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  • Do Not Read This Review
  • Davis Schneiderman (bio)
Keyhole Factory. William Gillespie. Spineless Books. 410 pages; cloth, $28.00.


Stop reading this.

There's nothing this review can tell you about Keyhole Factory, the stupendous, mind-bending new work by Spineless Books impresario William Gillespie, a book reminiscent in its boundary-exploding praxis of Steve Tomasula's fantastic VAS: An Opera in Flatland (2004), that wouldn't be better conveyed by immediately experiencing the novel. Now.

Stop. Reading. This. Seriously.

No matter that this review may be able to communicate some small quintessence of Keyhole Factory's intersecting narrative structure drawn ostensibly from the "webwork" plot composition method of all-but-forgotten mid-twentieth century writer Harry Stephen Keeler.

No matter that this review can tell you that Keyhole Factory's first sustained section ("The Bad Poet") offers what appears to be a fierce academic satire of overstuffed conferences keyed into the argument between earnestly literary poetry (good poetry) and the "mechanical approach to the art" (bad poetry). No matter that the latter is more akin to the generative and formal innovations that mark much of Spineless Books's output.

No matter that this review can go further in its explanations, for were "The Bad Poet" section to be the core of Keyhole Factory—and not merely the set up for an elaborate near-future catastrophe involving a text-bending "Morpheus Biblionaut" (re: poet astronaut speeding to Alpha Centauri and back, also offered on a delightful CD-ROM companion); a perhaps Monsanto-sponsored super-virus that liquefies like something out of Naked Lunch (1959); crazed test monkeys escaping from their cages; a convict who remembers the future and so becomes a test subject for the virus, dubbed "Pandora"; an inoculated population of scientists and government elites who spend the post-apocalypse inside a Blade Runner-like pyramid city; and a society of free farms operating on near-Luddite socialist models, terrorized by a distraught killer from the inoculated elite, exiled from the pyramid, who makes "art" through his elaborate staged murders of the commune dwellers—even if "The Bad Poet" were prime thesis and not merely a theme, the reader would be held in a rapt trance at the book's ability to so convincingly [End Page 11] juggle these other multiform narrative perspectives.

No matter that this review can tell you that Keyhole Factory dazzles in each of it's twenty-two sections. In "Keep the Change," the six-page narrative splits into an additional column on each succeeding page, tracing six initial victims of Pandora. Here is a section—an exemplar of Gillespie's site-specific prose poems, from the middle column of the third page.

They seemed uninterestedin our other products.Our bioweapons,in particular, madethem chuckle.

No matter that in "Wildfire Vectors," short bursts of text detail the outbreak atop a Mercator-style 2D world map, with text placed roughly atop geo-locations. Near eastern China, but too far north, for instance:

The Shanghai
pimp speaks
reassuringly to
an adolescent
sex slave en
route to Kabul.

And no matter than in "Retreat," a group of survivors watch as a pack of bandits attacks their cabin and makes a prisoner of their obnoxious friend:

One of the men who stood over Mike was apparently also lost in reverie, looking down at his new friend, wearing a leather vest for a shirt, one of grandad's homemade beers wrapped in a hand. The other hand wiped a knife on his jeans.

No matter that this review can demonstrate how other clever texts appear in bubbles of varying sizes ("Bubbles"), lineated overhearings ("Election Day"), and cigarette-worshipping tobacco prose ("Butts").

No matter at all.

Just stop reading this review.

For it simply cannot communicate that as wonderful as Keyhole Factory's individual sections, the most fascinating aspect of this book is not the proliferation of micro-narratives themselves nor the author's obvious facility with this polyphonic cacophony of interwoven story—for the same sense of post- or quasi-apocalyptic terror can be found in everything from the best J.G. Ballard to even the comparatively linear Oryx and Crake (2003) by...


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pp. 11-12
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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