Review: The Brandon Book Crisis

Brandon Scott Gorrell and Tao Lin’s The Brandon Book Crisis contains a considerable amount of white space, thereby reflecting the aesthetic of an Outlook email printout. One suspects that the people in publishing deal with such printouts on a regular basis, even as they tell each other not to print out emails. There is, after all, an environment to save. Do people print out emails anymore?

One is tempted to quote Lacan here. Or perhaps another French Situationist. Some writer who might prevent depression. The real is too depressing. Even if it’s only a recession. White space leaves most writers depressed. The after image of this white expanse on various pages: also depressing. Brandon Scott Gorrell and Tao Lin should not be faulted for failing to predict the reviewer’s mood. Reviewer has not yet had coffee and, only yesterday, entered into a controversial exchange on Twitter over Starbuck’s and non-Starbuck’s coffee that amused about four people. It is quite possible that The Brandon Book Crisis will amuse more than four people. I now have the PDF open at Page 17. I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. But these two guys put out a book and I haven’t. It’s that white space again. They somehow knew. They are watching me. They are watching me attempt to negotiate a morning without coffee and, like the rest of the literary community, they are laughing at me. They will beat me down until I am reduced to one of Tao’s unpaid interns.

The book claims to have arranged its emails from Monday through Friday. This, as it turns out, is a lie. For shortly after reading Page 4, outlining the weekdays and the page numbers, we then must endure the shock of Page 5, which doesn’t have any text on it (unless one counts the page number in the lower left-hand corner). We then turn to Page 6 and we are greeted by the words, “THURSDAY APRIL 23.” Tao informs us in a chat transcript: “brandon book cover crisis in ‘full on’ mode.” Yes, this is a crisis. A crisis in design. A crisis in narrative. A crisis that will probably be ignored by Granta and Bookforum — but a crisis nonetheless. I am having a crisis just thinking about the crisis.

On Page 12, there is reference to the white space problem. These authors may know what they are doing

On Page 18, there is an email containing the phrase, “chat me, i can’t chat you, internet closed.” Is this an allusion to Brokeback Mountain? Often when I hit Alt-F4 on Thunderbird, I wonder if my relation to my inbox is sexual. I am tempted to tell Thunderbird, “I just can’t reply to all of you, baby.” And since this is close to a famous line in Brokeback Mountain, I get uncomfortable. Perhaps Tao Lin experiences the same level of discomfort. Kudos to him for popping that conceptual cherry.

I have not had any personal dealings with Thomson-Shore, Inc. But there is a minatory quality to the email exchanges.

The book has a helpful index explaining references to various media figures and companies. This will be a valuable handbook when the world has forgotten about us.

Perhaps this book is a way for a number of disenfranchised literary figures to find credibility. To defeat the monster of white space.

“Think I’m just going to copy/paste in word doc,” says me at 2:10 PM on Friday, April 24. A fast way to defeat white space. Now that I’m looking at all the time stamps, I’m realizing that these kids are up earlier than I am. It is quite possible that they are putting together a book without coffee. Maybe they are not afraid of the monster of white space. But if they are, then why do they put so much of it in this book?

Other quotes:

“If you email him cc me in the email.”

“We can convert the photo to grayscale and make it the Pantone Black.”

I’m wondering if this book is quietly urging me to apply for a job at Kinko’s. The authors could not know that I was having a nervous breakdown. But if you want to be reminded of a particular Outlook aesthetic and the monster of white space, you can read this book. It is too short for anyone to have a nervous breakdown. But the authors might. And that seems more than a bit needless.

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