Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The War Is Language: 101 Short Works (Nath Jones)

Overall: 3
  • Content: 2.5/5
  • Originality: 4/5
  • Language: 2.5/5
  • Credibility: 3/5
The War Is Language: 101 Short Works by Nath Jones

The War is Language: 101 Short Works is a compilation of ultra shorts that culminates with absurdest letters to a fake advice columnist. These pieces exist at story's amorphous limit of spoken word and deconstruction.

As a whole, this high-impact triptych of prose poetry and flash fiction probes identity in experience. The first and second sections of the book explore memory and dichotomy respectively by focusing on the impressions of a woman and a soldier as 21st-century Americans. The book’s third section, letters to a fake advice columnist, is a sarcastic interaction with an absurd existential authority figure. The book calls into question our post-post-modern establishment of anti-authority conformists.

The War is Language: 101 Short Works is the first in an e-book series, On Impulse, which explores the spectrum of narrative.
Genre: General Fiction,
Humor, Nonfiction
Purchase Links:
Kindle US | UK
Other Links:
author website

The War is Language is a collection of short pieces, ranging from absurd, fictional vignettes to stories from the author's own life. There are thematic elements tying individual sections together, though the work as a whole is designed to make one question the bandwagon approach to rebellion and the way that we see the status quo.

The author's writing style varies throughout the work, depending on the intended effect. For instance, the "letters to a fake advice columnist" section at the end adopts a tongue-in-cheek sort of sarcastic humor, while others utilize a stream of consciousness approach. Her arsenal of words is substantial, and she has the same command of phonics that makes EE Cummings poems so effective. Unfortunately, however, the combination of focused sound and uncensored thought often made the text difficult to follow. Some sections needed to be read two or three times, and I was frequently forced to concede defeat.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the works tend to rail against things without necessarily substantiating the argument. The thoughts seemed scattered, jumping from one to the next, instead of tackling one specific topic in depth. At the risk of sounding plebeian, my reaction to many sections was "I just don't get it." The text could also stand another round or two of editing, as absent commas, mixed homophones, and misplaced apostrophes compounded the confusion.

In the end, the sections that I enjoyed most thoroughly were the short scenes. They effectively communicated an emotion, or a thought, without making me feel as if I were being spoon-fed propaganda. I was disappointed when the ending of one attempted to ascribe some deeper meaning to the scene; it was an intellectual stretch and diminished whatever feelings the vignette had evoked. Some readers might not mind being preached to. Personally, I hate being told what to think.

The War Is Language is certainly an ambitious endeavor. It needs more cohesion, however, to bring it all together, and deeper exploration of fewer themes. Note: subjects of rape and death are addressed.

(Review copy provided by the author)


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