My copy of Manifesto came from the Newbury Comics in Peabody, MA. I was there to take a small boy window shopping, and I can't remember if I bought anything but the little white book. It's two hundred pages long, perfect bound with plain white card stock. It has no graphics, inside or out, no title on the cover, the spine, or the first page. The only identifying mark was the store's UPC sticker, and publishing contact information on the bottom of the last page, facing into the spine, a phone number, a PO box in Northampton, and an e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) . My copy did not come with the flyer insert, but I've linked to the insert, below. I picked up the book because it looked like a mistake, a plain white spine with no writing, next to books by the Chucks (Klosterman and Palahniuk). Last time I'd seen plain little books bound in blank card stock with no titles on the spines, I was studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute.
Here is everything of interest I've gleaned from the internet on Manifesto:
Review from Perfect Porridge: Manifesto
Review from OC Weekly: Manifesto
A College Essay: Manifesto
Website, consisting of a list of vendors that carry the book: http://www.dedrabbit.com/
A copy of the flyer (typically printed on red paper) found inserted in some copies of the book: Flyer
Those other reviews do a good enough job of describing the book, analyzing its contents and speculating on the mystery of the author, so I'm going to skip all that. Instead, I'm going to poke at the marketing of the book. The flyer has three lists: 1) Manifesto is: 2) Manifesto is about: and 3) Influences. You can check out the flyer yourself by clicking the link, above. You could probably use the flyer as a checklist for my various media libraries: books, films, music. If he grew up in the east, and I grew up in the west, still it seems we've walked a parallel path through pop culture. I'm sure I'll be interested in the stuff on his list that's not on mine, and I'd put money down that he'd be interested in the stuff on my list that's not on his. If you liked ..., you may also like....
The flyer is calculated to evoke this feeling, I think. That "instant soul mate," I must have been separated from this person at birth thing, that oh my god HE IZ ME AND I IZ HIM! kind of cultishness. This thing is meant to pull my strings, to make me feel smart and superior and special enough to fork out my $7.00 and spend a couple of hours piecing together the nonlinear puzzle pieces. The marketing begs readers to help this thing become cult. It comes pre-loaded with all the earmarks of "instant cult classic." It's as if the author of the flyer did ten years of market research by passing out "list your top 10 favorite..." questionnaires at open mic nights and poetry slams all over New England, and wire-tapping the chat transcripts of several thousand art school drop-outs. Pull our heartstrings--we elite, wise, intellectual, fragile, ephemeral, transcendent, existential, misunderstood waifs who get addicted to drugs or develop other dysfunctional defenses to soothe our collective yet lonely anguish at how beautiful, wasted, and ironic everything is. Really, now. This book and its marketing is a parody of people like me. People who like Sigur Ros and Bon Iver, who cry while watching script-less foreign films about sheep farming.
Can you tell that I hate how much I love that flyer? It mirrors me, and it mocks me and I don't care. The implication of the listed works on the flyer is more than the book can handle: it's not the sum of its influences, but it borrows the glamour well enough to flip the switch on my self-absorption. I love all of those works listed, in the way that the child loves the velveteen rabbit, with that desperate focused love that smells like old dried thumb-sucking spit, so yes, I must necessarily also love this book, because it says I should, right here on this flyer. And the writing has merit; I'll show you. I guess I'm writing this blog post this way because I feel manipulated, and because I know I'm so easy to manipulate, yet hard to fool, I feel I must confess all of this. I confess that I love a sushi meal, and that I love that I share a taste for sushi with a lot of people I admire. Somehow, knowing that those people like what I like makes that thing I like taste better. I like the writing in this book, but the mind-games on that flyer are like the crack sprinkles on a Voodoo doughnut (joking: if Voodoo ever made a crack doughnut, it was after hours, and they did not sell it-they did sell Nyquil doughnuts though, and were ordered to stop).
Here are three passages from the book about reading:
Page 127. In the pages of books, surrounded by words that were true, the world as it was, people and places as they were, I felt more real, more myself, and happy. Even if the authors didn't understand the craziness, good ones at least recognized it. A good book made me feel like I existed, made me feel safe, that nothing could hurt me, that even under closed covers, cold and drab-looking, never read, all the greyness of my life life became pleasant and colored.
Page 144. I wanted to rip the flesh from my bones, vomit out the poisons, sit stark and removed, drinking water on a mountaintop.
I needed rest, silence, coolness--taking nothing into my body, only refreshing water, cool moist air, deep breaths. I wished I were ancient, calm, and free. I hated destinations, everything between and on the road to destinations. I hated being anything that wasn't myself. I was quiet and nice. I didn't want to hurt anything, not even myself.
I wanted to do nothing but quiet work and never talk and live till I was old, sad and calm, to find an enormous perfect book and read forever.
Page 160. A stupid fat man drank all day and had nothing to say to people who told him to change his ways. He listened to the radio. He flipped through the TV. He did the crossword puzzle. He swatted flies. In his mind he'd written a thousand books. In his mind he'd been so many princely men.
These passages won't mean much if you didn't read those other reviews--if you don't know that the whole book is about this guy who drops out of college and proceeds to drift from state to state, to drift overseas and back, sinking deeper and deeper into drug abuse, alcoholism and despair. It's not clear how the snippets of hope are like diamonds winking from piles of manure, that it's that movement that's important, not the destination--the movement is the lyric:
I wanted a true love and a house in impenetrable mountains, to live in a bright meadow with wildflowers. I wanted animals on a farm, not animals to slaughter or to milk or to make money off of. All the bodies living in a meadow would make me smile. I wanted to look over everything, like a wizard working a spell.
I worried about it falling to pieces. I didn't want children to think I was crazy. I didn't want strangers dropping bombs, invading and raping the valley. I could see my dream like a flower.
It was a devastating progression.