Apr 10 2012

An Infinite Jest Done In Bad Taste: Mark Leyner Nails America’s Discombobulated Zeitgeist


Upon reading the first three pages of Mark Leyner’s new novel, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, in which Leyner lays out a sort of creation myth for our times, albeit starting with the declaration There was never nothing followed by a typically leyneresque, dense, electrifyingly poetic description of the universe gaining some sort of context or “relative meaning” from 3 teenage girls “mouthing a lot of high-pitched gibberish… [with] their wasted pallors, acne, big tits, and T-shirts that read ‘I Don’t Do White Guys'” and as the next three pages continued to ping pong virtually from one word to another between descriptions of cosmic creation that might have been written by Carl Sagan if he’d inhaled a little bit of Wordsworth and ketamine and contemporary grotesquery like “obese jogger’s nylon track suit” and oh yes, I’m back in Leynerland…  and for those of you who missed the cracked delights he spewed forth in the 1990s, I encourage you to catch up…  and as I was saying, upon reading those first three pages or so, I gamboled over to Amazon and posted my comment:

It took exactly 3 pages of this book to make me realize that I’ve been ever so slightly bored with every other book I’ve read… since Leyner’s last book. This is the divine comedy.

Little did I know that this opening creation myth would repeat and iterate and accumulate funny funny funny all american pop cultural banal references and occasional desperate lunges at cosmic transcendence partly in the person of an unemployed butcher in Jersey wearing a wifebeater t-shirt who is the chosen one among the gods along with other similarly fast furious riffs that repeat and iterate and how dare he write this conceptual novel.

So I’m a little embarrassed now because Leyner actually intends… sort of… to bore us… to torture us, to give us the feeling of all that is and ever was including all that’s fine about humanness and culture collapsing and infolding upon itself into one dense and crushed and barely coherent pileup (or mashup) of banalities… much of it spoken in the language of vacant Facebook youths watched over by Gods high on Ketamine, Ecstasy and “The Gravy.”  But even then, Leyner can’t help but display his facility with hilarity and wordy fusillades filled with random bits of obscure knowledge, tv, pop music and porno references, and again, also, those glimmers of transcendence.

And so — despite Leyner’s clear attempt at driving us crazy — this still may be the least boring novel I’ve read since Leyner’s last novel. And I’m thinking that just maybe this is the novel of the zeitgeist, the avant novel of the 2010s that doesn’t tell us but shows us where we are today as Americans (and we’re all Americans) by its very nature… a near-infinite google-sized pile of just barely connectable and relatable shit that’s infinitely clever and stupid and amusing and very much like one of Beckett’s desolate landscapes but rather than being empty it’s full of crap and pointless activity… and at the same time, emptier even still.

I don’t think this is gonna be a big seller.