I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel: Deluxe Edition by Nikki Wallschlaeger
Bloof Books, 2019. 35 pages.
Reviewed by Anthony Madrid
If anyone reading these words has a copy of the 2015 version of this chapbook and is willing to part with it, go to my website and click on CONTACT. I’m sure we can work something out. I’ve been trying to get a hold of that damn thing for years.
It’s one of my favorite chapbooks of all time. All it is is twenty-five very colorful photographs of the same Black “Barbie”-style doll (turns out the doll’s name was Julia), in different clothing in each shot, with a meme remark blasted across the top and/or bottom. The sodium content of the remarks is extremely high, and the effect, deliciously, is to make the fixed stare of the doll seem transfused with various levels of indignation or perplexity.
To give you an idea of the meme sentences, here are three specimens:
CONFUSED FRIENDSHIP WITH COMPLIANCE AGAIN
DOES THIS DRESS MAKE ME LOOK LESS OF A PERFECT VICTIM TO RALLY AROUND
YOU’RE KILLING ME BROET
Some of ’em are weirder than that, but they’re almost all animated by hostility and disgust. It shouldn’t really work, but it does. The photographs shouldn’t hold one’s interest, but they do. In fact, the whole thing “stands up to a hundred listenings,” like a great CD. One even finds Easter eggs hidden in there. For example, in one of the photographs, the doll seems to be lying on a futon under a quilt; that’s how I saw it, the first few times I looked at it. But the whole thing is made of saltine crackers! The quilt is a cracker. Once you see it, you can’t believe you didn’t notice it before.
’Course, there’s no need for me to describe all this; you can look at the whole thing online for free here. So the question becomes: If one can look at the whole thing for free, why would one drop $22 on a hard copy? That’s easy. So you can look at it over and over, any time you want, without having to Google it first. Also: so you can have the physical object on the shelf, reminding you, every time you glance in its direction, that neato-torpedo projects operating outside all normal categories sometimes Actually Pay Off. And this staves off despair.
You shouldn’t listen to me, though. You’re talking to somebody who wants a copy of the original chapbook even though he already has the “deluxe” hardcover. I am a Wallschlaeger “completist.” I buy any magazine that has even one poem by her in it.
ANTHONY MADRID lives in Victoria, Texas. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Boston Review, Fence, Harvard Review, Lana Turner, LIT, and Poetry. His second book is called Try Never (Canarium Books, 2017). www.anthonymadrid.net