FAKE HOUSE, AMERICAN TATTS and BORDERLESS BODIES by LINH DINHTOM BECKETT reviews
Fake House: Stories by Linh Dinh
(Seven Stories Press, 2000)
American Tatts by Linh Dinh
(Chax Press, 2005)
Borderless Bodies by Linh Dinh
(Factory School, 2006)
Seams, Semes, Memes, Meat, Booze, Blood, Tears and Semen: Some Marginal Notes on 3 Books
I've been reading and re-reading these texts for the last couple of weeks: one book of stories, two books of poems. There are overlapping concerns between the three volumes, a felt matrix of connections, but I pair Fake House with American Tatts for the ways in which voices carry the weight of the work. Borderless Bodies, on the other hand, strikes me as a more ruthlessly clinical (but no less affecting) effort.
My admiration for this body of work is unreserved.
Linh Dinh might be the site of a collision of forces (national-international-linguistic-existential-interpersonal-sexual) that has manifested in something like the constellation of nouns that titles this review: seams, semes, memes, meat, booze, blood, tears, and semen.
I wish Fielding Dawson were still alive. I'd have wanted to write/talk to him about this writing. I'm confident that he, Fee, would have loved it.
American Tatts and Fake House limn the USA's psycho-sexual, noirish undercarriage from Linh Dinh's border crossing perspective. Voices, as I remarked earlier, are what drive these books. Consider
Church is never as bad as I thought it would be
although it went on half an hour longer than usual.
This old lady came from Cleveland to lecture us about homeless kids.
After church we went to some garage sales
and Dad bought me a turkey sub from Tubby's.
The guy behind the counter wanted to get into my pants.
I could see how his grinning eyes were skimming over my body.
I felt so uncomfortable so I stood behind my Dad.
I felt voilated. So nakid.
("You Don't Know What's Inside Of Me Yet," Am. Tatts, p.25)
If I could be anywhere at the moment?
I'd be some place that's not rainy.
I wish I were in the next room
So I could lie on my couch
I can't live without
Or my pit bull
Or my hair straightener
Or my chess set.
I like any sort of food, actually,
But mostly Chinese and cheesesteaks.
In my bedroom, you'll find clothes and a bed,
Some pictures of Brad, and maybe about
847356893174568137456 pairs of underwear.
Why should you get to know me?
I dunno, do what you want…
But I tell you what
I am not looking for, though,
Is any man
With a teenie dick.
("Dewey in Bucks County," Am. Tatts, pp.28-29)
Now that you've heard my little confession, tell me: What is the connection between a man cutting his trigger finger off because he did not want to get his balls blown off in a war he did not care about and a man hacking his penis off for no apparent reason during peacetime?
("Val," Fake House, p.57)
Linh Dinh's writing goes through the body and what is the body but meat? In Borderless Bodies it becomes more than explicit:
Talcum powdered meat.
Meat arrayed with trinkets.
Meat back lit by red strobe lights.
Meat photographed from below.
Meat admiring self, photographed from below.
Touched up meat universally applauded.
Free ranging meat suddenly subdued.
Meat marinated in old sweat.
Meat stewed in own bile.
Meat spat on, kicked, then set on fire.
Meat blown up for profit.
Meat obscured by legends or slanders.
Meat impatient under a satin sheet.
Meat wrapped in an old, nappy blanket.
Meat smuggled in and out of paradise.
Meat cloistered, sacred and unseen.
Meat coiled on the sidewalk, dusted by Spring snow.
Meat covered by fresh newspapers.
Meat dressed in all the wrong colors.
Chopped meat as spectacle.
Bleeding meat as entertainment.
Meat washed, then tucked into the ground.
Meat protruding a little.
Meat angling into space.
("Menu," Borderless Bodies, p.38)
For a while it was a vogue among certain urban "body artists" to have skin flaps created on their torsos that could be held open like a superhero's secret identity shirt to reveal a crucifix, say, or some other emblem of high personal importance nestled amongst scar tissue. Linh Dinh's texts strike me as the verbal correlatives of such art. Read them.
Tom Beckett publishes interviews with poets at http://willtoexchange.blogspot.com
His chapbook Vanishing Points of Resemblance is available from Generator Press. He lives in Kent, Ohio.