Slithering Into Publication
Some time ago I stumbled upon an entirely new genre of literature. While searching for a Sonny Rollins disc on Amazon, I happened upon the following customer review of Saxophone Colossus:
Had this customer — who goes by the name “Navy Bean” — perhaps had a small psychotic break in the midst of assessing Henry Rollins for Amazon? Was he perhaps a doomed poet, condemned to wander the wrong genre until he found love? I was impressed. I began to wonder about Navy Bean. Had he published outside of amazon.com? Well, this I don’t know, but what I do know is that he has published considerably more within amazon.com. When I clicked on “see all my reviews,” I found that Mr. Bean had, as I say, created an entirely new genre of literary text: the small confessional narrative, hidden within the Amazon merchandise review. The review of Rollins has since been removed — I am proud of having saved it for posterity — but the following small masterpiece still appears on the page devoted to Welding Metallurgy by Sindo Kou.
While Bean’s Welding Metallurgy review is to be commended for having attached itself to such an inspired book, I do find that it represents a decline in structural nuance: Bean’s Saxophone Colossus review returns, in the final sentence, to the actual merchandise at hand — if nothing else, this is a more successful attempt at hiddenness, which is the essence of all esoteric writing. And the Beanian narrative is, most certainly, esoteric.
Perhaps Bean’s most successfully esoteric piece is the tender Stiletto T114MC Titanium, Milled Face, Curved Handle Framing Hammer. Here Bean employs the circular structure so powerful in Saxophone Colossus, yet — in a subtle twist — makes the deviant narrative relate, tangentially, to the merchandise reviewed:
For a moment, the reader believes that he or she may have just read an actual review of the Stiletto T114MC Titanium, Milled Face, Curved Handle Framing Hammer. (Which is $69.99, and ought therefore to be a pretty fine hammer indeed.)
I must confess, however, that I found the actual sentiments expressed in Stiletto T114MC Titanium, Milled Face, Curved Handle Framing Hammer a touch less moving — less deeply considered, in fact — than those apparent in Bean’s finer efforts. While it stands as a superb example of hiddenness, Stiletto T114MC Titanium, Milled Face, Curved Handle Framing Hammer remains a slight opus — a triumph, finally, of mere technique. Compare it with the delicate The Massacre ~ 50 Cent, surely the most affecting piece in the Beanian ouvre:
This small jewel has also disappeared from the Amazon site. If I accomplish nothing else with this blog, I will at least have rescued this piece. That will suffice.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of this body of work. Navy Bean has issued in a new era — not simply in genre, but in means of publication. We may soon see entire epic poems lying coyly hidden within CNET reviews; picaresque novels masquerading as users’ comments at various software sites; haiku inserted into responses on this very blog.