Welcome to the Labyrinth of multiple negatives. Books so bad they’re perfect to pillory populate the latest Unbearables anthology, a lavish production whose reach tries strenuously to exceed its grasp; but nobody grasps like an Unbearable. The world is their oyster and it isn’t easily digestible.
Even without counting graphic artists such as David Sandlin, Kaz, and Ken Brown, over 70 contributors take pot shots at the books that bother them, and they don’t waste time on trash. Each takes a tangent off the concept and few look back, that’s not how they roll. Some state their premise clearly like a survey response or an assignment, others go after imaginary titles (Jerome Sala) or their own work (Ron Kolm). The work is at its most enjoyable when core members wallow in self-mythologizing, inventing characters out of each other. bart plantenga turns in a novelesque tale of proofreaders driven too far, Mike Randall paints the Unbearable Big Fish as “relentlessly cruising the shallow water for talent that will cough up some ‘edgy’ material for less than scale.” Tribulations of the writer’s life are the one keen constant. Despite some targets being hit more than once, like the Bible, James Joyce, and the Chicago Manual of Style, no two entries are alike. Some of the Beats are back for another drubbing, along with their parasitic hangers-on, taken out by Gerald Nicosia and Mike Golden, while Henry Darger and Barbie hide behind Gertrude Stein. Lit pop-stars like Sedaris and Chabon, icons like Ballard, Borges, Mailer and Calvino are roasted as well, more for being distracting or disappointing than execrable. By digging into the books that have riled them up, this pack of writer/proles has levitated a pungent Pentagon of provoking prose out of a hole greater than some of its parts.
Published by Autonomedia, paper, 16.95$