Rage against the madness

Katko's performance rock-opera

Justin Katko, The Death of Pringle (flim forum press, 2012), 136 pp., $20.00—The tension between the polytonal, multi-genre “score” of this Gothic-comic opera on the accompanying cd and the all-caps “libretto” (with notes, commentary, drawings and images a la Donato Mancini’s Buffet World) might suggest that Katko’s real interest is more theatrical than poetry (performative, experimental or otherwise). But the sustained screed/scream of the writing (think of this book as multiple explosions of the calm, scientific dissections of Evelyn Reilly’s Styrofoam), as opposed to the alt-rock, country, punk, spoken word, slam and Giorno soundscapes, registers an urgency stripped of irony despite the hyper-technocratic lexicon and sarcastic asides. Sounding like a young Tom Verlaine with a serious case of the Burroughs-Acker blues, Katko delivers a one-two, knock-out punch in this hilarious, dead-on, send-up of commodification. A sci-fi fantasy/nightmare inspired by the “real” biographies of pop star-cum-Congressman Sonny Bono and Proctor & Gamble engineer Fredric J. Bauer, inventor of the tubular casing that houses Pringle “potato” chips, The Death of Pringle meshes Bono’s attempt to salvage the Salton Sea, a man-made lake outside San Diego, with a conspiracy on the part of a cartel of “motherfuckers” to reproduce a virtual replica of the Sonny Bono Memorial Park at a scale so large it would completely displace the Salton. The “hero (ine)” of this caper is Pringle who tries to both warn “the people” of the neofascist plot and extol “the poets” to get off their lazy asses and DO SOMETHING. And that’s only the beginning. In the second half of the book Katko includes notes and fragments of poems and tracts from other projects never finished but that, nonetheless, resonate with the spirit of Pringle. Among other interesting tidbits unearthed by Katko’s excoriations is the fact that Bauer requested his ashes be placed inside a Pringles can before burial. Not surprisingly, Katko imagines that the ashes are floating about in an unknown canister sitting on some supermarket shelf. Bauer’s semi-ironic self-tribute becomes, for Katko, a symptom of the megalomania of capital in general. Katko gleefully savages this ur-principle of capital and our—poets and people (and among us, no doubt, some of the motherfuckers)—complicity in sustaining it. That said, I personally prefer the cd. The nuanced and various musical tropes and genres Katko deploys, to say nothing of the ways that he modulates his voice, are mesmerizing. The accumulative effect of the text and graphics can end up sounding like someone’s shouting without end in your ear. But both cd and book are worth poring over and listening to as investigations and performances of the excrescence that is global commodification. In that sense, The Death of Pringle is a literal, take-no-prisoners, scatology.