Ani Smith is an American writer living in London. Her chapbook, this love is office lighting (great and harsh but always off when no one's there),...read more is forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. She blogs at http://downinme.com.
Person is a short novel, written by a white American male under 30 years old, in which nothing much happens.
Good. Now that we got rid of those people, we can discuss Person in earnest. Because Person is for people who want to think. It is not for people who blindly accept gender roles, propagate stereotypes, and rely on assumptions. It is not for people who go through pre-defined stages in life like they're on a schedule and they have a map with directions to the schools, jobs, partners, houses, cars, and kids. It is not for people who are afraid of feeling and voicing negative emotions like sadness, boredom, anxiety or disillusion. It is not for the herd.
Person is for deviants; those of us who are lost, who have no idea what we're searching for or even if we're supposed to be searching and why and could we just lie down on the floor for a while or eat an orange. Because Person is for persons who shrug at what is handed to them and instead find some sort of hope in hopelessness, meaning in meaninglessness, excitement in boredom. Because these persons have active imaginations but also because sometimes, they allow themselves to just be. Because Person just is.
Person is an experiential novel concerned with being, concerning beings.
In Person, a person like us goes about a life like ours in a way that neither affirms nor denies the goodness or badness of being human—though I would argue that the existence of Person is itself an argument for the goodness. The person in Person does not embrace the reality that reality presents to him because he is not a zombie, he is a person, self-aware and breathing. Person does not tell you what to think. It only tells you to think, but only if you maybe feel like it right now.
Because I have read and enjoyed much of Sam Pink's previous work (I Am Going to Clone Myself Then Kill the Clove and Eat It, Frowns Need Friends Too, his blog, IMPERSONAL ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION, and more), to me Person feels like the apex or culmination, but it is likely only the beginning, of a writing style and corresponding world view that is singularly Pink's. An antagonistically original yet warmly familiar way of elucidating the innermost emotions that trigger all those random thoughts scrolling wayward through the brain of a person:
I'm walking around Chicago, feeling like a piece of shit.
There are many people out.
I pass an older homeless man and he is dressed almost exactly like me.
I want to stop him and grab his shoulders and say, “So I make it past 30 then?”
But he walks by me.
Eye contact is bad I think.
One of the funniest and most endearing parts of the novel is the interaction between the main character and his roommate. The tender camaraderie displayed in their gentle ribbing highlights the absurdity of being alive and the profound loneliness we all so acutely feel while in the company of others:
I put my hand against the wall, blocking the kitchen from my roommate.
And I position my face close to his.
"Yes, another good day," I say.
He stretches and uses the stretch to step backwards a little, somewhat into the darker area of the hallway.
He is looking at my mouth.
"Well, good," he says, "I knew you'd come back."
"Of course. I pay rent here."
"Oh," he says, "I forgot. I have a job for you. I totally forgot about this but I have a job for you if you want it. Can't believe I forgot about this."
"Oh yeah—what's the job."
"Uh I have, an opening for, someone to uhh—" He sniffs, then he yells, "Eat my fucking shit."
He yells it right in my face.
He laughs and I laugh too.
And yes, we are people.
The drawing on the cover of Person, also done by the author, is so clearly a visual representation of the whole novel that it is hard to imagine it having any other artwork. Looking at the person on the cover incites feelings of anxiety and dread but jokingly, with a wink, like a person who is drowning but who, in the moments before death, cannot help laughing because when he held his head above water long enough to scream, he screamed like a total girl.