Release 1/1-14 e. v.
Imagine a version of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story that’s way sadder and way truer, more erotic, more distressing. In Landis and Silbergeld’s Rainn, “consensual non-consent” is the norm, and psychosexual hangups never die. 26-year-old Kathy, our self-effaced protagonist, inhabits a Manhattan all too familiar: nauseatingly expensive and devoid of real opportunity—unless you count the near-infinite possibilities for violence and annihilation. Her life: a series of digitally-born, deviant hookups that don’t add up to a satisfying whole but constellate into a picture of the every-Millenial-of-privilege: technologically altered, fallen, overfull yet empty.
Here, sexual pleasure is “miraculous,” but “the seat of the miraculous is a vomit-green couch, rain-beaten and musty on the side of the road.” Fetish predominates but is not a shortcut to intimacy, and “there are no people just ciphers.” Even in a multivalent universe whose ether easily contains a conversation between the ghost of Harvey Milk and an intersexed squirrel, everything in Rainn is defined by “stunted growth” and impotence.
Yet just when we’re sure how we feel about these characters, everything changes (everything stays the same): “She knows the current like the inside of a wound. He knows the wound like the current of the river.” We’re left to conclude that the eponymous Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network—never named in the text—is everywhere, is the human brain itself. It’s only when she encounters a dog on the street that Kathy can say with any sincerity: “Nice to meet you, sweet boy.” And though by the end of this narrative she achieves some semblance of a stable relationship—even love—we must acknowledge that “there are no first acts in American life. It never begins.”
The book then? I asked the people involved and we agreed upon a few pointers. “Put feminist somewhere, definitely, to scare off the assholes.” This a feminist work, no doubt. FRF is a feminist press, the founder is a practicing anarchist; using his profit from his own books to promote better, more important work. Like this.
I can also quote the phrase “I love this-it [the cover] looks like a children’s book in a way which is so off and perfect.” Which is as good as it gets for me.