Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee by Megan Boyle. Review by Richard Owain Roberts

i want to fall backwards into a pit of bioluminescent pokemon

Even for those of us who have never imagined falling backwards into a pit of bioluminescent Pokemon, Megan Boyle’s debut collection, Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee, is relentlessly authentic in its portrayal of boredom, loneliness and introspection.

Although released as a poetry collection, it would be better described as a poetic collection of thoughts, essays and stories.

Thoughts: ‘unpublished tweets’

argued for an hour on the telephone. now looking at pictures of carbs

Essays: ‘everyone i’ve had sex with’

noah: we met in college. he was in acting school and had a fairy tattoo. one time we smoked weed under some train tracks and started rubbing each other’s heads. he liked paul simon. sex was kind of routine but okay. mechanical kisser. we didn’t use condoms. happened a few times.

Stories: ‘my family on thanksgiving and most holidays’

someone will inevitably tell a story which climaxes with them crying a little. my dad, if he cries, will say ‘oh dear, why am i doing this’ and i will feel equally endeared and embarrassed. most of his stories are interesting but he repeats a lot of them and acts defensive if someone reminds him. there is a running joke about my mom feeling ‘oddly moved’ by things. my mom seems to frequently feel ‘oddly moved’ by small encounters with people or books or newspaper articles. when she reaches the point of a story where she cries, she will say ‘oh here i am, ‘oddly moved’ again’ and laugh. she is a volunteer at the aquarium and tells detailed stories about fish. they are kind of boring stories

Self-consciousness is also something that Boyle/the narrator is familiar with: ‘5.07.10’:

my philosophy professor asked if we ever looked in the mirror until

our faces started to look strange and alien and we dissociated from


i was excited he asked that and i nodded my head

he said ‘oh, you do that, megan?’ and a lot of people looked at me

i said ‘i do that’

he kept talking and people kept looking at me’

Critics of confessional/autobiographical writing would no doubt view examples such as this as solipsistic even. However, Boyle’s sparse, calm, description does mean that the reader is able to view the event retrospectively and with detachment (in much the way that Boyle/the narrator is doing herself).

Though much of the collection is introspective and downbeat, when Boyle chooses to looks outwards, she provides the reader with some very funny moments.

From ‘3.07.08’

richard gere is kissing diane lane again, like spinning her around

i am unsure of this move’s plot but it feels like someone has cancer

From ‘2.18.09’

most people love sushi

most men seeking women in baltimore on craigslist say they like

hiking, sushi, and movies

most women seeking men in baltimore on craigslist like posting

photos of vaginas

The book closes with ‘lies i have told’, which reads as an amalgamation of everything touched upon by Boyle in the collection. It makes for engaging, funny, and thoughtful reading. My particular favourite:

‘we go to my uncle’s for hanukkah’

i don’t have an uncle

Megan Boyle’s writing already has a strong online presence/following, but this collection demonstrates that she has strong crossover potential and deserves to be read by as wide an audience as possible.

Richard Owain Roberts lives in Cardiff. He has two stories in Parthian's recent anthology, Nu2: Memorable Firsts

The next editor's blog is on Dorothy Edwards, aesthete or ‘socialist Welsh spy’?

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