck. J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition is a comparable tome — brief glimpses of a world locked in the throes of a dystopic madness. But instead of playing with Ballard’s pyrotechnics of metaphor and mutilation, Krall subdues the language and plays it more straight. He offers quick chapters from a wide cast of characters – and their memories, dreams and fantasies merge into one narrative which is not only about the last whimper of the world, but about the perspectives comprising the flame to light that last, fatal wick.
The one line to typify this book: ‘We will be cremated against our wishes.’
Again, this is not cheery shit.
Not only big cheers to author, Jordan Krall, but also to the people behind Copeland Valley Press, a small publisher that puts out works beyond the ‘bizarro’ moniker, and does so with professionalism and gleeful abandon. Keep an eye on these guys — their madness is contagious. And a second round of cheers to designer, Matthew Revert, for his wonderfully mad cover to this edition.
One last note: I read most of this short novel during the miserable winter commute to and from work. I found that stacked inside a sardine can chugging through the city, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, was the best way to read this book. Don’t read on a cozy chair by the fireplace. Read it in the thick of the city during rush hour, sweaty palms and all. Trust me, it sets the tone just right.