A Strange & Unsteady Ascent
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A Strange & Unsteady Ascent

A Review of Jason Jordan’s Powering the Devil’s Circus: Redux

 Michael Filippone
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 Michael Filippone
A Strange & Unsteady Ascent
by Michael Filippone  FollowFollow
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Michael Filippone was born and raised in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. He writes and makes music. You can see him at wingchairbooks.com...read more, where he makes videos about books he likes.
A Strange & Unsteady Ascent
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I once imagined that my musical tastes were fueling Satan himself. A lot of the bands I liked were Satanic, or claimed to be. But as I learned more about the scene, I realized that I was powering some sort of deranged circus that relied upon the Devil to sell records and T-shirts. So begins the novella of Jason Jordan's Powering the Devil's Circus: Redux, a book split into two parts: the first comprised of a dozen short stories, while the latter consists of a novella, bearing the eponymous title “Powering The Devil's Circus: Redux”. And all of the stories, while they share a high dose of the absurd, each manages to retain a narrative lucidness not found in many of Jordan's contemporaries. While it is easy for writers of absurd and bizarre fiction to relinquish command of narration in the telling of their absurdities, Jordan holds a firm grip on the preposterousness he conveys in these pieces, and it is this grasp that earns him the reader's trust, that allows Jordan to take readers wherever he pleases.
For instance, the longest story in the book, titled "Tube", comes in at 14 pages, and includes some of the collection's most ambitious examples of style. It opens with a scene of a man named Doowat as he surveys a tunnel, seemingly searching for survivors. The scene abruptly cuts to Doowat's home, where we see him discover a tube, like that of a topical cream, on the floor of his closet. This is where the story begins to grow absurd, as Doowat befriends the tube and even sets it up with a cellphone, cable, and a furnished apartment. The story periodically changes style, at turns employing dramatically spaced line breaks, and even an internet chat conversation between Doowat and the Tube, replete with screen-names and including common slang and misspellings.
If the stories in Powering The Devil's Circus: Redux bear a collective fault, it is that their endings fall short of a proportionate payoff. In "Impact", the second story in the collection, and markedly the least absurd and most straightforward, Lucky Hansen, one of only two survivors of the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001, protests the development of a 9/11 video game by building a small airplane with his brother and flying it above the game developer's headquarters in a symbol of terroristic threat. While the story has a compelling start, it all ends, quite literally, up in the air, as people notice Lucky above the building in his aircraft. Where we once, in the opening, had a somewhat clear image of Lucky and his wants, we are left only with a panned-out image of open sky.

Following the stories, the book's novella opens as the narrator begins attending fifth grade at a new school, Christ Central: Christ Central wasn’t just a high school. It served grades K-12, and I began attending in fifth grade. It was then that I met a few people who I was sure I’d remember for the rest of my life. Even with the parameters of a Christian school in place, we managed to have fun. Throughout the novella’s three chapters we follow the narrator as he graduates from high school, then goes on to Ball State University for a single term before transferring to Indiana University Southeast. In college, the narrator develops his passion for writing. He begins working as a music reviewer. He publishes fiction and befriends other writers. It is in this, the book's longest piece, where Jordan's voice truly shines. As we read about the narrator and his experiences of reading in public at various clubs among friendly company, we are endeared and entertained enough to forgive the way the story seems to fizzle and fade at the end. Just like a firework that explodes after a strange and unsteady ascent, Powering the Devil's Circus: Redux both entertains and astounds.

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