All those of you who have clamored for a shorter url, rejoice!
Bookmark it, my comrades!
All those of you who have clamored for a shorter url, rejoice!
Bookmark it, my comrades!
WHAT THE GREATS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT PIROOZ KALAYEH AND THE WHOPPER STRATEGIES:
“At first you are wondering if he is going to be able to keep this up.
‘I wonder if he is going to be able to keep this up,’ you say.
“And then you realize Kalayeh has made a world out of tiny words and big ideas.
‘Kalayeh has made a world out of tiny words and big ideas,’ you say.
“Inventive, surprising and sweet. Feels like many things you have read before (in a good way) and like nothing you have read before (in a good way).”
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Scientific Universe
“Crackling with mordant energy, bursting with trenchant wit, The Whopper Strategies is a technical, metaphorical, and ontological knockout. Pirooz M. Kalayeh is a writer to watch.”
—Laird Hunt, author of The Impossibly.
With the innocence of an infant and the sharp knife of the satirist, Mr. Kalayeh has constructed a world that trips lightly across one’s retina and at the same time burrows deep into one’s heart. He holds a feather in one hand and a burning torch in the other, to tickle and tease with the former and burn away all illusion with the latter. The Whopper Strategies, like the best of tales, delights, thrills, bludgeons, cajoles and enlightens.
—Marlowe Fawcett, director of The Other Half.
The Whopper Strategies is like a techno blast to the gut.
—Noah Cicero, author of Best Behavior.
I like The Whopper Strategies. It’s a good book. It is easy to read. The sentences are short. They are also clear. There are many funny parts in this book. I laughed many times. It is about how spiritual things are marketed as products. It asks us, “Is this the right way to deal with spiritual matters?” I also think this is a problem. So I am glad that Pirooz Kalayeh wrote about this problem in a book that is easy to read. There are also pictures and they are funny too. I think this book is good for those reasons.
—Brad Warner, author of Hardcore Zen.
The first novel from noise musican Noah Opponent, MEANWHILE visits a hundred different humans – teenage girls, traveling businessmen, macho academics, occult weirdos, sex slaves, soldiers – blows their lives into tiny particles, and recombines the particles into a jittering wide-screen view of our contemporary cultural moment. Like a cross between Richard Linklater’s SLACKER and a Mark Lombardi diagram, MEANWHILE wants to transform your attention deficit into a grander, vaster form of understanding.
Bayard’s novel, War Is Stupid, is as sarcastically cutting as it is inventive. It is a simultaneously high and low literary experiment, rage-driven and beautiful in its complex and surprising form. It calls its readers to consciousness through its refusal to look away or ignore the global crises that we face–political, social, economic and environmental. This is an extreme book for extreme times. It reminds me of the famous James Baldwin quote in Sermons and Blues: “to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you.” For Bayard, the container for the rage is two-fold—a seriously biting humor and an experimental form that serves to contain and transform the rage.
The ethos of War Is Stupid is satirical. The book draws us in as it catalogues the uncomfortable truths of the addictive, narcissistic, unconscious American public embodied in the central Samals-Samelsbaad family, a “typical American family” under the microscope of an astute cultural critic. The novel’s satirical ethos persuades through a cutting urgency built around larger truths than we ordinarily will admit to in our every-day lives. The teeth of this satire are sharp—sharp enough to tear away the callous of denial protecting us from seeing what’s happening.
The scene is the current economic collapse in America; the plot hinges on a government mandate for homeowners to house those who have lost their homes in the crash; there is a mystery with mayonnaise and multiple identities; there is a cast of characters from Bosch’s hell and our hero, Jett Ngin (pronounced Jet Engine) who is the gentle, cake-baking, clear-seeing center around which the other characters reel. Jett Ngin is the ethical warrior who says “war is stupid” (Loc 1154).
Bayard addresses the recent mortgage horrors of home-owning and work (the Great American Markets Crash); the unconscious ugliness of American food consumption, hoarding, and greed generally; the obsessive accumulation of gadgets and status symbols; the fanatical attention to bodies, “enhanced bodies,” child porn, gay porn, porn generally as an American addiction; and the apocalyptically destructive play with global disequilibriums—these are a few of the themes that War Is Stupid treats. Here’s one example of this sort of critique: “The Sapp family, a typical American family in every way shape and form. Over their heads in debt but spending freely, living from paycheck to paycheck until the paychecks ran out, then living from handout to handout until the handouts ran out and then losing their typical American home to a typical American foreclosure after the Great American Markets Crash” (Loc 494).
The impact of the novel grows out of the management of its rage through humor and experimental form. This impact also depends on the undercutting of what is deemed appropriate within ordinary discourse. Bayard’s close attention to codes of conduct and myriad constraints of contemporary culture produce a challenge to business-as-usual. His questionable rhetoric questions; it abuses and disabuses; it interrogates the appropriate by refusing to fit conventional expectations. Though the book’s title is War Is Stupid, Bayard is a humor warrior, determined to challenge the accepted nastiness of our times with satire. Here is an example: “President Palin during a recent Podcast State of the Union message instructed the women of America, ‘To get out there and shop, girls and shop till you drop, girls cause nothing is more patriotic than crippling your husband’s personal debt, girls, if you’re pretty enough to have a husband. But if you’re butt ugly, girls, cripple someone else” (Loc 1524). Here’s another: “Ma Dona Savage Samals-Samelsbaad, quaking in terror, hating the touch of both her husband and children, squirming to escape their vile germ infested clutches, wanting to slow down and savor the moment with twenty seven creamy café-style Maxwell House International Café beverages, whatever her delight—Cafes, Lattes, Cappuccinos or Single Serve Lattes—and indulge her senses with the sweet decadent taste of favorites like Toasted Hazelnut Cappuccino, Vanilla Carmel Latte, Punkin Spice coffee and twenty four delectable others, whinnies, “Who has a cell phone? Who has a cell phone? Who has a cell phone? I lost mine during the last siege! And I’m desperate to place a telephone coffee order!”(Loc 1989) These examples illustrate the ethical scalpel Bayard uses to peel away the mannerly surface and view the horror show beneath. One reader remarked in a review on Amazon that authors shouldn’t talk about certain things,“ even if they are true.” This attitude is exactly what F.G. Bailey discusses in his book, The Tactical Uses of Passion. Bailey explains this misfitting, naming it the rhetorical “principle of abomination”:
By “abomination” is meant the mixing of items that should be kept apart, the product being (literally) ill omened, something to be deprecated . . . . This has an obvious relevance to the culture of persuasion, for there are infinite ways of getting a mixture wrong and of producing some combination of selves, codes, content, and situation which the auditor finds incomprehensible, or bewildering, or unconvincing, or unpalatable, or shocking, or downright revolting. (222)
Bailey discusses how cultural conventions exert their forces to persuade subjects of the right and proper “mixes” and to militate against abominations. However, satires like War Is Stupid generate a powerful ethos capable of resisting and critiquing what has been deemed unmentionable. This critique of the appropriate asserts instead an ironic authority.
Bayard is committed to intentionally and artfully “getting a mixture wrong,” asserting a misfit. The narrative speaks about things it ought not to speak of, matters outside of their appropriate cultural assignment. Bayard intentionally generates an abominable ethos. As Bailey says, “The abomination consists of bringing out into the open what in that particular culture may be known but is collusively deemed to be unmentionable” (224). A short example will serve: Grifter D.K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad says, “What makes America great, you ungrateful turd, is the way in which Americans can lie and cheat and thieve and murder and lie and cheat and thieve and murder our way out of lying and cheating and thieving and murdering. It is all about greasing the appropriate greasy hand” (Loc 923). There is an unusual seriousness and passion inherent in this book because of how far Bayard is willing to go.
War Is Stupid is a cultural warrior’s book. Constituted as a poetic arrangement, multipling dynamically, and held together as a series of repeating lines and themes intended to shake us out of our collective sleep. It is an ensemble of refrains, worked and reworked, a spiraling story of devastation–an energetic center for exploring the effects of the decline of American culture and of human life generally.
Dr. Victoria Boynton is the Director of Professional Writing at the State University of New York at Cortland.
“Second Starbucks to the right and straight on till morning,” Grifter D. K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad commandingly barks into his Motorola Waikiki styled 15 dash 49C Walki-Talki Cell Phone. “I’ve just got to make one stop before I join you at our brand new home to start our brand new life on this brand new day so you go on ahead of me and I’ll meet you there, fair and square, with a great big smile on my face.”
Grifter D.K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad talking into his Motorola Waikiki styled 15 dash 49C Walki-Talki Cell Phone is giving his family directions to their brand new home. Not that any of the members of Grifter D. K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad’s family need directions to their brand new home as each of their Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) came standard with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) which is not only one of their favorite things to play with while driving but also one of their favorite playthings during every other moment of their lives. Also the Samals-Samelsbaad family’s family of Motorola Waikiki styled 15 dash 49C Walki-Talki Cell Phones, Boost Mobile’s first push-to-talk slider walkie talkie cell phone features a one point three mega pixel camera with video capture, instant music access and Stereo Bluetooth capabilities, as well as nationwide walkie talkie and GPS capabilities, downloadable games, wallpapers and real music ringtones making it virtually technologically impossible for any of the Samals-Samelsbaad family not to find their way to number Forty Two Middle of the Americas Way, their brand new government issued home to begin their brand new government issued lives.
Unfortunately for Grifter D. K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad neither his Global Positioning System (GPS), his Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) nor his Motorola Waikiki styled 15 dash 49C Walki-Talki Cell Phone come standard with nor offer what Grifter D. K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad craves at this pivotal moment in his otherwise pivotal life.
“What I crave at this pivotal moment in my otherwise pivotal life,” Grifter D. K. Savage Samals-Samelsbaad says removing his thumb from the speak button of his Motorola Waikiki styled 15 dash 49C Walki-Talki Cell Phone to initiate activation of his tinted automatic driver’s side window allowing him to shout out the open tinted automatic driver’s side window, “is some red hot one hundred percent American pussy.”
Don Porifirio finished and cleared his throat and said, “I cannot sing anymore. I could sing all night when I was a young man. My favorite was El Rey. I could sing the song all night long and with so much feeling that I would cry. Now, instead of crying, I wheeze and cough and have all manner of odd things happen every time I sing. I don’t know what is the matter with me.”
“Old age,” said Miguel, looking Don Porfirio over. “What a sight you are.”
“What do you mean?” said Don Porifirio, good-naturedly. “I am not old. I am getting better and better.”
“You are getting older,” said Jose Maria. “I remember you when I was a child. What a man you were. Virile.”
“Oh, to be young again,” said Don Porfirio. “To be in Mexico again as a young man. You know I came here when I was fifteen. Young. I have been here many years. I worked this kitchen when I was sixteen. That is how long I have been here. I bought out the old man, Don Bruno. He started in a little stand right outside on the street selling his food to the workers. Then he built the restaurant and I came to work for him. He worked me from five in the morning to twelve at night. I had to work six hours the day I got married. That’s what a taskmaster he was.”
“You never had children?” one of the old women asked.
“Don’t ask Don Porfirio intimate questions,” said Miguel. “Don’t you understand? Are you so ignorant? Do I have to hit you on the head with a frying pan?”
“I was saying that if he did not have children how fortunate he was.”
Ignoring the question, Don Porifirio said, “He always said that to be successful one must work long hours. But to go back to those years is what I would love to do. How much would I give to go back and be young again. Look at how many women I have disappointed by getting old. But I would require that I have the money that I have now. How many women I have disappointed.”
“One,” said Miguel. “Your wife.”