Muumuu House, 96 pages, paperback, $12.00
Those akin to internet poetry and Muumuu House have already bought Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee by Megan Boyle or stole it from a friend. They have already written reviews for magazines or internet sites, or put them straight onto their blogs in hopes for comments and internet street cred. It is for this reason that Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee was the best-selling small press distributed book in November when it came out. This is not to say that it is a perfect book, or even among the best books of the year. However, it is probably one of the few books that will spark extreme and mixed reactions from readers across the board. People either love it, hate it, don’t know how to feel about it, or don’t understand it all together.
The reason for these mixed reviews is because the book rides between a printed version of a blog and a valiant attempt at prose-poetry. The book is composed of many entries that are, for the most part, dated by Boyle stretching from January 2, 2009 to July 2, 2010 with some titled entries sprinkled here and there. The writing itself is sparse, and extremely similar to the style of Tao Lin.
The journal format gives the reader a voyeuristic view of Boyle’s life. We get to see her thoughts and feelings, and sometimes are afforded glimpses of her actual life. Most of the entries are stream of consciousness thoughts that go deep into her imagination dealing with cats or the insecurities about weight, food, and loneliness. Most of these are random, at times boring, and easily forgettable and interchangeable with each other, where it feels that Boyle is just rambling her thoughts as a list in sentences that start with “I want” over and over. However, sometimes she hits the nail right on the head and conjures up a Kafka-esque scenario, even if only for one sentence, such as, “i want to delete everything from someone’s computer except a giant microsoft paint picture of a dick that takes forever to load” — and you can’t help but laugh.
These shorter, nonsequitur entries (composed of even shorter non-sequitur sentences) are hit or miss as they read exactly as if they are taken from an unedited blog with no consideration to the reader. This won’t feel like poetry to anyone who isn’t familiar with the alt-lit internet circle of Muumuu House; however, the content is so candid and raw that you decide to keep on reading.
The titled entries (as well as a few dated ones) that go for more than a few lines or pages are extremely strong pieces of prose. It is in these entries that the reader is able to actually connect to Boyle on a human level. This is also where her bleak style of writing works best; for example, when she starts writing about how she’s been barfing up her food and starts to vomit blood and has to go to the hospital, the reader is left with extremely graphic images of a young girl in her early 20s struggling to find herself in life. It is jarring and emotionally moving.
These entries based on her personal experience work better because the reader actually has something to relate to and see in their imagination, compared to imagining what Boyle’s imagination might look like. It is in these entries that we get connection from one to another in the book. The list “everyone i’ve had sex with” is introspective and laced with humor. Then the last entry in the list “embarrassing moments” is an email from her father saying he’s read “everyone i’ve had sex with,” and the reader actually feels like they were taken on a journey though the book.
This book is not for everyone, but is still an interesting read and look into someone’s life. No matter how you feel about Megan Boyle and her contemporaries, people simply don’t write (and for the most part don’t read) books like War & Peace anymore. Does this mean Boyle’s short, quirky book is genius? No, but it means that we shouldn’t discount authors whose subject matter and writing style is indicative of their times. For all we know these writers are years ahead of the curve, or not. For right now, for the most part, they are pretty fun to read.