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by Andrew Durbin
Nightboat Books, $15.95 (paper)
In the endless summer of Mature Themes, Andrew Durbin’s characters dream themselves into Calvin Klein boxer briefs and Adidas tracksuits, eat Isle of Gigha halibut on anonymous Hollywood patios. They do not quite suffer the one-percenter ennui of a Bret Easton Ellis creation; rather, they wield an art major’s critical vocabulary and a hyper-referential awareness of the poetry behind their privilege. These genre-bending poem-essay-stories read like the internet-savvy second coming of “Black Fiction” creations of the 1970s and ’80s—“Sometimes I daydream about merging my body with my computer,” Durbin writes, “so that I can more fully enter the landscapes of Google Earth, lush surface world without pollution or traffic.” Affect, flatness, theory, and reality are kept in close quarters. If you have ever watched Clueless (1995) and wondered if it was an allegory for the Clinton administration, this book is for you. If you have not, consider letting Durbin—in his mid-twenties, already familiar in the New York poetry world—take you there. The big questions in Mature Themes are important: How do technology and pop culture mediate experience? Is luxury the privilege of time to sit and think, or the privilege of never having to think? And, as one narrator puts it with reference to the consumption of fantasy and excess, “Once you stop, then what?”
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