A review of

Headless

by Benjamin Weissman

Central question: Can all truthful stories about humans and their effluvia be reduced to the fable of the “unendurable man”?
Format: 160 pp., paperback; Size: 5-1⁄4” x 8-1⁄4; Publisher: Akashic; Run: 10,000; Price: $12.95; Editor: Dennis Cooper; Text typeface: CalifornianFBText; Agent: Ira Silverberg; Author’s least favorite word: Nougat; Book designer: Joel Westendorf; Cover: Paul McCarthy; Ski magazines to which author regularly contributes: Powder and Ski; Years spent in the writing: 8; Author’s favorite ski: V2 Spatula; Representative sentence: “Drunken staring matches, naked grab ass, someone’s face buried in the other person’s planetarium, mushy humping, out of synch—nothing dynamic.”

There’s a famous old story about a bunch of blindfolded people standing around an elephant. One person, touching the elephant skin, thinks the elephant is one thing; another person, touching the trunk, thinks the elephant is something else. This goes on and on until the people have a bunch of descriptions of an elephant.

To the extent that we’re all blindfolded, and to the extent that the elephant represents something analogous to life, it stands to reason that the more descriptions we have, the greater our understanding of the thing being described.

Benjamin Weissman, like the rest of us, has heard the elephant story. He seems to have walked around the elephant and discovered a particular cavity unexplored by his blindfolded colleagues, and not only does he reach in and feel the contours of this particular cavity, he crawls into this cavity with his whole body. Although the elephant he’s describing is not, as Magritte might say, just an elephant, it does exist. And Weissman, blindfolded or not, has seen something. Whether his characters are making sperm bank deposits or recording the travails of a doofus Der Fuhrer, he’s found a part of the elephant that the rest of the sightless rabble are trying to avoid. Maybe they don’t want to go there, but he does. And with glee. And by doing so, the inappropriate becomes, not just normal, but liberating.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—John Haskell

John Haskell is the author of a short-story collection, I Am Not Jackson Pollock (FSG, 2003) and the novel, American Purgatorio (FSG, 2005). He has contributed to the Paris Review, Conjunctions, Blind Spot, Bomb, Ploughshares, and the radio show, The Next Big Thing. He lives in Brooklyn.

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