Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: ‘Cartoon & Conspiracy Theory’ by Neil J Pattinson

Chris Palazzolo takes a look at Cartoon & Conspiracy Theory by Neil J. Pattinson Indifference Publications 2015

conspiracy theoryI wonder if there is a font for ransom note. Every time I read poetry like Neil J. Pattinson’s Cartoon & Conspiracy Theory with its street-rap abbreviations, obsessive compulsive columns and repetitions and (not) random alternations of capitals and lower case letters turning words and sentences into spiky things that rest on the page like badly made objects you have no use for, I feel like I’m a victim of literary blackmail. Consumer-citizen, I have the Truth! If you want to see the Truth again you’ll read this book!

Of course this is my consumer-citizen bad conscience speaking, because on closer examination the only ‘criminal’ thing happening here is lexical and typographical; the tics, fits and declamations of some homeless misfit whose Truth is as partial as mine. This is poetry from the social limbo of homelessness, but with an ethical clause inserted in the second poem, Cut – ‘tiller your heart for a lifetime of no regret/ Human frailty’s still intact/ Maybe it’s Yellow & Maybe it’s Grey/ Time walked Upon this earth as Purely You/ Maybe this is all one should expect come end of day.’ In a later poem, Go Figure, there is a declaration to the effect that the ‘author’ is not homeless, but is of independent means and has chosen to live in the grey limbo of the homeless, thus turning the ethical into a political act of renunciation – ‘I Earn a Wage of Nil Income/ and Complete a Return of Positive Tax/ I Deny Welfare to Remain two Steps/ Away from Homelessness Comfort.’ The rest of the poems elaborate on what’s involved in the day to day living of ‘no regret’ and being ‘Purely You’, that is to say participant/witness of homelessness. They attend Centrelink interviews, wait for busses outside of peak hours, loiter near shopfronts or corporate and government lobbies, muse on outside advertising hoardings, or the paranoia inducing interconnectedness of all the life sustaining assemblages of modernity from media, to powerlines, to flushing toilets (sewerage), to the ghostly always-there-on-shelves-therenesses of consumables which the homeless cannot and author will not consume.

A ransom note is a very particular kind of document. Its function is like that of a legal contract binding two parties together for the exchange of money or services. A unique kind of contract because it binds parties on opposite sides of the law; it is issued by an ‘illegal’ party to that of a ‘legal’ party and the exchange it proposes takes the form of criminal inducement – blackmail, like a corrupt form of indenture with a pair of scissors as teeth. Homelessness is not illegal in Australia, but being of no fixed address is to be reduced to little more than refuse in relation the economy and a shadowy non-person in relation to the law; a kind of twilight status.  The criminal lives in the deep night of economy and law but has the vivid definiteness of lurid tabloid colour and the violent cut-up of blackmail to define them. Cartoon & Conspiracy Theory isn’t blackmail because it doesn’t come from the criminal world, but is nonetheless a ‘contract,’ binding parties across the grey gradations of the law. But it’s a contract whose (non) legality is signified by its manic collage of misshapen words and arrangements; a manifesto for the de-legitimate Truth of the homeless now among us permanently.

 – Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and manager of one of the last video shops in the world – Network Video, Roleystone.

Cartoon & Conspiracy Theory is available from http://www.indifferencepublications.com/

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