This is a review of Johannes Göransson’s The Sugar Book. Also, it isn’t. This is a response in the sense that blood rushes to the surface of our skin. But it isn’t that either. This is a translation which is a remaking which is an ivy limbed claim which is rough and loving and also is not altogether that, unless it is a translation in the oldest sense of the word, “to carry over” and “to remove from one place to another,” a displacement then, a carrying forward and a falling down, clutching at the text like an ink black rope ladder. The narrator of The Sugar Book is infected with Ideas. This author is infected. Contagion is rampant. You may be a carrier. I hope that you will carry. If this is a mapping- and perhaps it is- then here be monsters. Consider yourself warned or, as the case may be, welcome.
THE SUGAR BOOK
by Johannes Göransson.
by russel swensen
Los Angeles is everywhere. Everyone has it and has been mottled by it. Their skin creams. A dark blotch has started to take shape in her. Like a photograph or a bleed-through. It’s Los Angeles of course. My wife smells like a campfire. Burn Los Angeles Down. Burn me to pieces. Burn until interesting. Burn it all down. But don’t start over. Never start over. And never say you’re sorry. Never admit that you’re the one the homeless woman on Vine was screaming at. Never ever say why.
The map is bad. The where are we is thick and phlegmy. Someone says “you should have that looked at.” Someone is always saying that. Sometimes they’re talking about holes in the ground or underground rivers. I’m in Los Angeles but Los Angeles was never allowed to exist. Not even as a dish. But if it was it would be the one that left you retching in a yellow apartment, your belly full of tiny red spiders (“I’ll have that you said,” and someone else said but you already do, but you already did). Part of me is writing this and part of me is inside of it. Have you ever had that feeling. Have you had this book. Have you had the Los Angeles me. My temperature is flawless. I have a mouth if you have a rag.
What I wanted to say is that we’re all in Los Angeles now (like being in a storm or the sort of love that leaves you shaking with rage). Take me out of here, I whisper. It’s not a Los Angeles that can be demarcated by municipal lines. The edges of the periphery are written in cocaine. The population is I hear children’s voices. He says he’s working on science fiction. I bang on my neighbor’s door but he refuses to let me in.
All the bodies are here. The bodies are famous for being here and for being smeared with apricot. The bodies are well ventilated. They have holes in the top so they can breathe. I place grass on them. It’s hard to explain anything through the sour stench of the Reagan mask the court requires me to wear. The Santa Ana winds come and go. I can’t stop thinking of the word aquamarine. In the world of Peter S. Beagle, the surf is full of unicorns, bellowing in pain. In a similar way, the Santa Ana winds are full of coyotes. “It’s the blood tunsami,” whispered the woman behind the counter and winked at me.”
“Every word leaves a tooth in the mind.” “Even when I’m having my hair done in Los Angeles, I think about carrying mammals in plastic bags.” Some of these things Johannes said. Some of them he did not. I can’t tell who it is that’s speaking. But I know he’s interrupting! I know his pig face and his pig sounds as if they were my own. I know he’s wearing a plastic Reagan PIG mask and the sweat pouring down his neck makes me sick. “Anywhere you can kill a starlet is Los Angeles and trust me, you can kill a starlet anywhere.” This is not in the book. It is no longer in the book or tattooed on my inner lip (there are so many things tattooed on my inner lip and all of them are better than talking). I can’t prove Johannes said this or even thought it and yet I feel in my heart that he did.
The children are here. Puking and mewling and poisoning the rooms they walk through. The chalk outlines are here. The gangs are here. The homeless are here. The doctors in hazmat suits rove in large groups below eighth street, muttering in a language that sounds like birds breaking. We’re all fresh from the dungeon. White death moves across borders but I keep my son locked up in an attic. The tattoo on his inner lip says “I am not allowed to speak.” Someone makes the shuddery sign for me to get out of here.
Everything happens so much. That’s the plot. It’s a murder plot, of course. I’m stabbed to death and Johaness billows whitely. He does the teeter totter cocaine and catches my blood on a mirror. It’s me,” he says. That’s all he says and he wanders off. Everything happens so often. Repetition become enlargement. The bruise is always bigger, the girl is always quiver. “I’m engorged with Los Angeles. I’ve known for some time now, that I’m going to have to throw up.” The Detective nods. The bomb fits.
Slight variations on the theme (“spit on me then punch me! punch me then spit on me!”). Our daughter’s eyes are black with flies. They have done a tender to me. I notice that I am bleeding from my wrist. What happened is the moon infected us. She’s fastening something that looks like a hook in the ceiling. But also everything happens too much and it never happens right. I’m not a “tool” at all. I’m a cadaver. I leave good teeth marks, I’m told. I take a bad photograph because the model is always hurt. We were drinking with cops and laughing. I said, “the thing about this motherfucker right here.” And then I trailed off and you nodded, you understood Have you ever fallen in love while a city burned? Have you ever fallen in love while a city burned? Have you ever fallen in love or fallen into the flames and loved? Did you get or give consent. Did you or did you not check the box for regret.
Like in all good kidnapping movies there’s a family. That’s why the Johannes is always screwing with dolls. The wife has mercury poisoning. She got it from a porn shop on sunset. At parties she says do you want to see it. The son is… it is unclear where the son is although he was abandoned or discarded at a picnic. My wife is depressed. The children are killing her. I have a photograph of the children painting their faces with resin and shark blood. An identity that consists of saying, “something’s missing, something’s missing, our bodies have been made into posters, our love into the Law.”
The orbit of the family has been deteriorating for some time. I describe my “pillow angel.” No doves survive. The costume never fits and the pink is streaked with ash. It’s fucked with riot. There are a lot of children but something’s wrong with the perforation. Communists fuck just like everybody else only they’re a little more waaaah it hurts about it. Now I’m wearing my new shoes to the interrogation. The Detective grins. They show us the photographs. My son asks me about a girl who shivers and doesn’t have eyes. The orbit of the family has been deteriorating for some time. In the dioramas of Los Angeles we’re frozen with our mouths agape starting at a series of deady bear photographs.
I blame my daughters. The doctors says I have a Hollywood inside me. That’s why I smell like rotten oranges and cigarettes. They have soiled mouths and blue eyes. They stand in the doorways. I took away their rooms. They are beautiful but disgusting. They break the shells and carry sunflowers, thousands of sunflowers. They wake me in the middle of the night and ask me, “Daddy why did you swallow the sun?”
“It’s fine it’s fine it’s totally fine but everything that I see it feels like it’s screaming at me.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned about translation. It’s about corpses. Actually I’m surprised when people aren’t screaming. It seems suspicious. What’s their angle? I keep thinking “noctuid” because of the sci-fi angle. Then bomb angle. The multiply-killed-wife angle. The flowers as screaming angle.
The city punched me in the spine. Wow so stoned it’s like meat and bikinis. The map is me in a black stairwell whispering suction. I’m a homicide because I refuse to explain Poetry. They’ve seen my type before. I’m a trenchcoat that swallows faces. I don’t want to explain it to you, I want to shove it down your throat and this excites you (jumping up and down on the motel bed shouting “and after that dissolve me!”) which excites me too until I remember I’m not here, or there, it’s somebody else.
Russel asks me to punch him until he sees colors. But that’s not why I punch him. He’s a harlequin jewel bug guarding eggs on a stem. The different colors are eyelids (charcoal), the stare (red), the ribcage (blue), the stumble (brownish). He says “thank you,” but with his mouth full of content. It sounds like someone stepping heavily in the deep red mud outside inside Los Angeles.
Girls are always mute but images speak a thousand words – words like icky and ouch and pretty and I wanted to cut her face up and so I cut a large piece of gold paper. In other words, Los Angeles. Little girls walk in front of the bride and cut themselves instead of confetti. They red petal the street. More weddings with each passing day. “It’s the Romance,” you explain. “It gets in through the eyes.”
How I lived and what I lived for: puking silk, or you can hear a deer getting shot in the head, black-on-black violence, violence-on-violence violence, like he wants to masturbate the walls, he has a Satanic Glow, MY HEART IS A BOMB!, wearing my new shoes to the interrogation, “I want to be strangled and I want to have control,” then spit on me, my wife’s too far gone, I have to fuck her in the mouth.
Children are hiding in the flowering tree (scared). More children are hiding in the flowering tree (scared). “Am I not a serious man?” he asks. My wife tells me the trees are getting excited again but all I see is fire.
This is about Ideas. Why else would the scabs have appeared so soon. Consumption: I said I wanted to get hyped up. Idealism: if I promise to forgive you will you fess up. Will you take off your blood stained slicker and talk to me. We shouldn’t trust metaphors, I’ve been told. Nothing likes anything. The girls is not a plague, the hare is not poetry. Communists fuck just like ash. It was never about Ideas. It was about the Representation of Ideas. A sniper kept a nightingale under his bed. The naked girl in the horse mask. I write messages in blood on refrigerators.. I write messages in blood refrigerators. Seduced by Fame and Hospitals. In the animated version of the orgasm, I looked quite sad. Los Angeles doesn’t care. It just needs be here. It is about the representation of ideas and the ideas themselves are “hahahahaha someone is stabbing me lol someone is electric tape.” .
Kitsch: I said I wanted to rule you absolutely. Idea for a film script: a murder suicide pact because one five year old boy’s family is leaving Los Angeles. Sensation: you wanted to rule me with furious eyelashes. David Bowie tried to burn it down once. He did this by leaving. Then he went on burning for years. I was about to speak. I was Berlin-ing it baby. I was hit me one more time and after that hit me a bunch more times Bakers commonly refer to burning sugar as “liquid napalm.” I want us to have the kind of intimacy where I can say “I want to put my Los Angeles in you” and you just laugh and Johannnes stands by filming everything wearing his bubblegum Orpheus mask. He smells like hotel. “Take me out of here,” I whisper. David Bowie me in the car or in the warden. Rick me in the restaurant. We are modern in a private way. What we do is secret. “All of these stadiums will burn like sugar.” When I say things will burn what I mean is they will improve.
Who did this to you,” asks my wife when she’s removed the tape. “God,” says my daughter and laughs. “Los Angeles,” says my wife and laughs. What happened is that I confused intimacy with depression. I check my son for signs of the Disease. Imagine the most beautiful of all interrogations. He refuses to comply so I put a hood over his head and ask him questions he can’t understand. We need to be certain that he’s left out everything. What a body in a text means: don’t let it be found. I don’t want to read a poem unless it tells me where the killer hides. I don’t want to hear the killer’s last words if you won’t read them in your gummy drawl. In your “this is insecticide.” A thousand thousand thousand black orchids mysteriously bloom on death row. I kind of want him to invite me into his ruins. The starlet’s body gleaming there a broken coke bottle. Barbed wire shadows on his face. In the documentary it was clear that you were both the Christians and the Lions, totally stoned. “When they take me apart,” she says dreamily, “they will find a tunnel.” Please speak up I’m losing you. I’m losing you to this hotel might just collapse because my wife and I are really siblings. We’re going through a tunnel. You’ll have to scream like a rabbit. I am asking for it. We’re going through a blue phase. We’re using synthesizers to achieve the same effect as pushing you into a room with a meat hook dangling from the ceiling. Your breath cotton white. I want to shoot a bullet through my head: the story of Joy. Bodies in Los Angeles have technical difficulties. They distort so beautifully. They are radio waves someone is tearing apart. Snow flickers through the air. It brings victims to our backyard. Don’t you hate it when you go to the store but all you needed was to kill yourself. Plague: you said sleep was like fighting with dogs. I was down on my luck. I starred in a soft-core warden. Luxurie: One person is the subject and the other the object. One person is the subject and the other is the object. Saints are always cumming and going. Angels ask for matches. I was a plane mistaken for a star. This always happens when they find me on the roof, screwing like a clown. Sensation: you wanted to rule me with furious eyelashes. Love: it’s not supposed to hurt this much. Love: yes it is. I was surrounded by ten thousand cars. My daughter. In her feast day clothes. We had tasers supposedly. I did my stand-up routine at the abortion clinic. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a boy says to a girl, “this won’t hurt a bit.” God has a plan for everyone. I just want to say I don’t want you to have hate in your heart for me. I’m sorry I set the world on fire but you should have seen your face. You should have seen your face. “You cannot destroy Los Angeles,” I explained. I have tried with this love poem and it has only made things worse.
NOTE: all text in bold is a direct quotation from The Sugar Book