This is a piece I wrote about Matias Viegener’s new book for my blog, Tarzana Is My Heroine:
I. 2500 Random Things About Me Too (Viegener, 2012)
I went to LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) in Hollywood last Thursday for my friend Matias Viegener’s book release party. He teaches writing and critical studies at CalArts and is part of the Fallen Fruit public art collective. Matias actually lives in Silver Lake, so I’m going back ‘over the hill’ here to include him, but I’ll get back to the Valley in part II of this post (look for it tomorrow!).
His new book, 2500 Random Things About Me Too was just published by Les Figues Press, with which I’m associated. The book is a great and engaging read. The text consists of 100 different “25 Random Things About Me” Facebook lists. For those who’ve forgotten already, that was a meme that went around FB what, two years ago now?
Matias’s sustained reiteration of these lists results in a work that reworks the eternal dilemmas: Is my life random or coherent? Does my life fit a traditional or an experimental ‘narrative’? Who would play me in the movie version of my life? And . . . . Is it even a life, if there’s no ‘story’?
In the beginning of the book, Matias says, “Narrative is overrated. An addiction to transparency . . . It doesn’t have much to do with real life. . . . Of course I love a good story.”
This tension is sustained through the book as Matias (randomly) discusses and ruminates on:
1. his immigrant parents and their complex identities;
2. his dog Peggy’s declining health;
3. many gay liaisons and loves;
4. a friend’s struggle with cancer;
5. What is art? What makes a good life? What is death?
Matias begins his first list saying, “People think I’m American but inside I’m foreign.” Five lines later he says, “I don’t want to tell people things they don’t know about me.” This was posted on FB one list at a time, where his 3,500+ ‘friends’ and counting could read them. Or not.
The irony here isn’t a knowing tone, but is rather, and thus more seriously, in the work’s bones.
The act of continuing to write versions of a singular list puts questions of self-presentation, voice, and time in the foreground. As the lists progress through the book, it’s the repetition itself that builds the implicit formal structure that ends up both superseding the list format and serving as plot. Or not.
Matias told me it was his FB readers/friends who pointed out repetitions of which he’d been unconscious. He chose to leave these in. I think this stylistic evidence of his ‘repetition compulsions’ is more revelatory than any individual, racy detail (of which there are also many) could be. The structure of the book, in a way, is a self-psychoanalysis. Genius!
The echoic layering of themes and phrasings builds as the lists keep coming and coming, along with all the sex he keeps having! The ‘random’ facts accrete and then compound–poignant, throwaway, and indelible all at the same time. Even though I know the writer very well, I saw a unique and literary character emerge out of the queer marriage of formal constraint and maximallist repetition in this book of 25 x 100 things.
2500 Random Things is a sustained interrogation of self and surroundings in which the reader is handed roles that keep morphing: confidante, student, stranger-on-a-plane, voyeur, beloved. Who [besides Les Figues editor Vanessa Place] could have guessed that a faddish FB meme could yield something so artful and so thoughtful?
Read more about the book, or buy it here: