2. X’ed Out, Charles Burns

15 Jan

Charles Burns is on my all-time shortlist of favorite writers for Black Hole, which feels like it’s been lifted straight from my psyche–woe is my psyche. I’ve been writing about sexualized sores and mysterious holes in bodies for years before I picked up Burns and fell like Alice into his insane black-and-white looking-glass, paranoid-high world. His latest book, X’ed Out has similar personal significance for me, since it’s an overlapping-identities reality where the main character repeatedly loses consciousness and wakes up as someone different, someplace unfamiliar but perilous. This is a structure I’ve been working on in my most ambitious and crazy short story at the moment.

To unpack it a little, Burns uses photographs, dreams, memories, tv shows, comic book references (Tintin) and altered states to tell his story, which I find to be a true and accurate representation of consciousness. We’re all wandering around crammed full of half-remembered sitcoms, news stories, memories of photographs of memories, acid trips, dreams, lies we’ve told so long they’ve become true, and so on. I’m a 38-year-old woman but 8 percent of my internal pie chart is probably composed of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Let me show you my imaginary petticoat. And then shoot me. It’s exciting when a writer captures that, especially with such a light touch.

I am so curious to know when the next volume comes out.

The other awesome thing about this book, is that for some reason it’s hit a nerve with my three-year-old daughter (I make up child-friendly dialog and try to skip the part where the noseless man offers Doug a weeping worm to eat), so I get to read it three or four times a day. This is so delightful, it might make up for the years of Biscuit and Kai-Lan and other painfully unreadable kiddie crap. “Mommy, read the one about the aliens!” With pleasure….

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