Review by Sara Habein
Despite having 20+ books in my physical to-read pile, when I have a little extra cash, it’s hard to avoid blowing more money on books. It’s not an uncommon problem, of course, and obsessive readers will find all sorts of ways to justify their love. How did I justify buying two books from Tiny Hardcore? Easy. They’re tiny. “I will read them in no time!” I thought. “It’s hardly adding to my pile, really. It’s, like, concentrated reading that also supports a small press. How can I not?”
Trouble was, how to decide which books to pick? I will admit, I picked somewhat superficially, won over by a 2-for-$16 deal, and went with my favorite title and my favorite concept — Robb Todd’s Steal Me For Your Stories and Brian Oliu’s So You Know It’s Me.
Steal Me For Your Stories is full of passion, loneliness, and intoxicated philosophy. It is a series of fucked up small moments that may or may not be true — despite the frequent “Hand to God” insistence — but it doesn’t really matter. They feel true, and that’s good enough. Every person I’ve ever met or internet-known is a potential source for material, stories to be mined, details to be amalgamated into larger material. Todd’s short chapters, with titles like “Why Are You Telling Me This?” and “And Her Eyes Said Something I Did Not Understand,” are brief moments that could come from anyone’s life.
Boots clomp, purse swings up the stairs. The one who is gone used to wear boots like that, but better. I used to pinch her butt as she climbed to the platform and she would pretend to mind. It is harder to pretend not to mind. It flexes and sways, a nose away from my nose. It is all I can do not to plunge in and never come out, but I just suck it with my eyes. What is that, cotton?
— from “Flex Baby Flex Baby One Two”
It is 160 perfect little pages, and I’m so glad that the pages lived up to its excellent title.
So You Know It’s Meby Brian Oliu is a title where I keep accidentally mixing up the pronouns when referring to it, as well as misspelling the author’s last name, unless I have the book right in front of me. From one frequently misspelled name to another, I imagine that Oliu is somewhat used to this, but dammit, I’m going to try valiantly to improve. Just throwing that out there, since if it’s said on the internet, it must be true.
And is that true? What if one day you were perusing your local Craigslist’s ‘Missed Connections’ and noticed the following entry:
Reading – Barnes & Noble M4W
If you know who I am, tell me what I was reading. The clothes, certainly, you will get correct, as I don’t bother with color — grey shirt, grey shorts, grey shoes — an ensemble that might remind you of your grandmother’s silver collection: the one that she would bring out for special occasions — Easter, of course, Thanksgiving, once every few years. I know what I was wearing. I know where I was standing: amongst the magazines, the eyes on the covers paying me no attention. [...]
In the acknowledgments, it says, “All pieces originally appeared on the Tuscaloosa Craigslist Missed Connection board from September until November 2010.” The 45 different lyric essays were posted and allowed to run the full 45 day course before they started erasing themselves. One has to wonder about the reaction they originally received, whether Oliu received strange emails, or emails legitimately convinced that they were the person to whom he wrote. And who knows, maybe sometimes he had a fragment of a person in mind — that girl he passed in the mall, or that friend from high school whose whereabouts he forgot, or the woman who would “always bring the tonic” and “would make jokes about how we would never die from malaria.”
I make that joke, every time I have a gin and tonic. And I have only managed to play the word in Scrabble once. Oliu’s missed connections could be any person out there, a person receiving attention from someone who over-thinks a little too often and sometimes wonders if he remembers too much. The tone of each essay is slightly obsessive and sad, yet beautiful in their moments of sincere flattery. I enjoyed the book a lot, and though I appreciate the structure, I thought by the end, Ah, just let us have one more…
About the author:
Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, whose work has also appeared in The Rumpus, Pajiba, Persephone Magazine, and Used Furniture Review, among others.
She is the editor of Electric City Creative, an online arts magazine based out of the Great Falls, MT area. Her book reviews, music commentary, and various other things appear at Glorified Love Letters.