I´m now the proud owner of four Brian Alan Ellis books, which is extremely awkward, but as it is, I start to like this fool.
With A Series Of Pained Facial Expressions Made While Shredding Air Guitar: Poems, Observations, Lists, Letters, Notes, Bullshit Aphorisms, and General Tales of Ordinary Crabbiness BAE has written his own 12 step AA (Author´s Anxiety) program.
Now if you expect some traditional story telling with a beginning, middle part and an ending, move on, wrong book. He delivers exactly what the subtitle (and the book description) promises.
A long series of Twitticism, interrupted from movie talk with his buddy and fellow author Bud Smith plus a lot of self-pity and randomness told in his typical ironical way. What BAE does is breaking boundaries between confession, satire, fiction and those fleeting moments of clarity where one realizes one has to move from the couch coz the cats are puking in the other room. It is a deconstruction between paranoia and parody at the intersection of fiction and reality without some hackneyed aesthetic, which is rather ambitious to do. A least he doesn´t write chick lit with an edge.
Books are like people: there are too many and most are garbage but we keep producing them because maybe a really amazing one will turn up though it’s doubtful as fuck.
That´s deep but I like it, so whatever.
Now of course BAE pretends he is loaded with self-hate and delusions, but not buying it, way too emo. What I like mostly about his writing is that he lets you connect more closely to him than other authors, even yeah, it sure as hell is at least partially a stunt. At least he gives the impression that you know him, especially since there is a little bit of an overlap between his tweets and his writing. He is either not that original or simply loves to recycle his best-of-the-best like a band who run out of ideas and cash in on the big hits again with an album. We are good here since he was making me laugh a lot, but good lord, I do wish he would shut up once in a while.
It would be less funny if BAE wouldn´t wrap his "poor artist shtick, look at me, look at me, I need validation" assphorisms in a cultural context like a bacon sandwich, even I was disappointed he didn´t offer any donuts. BAE nevertheless resists applying an cookie-cutter analysis of the sad existence of the author life/whatever, instead just makes fun of everything. Which I consider a good thing that he does not approach the subject like an anthropologist from a distance, but puts himself in the center of the stage. Or more an alter ego of himself as a writer.
The Artist As Tortured Soul is surely one of the most used tropes in the history of literature, ever. Where many a good time was had was that is impossible to tell where BAE is deadly serious, and him just doing what he does, writing books that is.
Where it moves into the realms of digital vs analog meta-existence is the moment one realizes what he writes as satire/cry for help is the daily reality and there are people out there like him, or rather the ones he describes/pretends he is himself. Which is as bizarre as it is hilarious (and sometimes cringe-worthy), and admittedly I laughed a lot even with feeling a little bit guilty about it. It happens. *shrugs*
Now I pity those poor fools who were raised and feed on bands like KISS or Judas Priest or Poison - remember the time where people were genuinely afraid of Satan worshipping Heavy Metal bands? Yeah, me neither - and all those 1980s (?) movies and video games he mentions or wrestling shows (aka dick measuring contest) I couldn´t care less about. I am aware that any generation thinks itself superior than its predecessor, still if you look at the lost generation of Star Wars fans who cry themselves a river or that their superhero Superman ain´t so cool anymore they surely can´t complain about us Millennials. Pull me a ducktail, you frightened rabbit! Not my fault you never grow out of wearing short pants.
Pro tip: Try to sell more books and watch your anxiety shoot through the roof.
Frequently checking Twitter/Facebook/etc - he probably has a MySpace profile too (LOL) - while the ´can I just sit here and *not* tweeting?´ is the ultimate death blow to existence. Decisions are hard in this regards, especially when - without the internet - one has no life. Which is the irony that plays itself out insofar that without those instant gratifications of sharing the latest hot shit/purchases/think pieces about Kim K.´s butt, or those ´everyone is Hitler´ memes, one doesn´t exist at all. Hell is indeed other people´s Twitter feed. Where retweets and likes is high fiving oneself for getting attention from random strangers on the net who have already forgotten who you are or what they "liked" the moment they clicked a button.
Now all this could have gotten horribly wrong if not for BAE´s wicked sense of humor, either that or he has so many issues he´s every therapist´s wet dream. Or maybe he´s just one of those brilliant savage idiots of the digital era (every village has one of those!). A 21th century Baudelaire aka the offspring of Woody Allen having buttsex with Adam Sandler.
Those books I´ve read so far by him often felt like written by someone with undeniable talent without really knowing how to bring it across in a more focused way aka deliberately bullshitting coz fun! That said, A Series of Pained Facial Expressions Blah Blah Blah is a bold move, a step in the right direction (even I´d love to read more of his more serious short stories), with adding fresh impetus from an author one could easily think was left behind by the Indie lit scene.
Partially it still feels again like the work of an author still exploring his possibilities (a neverending task, I am sure) while pushing his stories/bullshit aphorisms in new directions. A Series of Pained Facial Expressions Blah Blah Blah nevertheless feels like something more concrete, even not fully done exploring what he can actually do as a writer, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
In the meantime he was probably jerking off to Aerosmith´s Cryin´/Crazy/Amazing videos on YouTube while crying himself to sleep. Sad, really.