FLACCID at Pungent Sound

Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology recently welcomed Firearms Loving Americans Constantly Confronting Innovation and Decency (FLACCID), who held their annual convention celebrating the Second Commandment of the U.S. Constitution.

FLACCID members were everywhere. And they invited our school chaplain, Father Orifice (pronounced Orifeechee – people always say it wrong for some reason), to give the opening prayer. Father Orifice proudly reports, “FLACCID members stood at attention throughout the prayer – it was a glorious thing to see.” So with such positive reviews, we decided to print his prayer here and hopefully you’ll be equally aroused to action.

The Second Commandment

   God is a Gun.
   And the Son of God is a Gun - 
   making God, Son, and Gun one.

   And God sent his only Gun to man
   so slights and sins could be avenged
   and trespasses need not be forgiven.

   And you shall not separate man from Gun
   lest you feel the wrath of Gun.

   Father Orifice, Chaplain of Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology

Mexico Goes Gothic

The internet says a gothic novel must have (i) a spooky castle or mansion in a remote location; (ii) a thicc atmosphere of dread and suspense; (iii) ancient legends, mysteries, and/or curses relating to the strange family residing in the creepy castle; (iv) ghosts or supernatural events; (v) thicc sexual innuendo or (even better) explicit sex, which leaves the reader feeling dirty and delighted; (vi) women in distress; and (vii) tyrannical men who enjoy distressing women.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has clearly consulted the internet, because her novel, Mexican Gothic, checks all the must-have boxes. However, despite observing all the conventions, the story never feels conventional, because her protagonist, Noemi, never wilts despite the peril she is in. And the house is spectacularly malignant. It is an organism intent on making evil.

The book opens with Noemi’s father receiving a strange letter from Catalina, his niece. Catalina has recently married Virgil Doyle and left Mexico City to live with Virgil’s family in their ancestral home. In the confusing and rambling letter, Catalina hints that she is now a prisoner of the Doyle family. Having grown up together, Catalina and Noemi are close, so Noemi is tasked with traveling to this barren corner of Mexico to find out what is going on.

Originally from Britain, the Doyle family has lived in Mexico for generations. But they remain anglophiles. As if that is not bad enough, the gruesome patriarch, Howard, has a disturbing interest in eugenics. Major Theme Alert: eugenics is bad. If you think eugenics is cool, do not read this book. It will only disappoint you. Also, what the hell is wrong with you?

If you think eugenics is problematic or (better yet) horrific, you will enjoy reading Mexican Gothic. The bad people are truly evil. Noemi is a strong, likeable protagonist. And though she becomes a prisoner of the house along with Catalina, Noemi is no damsel in distress. Quite the contrary. As Ms. Moreno-Garcia tells us, Noemi learned rebellion as a young girl in Catholic school while muttering the rosary. Her strength serves her well. But there is one frustrating problem with the book. The reader discerns what Catalina and Noemi must do to escape well before they do. And when Noemi finally figures it out, it is too late.

Or is it?

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Titillation

I was staring at the Peaks of Otter http://blueridgeparkway.org/poi/peaks-of-otter, which are right outside Roanoke, when this poem came to mind. I hope you like it.

Titillation

   This is a poem about my nipples.
   I call it "Titillation" because that's a pun
   and people pretending to be poets
   use puns as the illiterati use memes:
   to prove how clever we are.
   So prepare to be impressed.

                      *

   My nipples are erect all the time.
   So reliably erect, when nothing else is.

   In thin silky shirts they are steeples.
   In thick cotton pullovers they are pimples.

   Are they impressions that misleadingly point to titillation?

   Or are they just sad signs for all to see
   that my world has become cold?

                       *

   I'm pretty sure that's a metaphor,
   which again showcases my cleverness - 
   something I desperately want to convey.

   You'll also find
   I did not rhyme.
   People pretending to be poets
   don't do that anymore.
   It's crass.

   And, yes, I know.
   By writing about my nipples
   I risk being accused of indulgence
   and narcissism.
   But that's a risk
   people pretending to be poets
   are perfectly happy to take.

   Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

   First Published in Defenestration.







The Remains of the Day and The Dignity of Dedicated Service

In 2017 Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. This reminded us of how much we loved his book, The Remains of the Day, which we read many years ago. So we intended (back in 2017) to write a tribute to Mr. Ishiguro celebrating his achievement, but we forgot. Regardless, it is never too late to celebrate great literature, and now is as good a time as any to revisit this work. As an aside, we did not read the book again (why would anyone ever read a book twice?), so everything that follows is based upon our memory. Fortunately, our memory is perfect.

Much has been written about The Remains of the Day. In fact, the book is so well-respected we made it mandatory reading in our 20th Century Bloviated Literature course. Because it is nearly impossible to say anything new about this book, we have decided not to try.

The major theme is the dignity of service or work, as personified by the main character, Jeeves, who served as a butler to a noble Englishman, Lord Nazi Lover. [Note to reader: this was in the 1930s before it was cool to be a Nazi sympathizer]. After the English lord dies, the American hero, Clark Kent, flies in and buys the English manor. Based upon a peculiarity of English law, the butler conveys with the house, and Jeeves now works for Mr. Kent. [Note to reader: it is unclear whether current English law still allows you to buy a manor home with the butler included, but it probably does].

Mr. Kent discovers that Jeeves has not had a vacation since he was 6 years old, so he allows Jeeves to borrow his Rolls Royce (see how nice Americans are) and take a drive in the countryside, which is described sumptuously by Mr. Ishiguro. High jinks then ensue, including Jeeves’ visit with Mrs. Plushbottom, a woman who once worked at the manor house. As the story progresses, we learn that Jeeves may have been in love with Mrs. Plushbottom, but his dignity and his dedication to Lord Nazi Lover prevented him from disclosing this. Then, Jeeves drives back to Mr. Kent and resumes his service.

Mr. Ishiguro does a stellar job of skewering the English elite. And rightfully so. They are pompous, prejudiced, prudish, privileged, and perpendicular. Which then begs the question. Were Jeeves’ many years of dignified service dedicated to a despicable person worth the sacrifice of love and potential happiness? Mr. Ishiguro telegraphs the answer by making that employer a Nazi sympathizer. So the answer, of course, is yes. Nothing in England is more important than sacrificing your personal happiness to devotedly serve a Nazi sympathizer. At least, that’s how we remember the book.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

Winner of Pungent Sound’s Poetry Contest

We are thrilled to announce that Luvgood Carp has won Pungent Sound’s first annual poetry contest with his poem, The Muse of Prune Poetry. We wish to send our hearty congratulations to him, as this is an incredible accomplishment. And we would like to thank our judge, Luvgood Carp, for his tireless work in making this happen. Please enjoy the winning entry below.

The Muse of Prune Poetry

The generic stuff won't do
because my bloviating muse
demands the artisan brews.
He . . . she . . .  it
(I don't know which)
is no service dog.
It's a different kind of bitch
with a pedigree that's more
buffoonery than ancestry.

And me?
I'm more beggar than beneficiary -
told to appreciate what is given me.

And what do I receive?
At night when I go to bed
it plucks gold and silver prunes
and chucks them at my head.
Or it nuzzles next to me,
snoring through a nose
that looks like Swiss cheese.

But when I'm on my knees
begging for inspiration
(and the only thing I see
is that wedge of Swiss cheese);
when I pray for a phrase,
word or half a thought,
a couplet or participle
(it could dangle or not).
When I start to cry
because I don't know why
this alcoholic muse is mine,
it frowns and gives me a frosty reply:

How's this for a thought?
Poets get what they deserve
and that's what you got.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor of Student Loans.

First Published in Lighten Up Online

Pungent Sound Announces Its First Annual Poetry Contest

Having done our fair share of surfing the net, we have encountered numerous poetry contests. For a fee, journals will pretend to consider your poem for a prize no one has ever heard of. Then, they will award the prize to some friend or acquaintance; give that friend or acquaintance a pittance; and keep most of the money for themselves. We thought – that’s brilliant. We should do that, too.

So because we need money, we are accepting submissions for our first ever annual poetry prize. Please submit your poem, along with the $99.99 entry fee. The prize winner will receive a used tote bag from Block Island Trading Company. (http://blockislandtradingcompany.com). Our lawyer, Treacherous Gulp, insists we post this disclaimer. Block Island Trading Company is not a sponsor of this contest. In fact, they know nothing about it. We just have an old sand-crusted tote bag that we purchased years ago.

We are looking for poems on freedom – the kind that only money can buy. Your verse should soar with the buoyancy of a pink pebble that has landed on the back of a musical wasp without changing the wasp’s flight trajectory or a single note of its song. Importantly, the poem should not rhyme (not even by accident). Nor should the poem be humorous (because poets aren’t funny). Rhyming and/or humorous poems make us vomit. Poets writing such tripe are not creating art. They are simply covering themselves with zoo filth. So please stop.

By submitting a poem you agree that we possess perpetual ownership rights over the poem. We will be able to do whatever we want with it, which includes ignoring it and never sending you a response or feedback. You, of course, will surrender all rights and agree to never think about it again. You also agree not to sue us if we remove your name from the poem and pretend that we wrote it.

Finally, we believe that poets should not be subject to any artificial barriers, such as talent or skill. So anyone may submit, but that does not mean we will actually read your poem.

Good luck! We look forward to receiving your money!

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

A Children’s Bible That’s Not for Children

In A Children’s Bible, Lydia Millet draws from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Revelation to tell a modern story about a world devastated by climate change. Appropriately enough, the narrator is Eve, whose affluent parents decide to spend the summer with several college friends. These families rent an isolated mansion, which brings Eve and her brother, Jack, together with 10 other children. The parents spend their time drinking alcohol and taking drugs. The children are left alone. So it is a pretty sweet vacation.

During one brief moment of sobriety, a parent gives Jack a children’s bible, which becomes his fifth favorite book to read while sitting on the toilet – just as any book by Bill O’Reilly is our fifth favorite bathroom book. Soon, a hurricane hits the area and there is massive flooding. The parents are catatonic and unhelpful. However, a small man, Burl, literally washes up on the premises and leads the children to relative safety on a nearby farm, where he provides the children with clean drinking water and a decent supply of food – think manna from heaven. It appears that Burl has saved the children, but then the men with guns show up.

It does not take a brilliant adjunct professor from Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology to point out all the biblical references, but we will do it anyway. There is flooding that even Noah, who is played here by Jack, would have difficulty handling. The parents worship false idols (drugs, money, and alcohol). Burl is a Moses-like character leading the 12 children (or 12 tribes of Israel) through a dismal landscape. There is even one section where a remote God-like character sends via Burl rules, which sound a lot like the Ten Commandments (however, the one about honoring your mother and father is conspicuously missing). Eve is Eve (duh). And there are angels, who appear as aging hippies, so they smell bad and sing corny songs. They also always seem on the verge of performing Godspell, which is obviously one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

The novel is fast-paced and gripping – at times humorous and then deadly serious. Eve is an engaging narrator. She has an unblinking eye and a razor tongue. Like most teenagers, she is repulsed by her parents and adults in general. “They had double asses – asses that stuck out, then sagged and bulged again. Protruding veins. Back fat like stacks of donuts. Red noses cratered by pores, black hair escaping from nostrils.” She is merciless like an ancient prophet. She also tells a really good story.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

Precious Little Useless Things

   What do we call the innocent?
   Those precious little useless things
   we honor with large words
   and then largely ignore.

   As we do ethics.  Or courtesy.

   Better yet - 
   those prophets of doom
   with science degrees.
   What do we call them?

   Oh, yes, we call them fools.

   Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Americanah the Beautiful

When discussing race or immigration in the United States, the maxim “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” applies. In Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrestles both issues without lace gloves and without apologies. And while we cannot say for certain that she is an angel, Ms. Adichie is clearly no fool.

The title refers to a Nigerian who travels to the U.S. and returns with the affectations of an American. That sounds like high praise to us, but surprisingly the term is not considered a compliment in Nigeria. Yes, we are confounded, too. The main character, Ifemelu, is a young Nigerian woman who comes to the U.S. to attend college. Upon arriving, she is confronted for the first time with the concept that she is black, and she describes this experience humorously and forthrightly in her blog. “Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care. So what if you weren’t ‘black’ in your country? You’re in America now.” And as the book details, being black in America (whether you are American black or Non-American black) means the backpack you carry as you climb the steep mountain that is the American dream is heavier than anyone else’s.

Now we know what you are thinking. Forget this awkward race stuff. Ifemelu has a blog? Oh, that’s so original (said with dripping sarcasm like maple syrup running down a stack of pancakes). Everyone has a blog. They are as ubiquitous as sunblock on a Block Island beach in August. True. But Ifemelu’s blog is intelligent and successful (that’s how you know the book is fiction), and it allows Ms. Adichie to shrewdly and effectively comment on all sorts of racial issues in the U.S., such as (a) Why Dark-Skinned Black Women – Both American and Non-American Love Barack Obama; (b) Understanding America for the Non-American Black: What do WASPs Aspire To?; (c) Job Vacancy in America – National Arbiter in Chief of ‘Who is Racist’ ; and (d) A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor. Major Metaphor Alert: the novel opens in a hair salon for a reason, and Ms. Adichie’s use of hair to illustrate her points about race is compelling and engaging.

Race is a major theme but so is immigration. Ifemelu’s high school sweetheart, Obinze, leaves Nigeria for London soon after Ifemelu arrives in the U.S. Neither leave Nigeria to flee poverty or war. Their reasons are far more complicated and intriguing. They leave to escape the “oppressive lethargy of choicelessness.” As Ms. Adichie writes, they were “raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in the somewhere else.” They (and other similarly situated immigrants) were “now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty.” Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s divergent paths allow Ms. Adichie to comment on the different immigrant experiences in England and the U.S. “[I]n America blacks and whites work together but don’t play together, and here (London) blacks and whites play together but don’t work together.” Glib, perhaps, but not devoid of truth. Ironically, Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s individual quests bring them back to a vibrant Nigeria.

More than anything, Americanah is a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze. It follows them from the early romantic stages (where just the heart is engaged) to a more complicated stage (where both the heart and brain are engaged). It develops into an “aware” love, which also could describe Ifemelu’s feelings for America and Nigeria.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Love Mark

Love dashed out the door with a surprising speed not suspected before.
So I pulled on my pants and chased her to the lawn, but Love
had turned the corner and she was gone.  Love must have had
her running shoes on.

So I jumped in my car and drove all around, searched the whole town
with a trusty bloodhound, but when Love left she covered her track.
Now my wife's jewelry is gone, and Love demands bitcoins, or
she won't bring it back.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans