A review of

The Cubist Infant

by Justus Ballard

Central question: What good is talent when you can’t think of anything to say?
Format: 45 pp., paperback; Size: 4.25" x 5.75"; Price: $14.95; Publisher: Cloverfield Press; Editor: Laurence Dumortier; Print run: 750; Book designer: Elinor Nissley; Typeface: Garamond; Cover illustration: Ann Faison; Interior artwork by: Elinor Nissley; Representative sentence: “He would have taken his magnifying glass to these courtesans, debutantes, and girls-next-door, plucked the most telling pubic hairs and eyelashes, and nibbled thoughtfully at the ends of them, rolling the tiny balls of follicle flesh across his tongue, savoring the exquisiteness of all that was French womanhood.”

In 1907, in Paris, twenty-four-year-old Georges Braque met Pablo Picasso, then twenty-five, launching a creative partnership that would revolutionize twentieth-century painting. Seven years later, their relationship dissolved. Braque went off to fight in WWI, where he sustained a serious head injury, and returned home to a career that looks lackluster only when compared to that of his onetime collaborator. The Braque-Picasso collaboration is the subject of The Cubist Infant, but it quickly becomes clear that, genrewise, this story is something other than your classic Historical Fiction. By page 2 we’ve learned that Braque has “mastered the technique of inverse ejaculation—at orgasm, his penis would inhale.”

The Cubist Infant, whose principal characters can fly or are semihollow and have supernatural sexual abilities, is an admixture of art history and mythology. Of course one of the story’s initial premises is that art history is already mythology—q.v. its opening sentence: “What grew in myth was the way in which Picasso met, devoured, digested, and excreted Braque.” Ballard’s story is the reimagining of that myth, and here the reproductive replaces the digestive as the presiding metaphorical organ system. The Cubist Infant, which locates creative zeal in Picasso’s bioemissions, is so focused on the transfer of fluids between Cubism’s fathers that it’s practically sticky.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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