Cosmo by Spencer Gordon Coach House Books, 2012

Cosmo
by Spencer Gordon
Coach House Books, 2012

Review by Karl Fenske

Cosmo is impossible to tear away from without gushing embarrassing mawkishness. From a galaxy of personalities, a character is plucked and presented to the reader straight. One is led by a benevolent narrator through celebrity and nobody, helium pop and deficient art, all given equivalent currency. For all the presence of twinkling thought bubbles, one is flung right down to earth with a great weight every time; wasted life, devastating loss, self-realization only now, the pain of memory. This is at once a haunted book with many ghosts and a celebration of life.

In the process of being flung down with us, a character sees themselves, in the erasure of their persona, for what they are. It is among the wreckage of a persona that one glimpses its clearest exposures. A story presents its subject first with clarity, then utter transparency, until each and every all-too-human personality hides nothing and is naked before us; whether alive and writhing in awareness or merely a statistic, they are supine in surrender. What follows is absolution.

Most of Cosmo’s stories have a life thrust: reckless, grim, hard — then, in soft-focus half-dream, relief, deliverance. Perhaps it’s because they are dark and bite hard that their letting go feels so ecstatic. Gordon has the rare ability, startling when revealed, when flexed, to make one laugh (this is a wildly funny book), then, and within such tight proximity, perhaps even feel a choke.

One of many things to strike the reader is how alone these characters are, despite their colliding multitude. Between the hyperactivity of every obsessive earworm of failure, one finds respite; repose, near-nothing outside space and time. This is ultimately an experience of seeing people off, a book of departures, of cosmic deliverance.

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attachment-1Karl Fenske is a writer and sound artist, author of a novella, W. He lives in Montreal.