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What Exactly is Happening Here?

A Review of Michael Bible’s Simple Machines

 J. A. Tyler
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 J. A. Tyler
What Exactly is Happening Here?
by J. A. Tyler  FollowFollow
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J. A. Tyler is founding editor of Mud Luscious Press and the author of INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (Scrambler Books, 2009), A MAN OF GLASS & ALL THE...read more WAYS WE HAVE FAILED (Fugue State Press, 2011), and A SHINY, UNUSED HEART (Black Coffee Press, 2011). For more, visit: www.chokeonthesewords.com.
What Exactly is Happening Here?
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Michael Bible, author of Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City (Dark Sky Books, 2011) and Gorilla Math (Greying Ghost, 2010) is a writer I haven’t unlocked. I’m playing some literary video game and I can see glimpses of his character off to the side, alongside me in some levels, but when I go the main screen he is just a blacked out face or a placeholder template with ‘locked’ posted beneath it. Bible writes, and I read Bible’s writing, and I am always excited by what I read, but I don’t get him yet. Yet: The pediatrician wrote quickly.
Are you in London?
The cowgirl is late.
Those gardeners are liars.
Are the waiters near my home?
Connie’s husband is kneeling next to the baseball.
I might be hard to kiss tomorrow.
It is not difficult to capture a cold fly.
This is an excerpt from Bible’s latest book, Simple Machines, released just weeks ago from the Publishing Genius imprint Awesome Machine Press. This is an excerpt, but this is also the entire book. Built solely on equally spaced single sentences, without through-line or plot, Simple Machines is like reading a grammar school primer with the education taken out, only the sample sentences left intact to simultaneously tantalize and frustrate us. These are simple machines, simple sentences placed one on another to provide a cumulative frenzy of unassuming glut, filling the space with always less than what we want, the panic of never enough: I tied a knot.
The guards carried a computer.
An air traffic controller fried an egg
Those bad men paid him.
A carpenter teaches mathematics.
A vegan read the children a newspaper story.
I kidnapped.
Miller learned to live without her.

I mailed him a piece of black paper. And strange as it may sound, eventually, the book starts to infect us. It starts to manipulate us, to maneuver within us. It begins to make us beg, to make us want for more – and not in the ‘I’m bored, get me the hell out of here’ way, but in the ‘I want I want I want and I don’t know why’ way – a pleading that is both lustful and angry: I’ll talk as soon as you stop.
Have you already eaten the shrimp?
They are not eating those eggs.
That garbage man has a peg leg.
I’m not talking to my mother anymore
They bought her a gift.
I leave her some flowers.
I read the children a scary story.
I give him the book. Has Bible done this on purpose? I don’t know, but I’m guessing yes. Has Adam Robinson published Simple Machines because it does this to readers? I don’t know that either, but I’m guessing yes there as well. So: is it worth the time, the money, the reading? How about this, when you read that third excerpt, did you find yourself going back to the first two, searching for clues, hidden agendas, or connections? If you did, then this is a book you should very much be holding right now. If you didn’t, then perhaps you agree with Andy Devine’s blurb of Simple Machines: ‘It doesn’t matter what happens in fiction.’

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