Volume 92, Issue 76
Thursday, February 11, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Throwing literary tantrum
A cut-out cartoon character of Casper the Friendly Ghost, sans-arms, is centred in the middle of the page. The underlying text reads, "the microwave is bad for the food."
This type of pop culture imagery juxtaposed with sentence fragments, drawings and poetry are what make up Sonia Ahlers' latest book release, Temper, Temper. To call it a novel would be wrong a zine, maybe. What Ahlers has put together is a post-modern approach to the traditional narrative form. Pages are left almost blank or are covered with scrawls, while others feature cut-outs of advertisements and snippets of song lyrics.
Ahlers' cultural and social commentary is easily perused in a mere hour. To completely digest the ideas, however, would require a close examination of the nuances and meaning created through an interplay of images and text.
For example, the hand-scrawled text of one page reads, "We are air conditioned. Don't worry it's only gentle conditioning, like the shit in your hair." At the bottom of the stark white page is a small drawing of a rabbit, lying on its side. Many different ideas can be taken from this presentation. It's a comment on how we have been "conditioned" to accept advertising slogans for hair care products and to forget what kind of animal testing goes into the creation of such "necessary" items. Or the statement can be seen as believing in the "gentle" fluffy side of life, ignoring the "shit" and the stark reality of it all.
Temper, Temper touches on many topics which will become apparent for different readers, depending on their own personal experiences or exposure to pop culture. Ahlers seems to be mainly speaking to 20-something women like herself, as a lot of the statements made could only ring true for women who have grown up since the '70s and recognize the icons and symbols she presents.
Ahlers tackles feelings of isolation, love lost and won, guilt, sexuality, as well as issues such as rape, feminism, music, art and childhood. The book is impressive in its ability to say everything or say nothing, depending on the reader. Ahlers is adept at capturing feeling in a simple image, like saying everything a person ever felt about love in an arrangement of Scrabble tiles spelling out "LOVE" with the words "seven points is all," referring to the game score on the tiles.
To its downfall, Temper, Temper will never be completely understood by any one reader and many pages will just be passed over. But the book presents itself as a challenge. It's a carefully crafted collage to be read and reread spilling different secrets each time.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999