Literary Journal for the Pop Culture Enthusiast in Us All
Review of Drunk Monkeys, April 2018 by Trina Drotar
Who doesn’t love pop culture? It’s everywhere. My best friend knows more about pop culture than about what’s actually happening in the world. For pop culture lovers, Drunk Monkeys delivers with its April “It’s not about the pasta” Pop Culture Spectacular. This issue has a little something for just about every pop culture aficionado.
Where should the reader start? Well, I’d suggest the editor’s letter to learn how this issue came about. Be warned, though, you’ll be howling with laughter.
If you prefer not to laugh too much, take a look at the film selections. You might get angry that this film or that one didn’t make it on the list, but I’ll also bet you 50 films that you’ll find some that you haven’t seen before. There are love films, quiet moment films, vampire films, and films with talking dogs. Well, maybe one with a talking dog.
The films feature, in my opinion, was the best part of this issue, and the one thing missing from the selections is that some did not include blurbs about why they were chosen. It was the accompanying blurbs, in many cases, that rounded out the images. In selecting Up, a Pixar film, Matt Guerrero discussed other Pixar films that could have been chosen. These blurbs help readers and film buffs understand how this film with a talking dog is placed on a list between American Psycho and Revenge of the Sith.
From Mulholland Drive to The Room, which received an honorable mention but was not included in the list of 50 because the team could not include a film that was “celebrated because it is so bad,” the list is varied and includes only films that were released during the 21stcentury. 18-years of films and only 50 were chosen. This is definitely worth the time to read and further investigate films you want to see again or haven’t seen at all.
In the fiction arena, the selections ranged from funny to sad, from too short to too long with none standing out head and shoulders above the others. “Fight Club Except It’s Your Hometown and You Drink a Craft Beer and ‘What? You Think You’re Better Than Me?’” by Daniel DiFranco does stand out for its tone and the choice of second person, not to mention the lengthy title. It doesn’t work as hard at being about popular culture, which enters the picture through details and doesn’t overwhelm the work. This is definitely worth a read. Maia Eli’s accompanying photograph works well with the story.
For Hulk Hogan fans, Michael Chin’s “Brother” might bring back some memories of WWF and what some would have called its glory days. It also touches on important issues and might even bring a tear to your eye so have some tissues at the ready. Bullying, insecurity, WWF, hero worship, and so many other issues are covered and sometimes they aren’t meshing as they should be.
Arielle Tipa’s “Coney Island’s Finest Fairground Organ Donor” is short, perhaps a bit too short. The accompanying photo by Ben Hershey of Astroland’s Cyclone is good, but is disconnected from the story which is not about Astroland or the Cyclone. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because this short piece needs to be read a few times and will leave you scratching your head, one of only a few pieces included that stray from traditional narrative.
Five essays include nods to Twin Peaks via Joseph S. Pete’s “Enter the Black Lodge,” and One Day at a Time, old and new versions, in M.G. Poe’s “One Day at a Time - ¡El Rrrrremix!,” which actually is a great review of Norman Lear’s foray into Netflix television. Superman makes a showing and Loki features in Mike Coste’s personal essay, “Loki,” which is well worth a read. The essays don’t try as hard as some of the fiction to be about popular culture. As with the fiction pieces, photographs accompany each of the essays and certainly add another level to each piece.
The art section of this Drunk Monkeys was by far the least interesting and engaging and was perhaps why it was stuck at the very end. Most people might not scroll that far, especially since they’d have to first pass the poetry section with its twenty plus poems and the too-short featured writer’s selections. The art section should be completely cut. Perhaps the placement speaks volumes about the editors’ views. Last. Final. The end of the road.
Jennifer Givhan, as the featured writer, did not have enough real estate in this journal. I would have liked to have read more of her poetry in this issue. Is there a favorite? Hmm, maybe “Liesel Runs Away.” It intrigues from the opening lines about digging up Einstein and taking him to the circus. Lines like “I’ve been curious. I have a secret that sounds like pieces / of silver earrings jangling against earlobes, or the highest / tiny pinky key on the baby piano, better even if it’s out / of tune.” That the sound is better when it’s out of tune tells so much. Her language and imagery are fresh as when she writes “When I was a virgin / my turquoise aftertaste.”
“Liesel Contemplates Resurrection” was first printed in The Kenyon Review and “Furiosa” was first published in The Normal School. Both are excellent poems and quite different in style and each is equally strong. There are no overt pop culture threads running through them although Einstein appears in several poems, and there are no disappointments except that I’m left wanting more. I guess I’ll have to pick up one of her collections.
The poetry section is also pretty strong and offers variety, opening with Alex Simand’s “Evolution of a Pop Star,” a chunky and fast-paced poem that appropriately gains speed throughout the chase for stardom and which may deter some from choosing pop stardom and may send others hurling full speed toward it not caring where Alex says you’ll end up. Remember Meatwad and Captain Picard? They’re both in there. Maybe Prince or Simon and Garfunkel interest you. Yep, there are poems about both of them and Barbie and Day-Glo and Huffington Post and Courtney Love and Bob Ross. Have you noticed that there’s been a new interest in the fuzzy haired, happy little trees painter lately? I’d move the poems up so they’d get more airplay.
In conclusion, my recommendation is to go and read Drunk Monkeys. Read it in sections. Stalk some of the writers and films. Okay, don’t stalk them, but definitely go take a look. The pop culture might get to be a bit too much if taken all at once, so savor it like the finest liqueur or the most delectable hand crafted chocolate truffle (or insert your own favorite thing to savor here) and don’t swig it back like you’re trying to prove yourself by downing that shot of whiskey in the bar on a dare. Sip, don’t gulp, and you shouldn’t be disappointed.