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Rontel by Sam Pink
Vol. 7, No. 1
Consider this introduction a warning: Reading Sam Pink may make you a danger to society. The voice here in Rontel, as it was in Pink’s previous novel Person, is invasive. It will burrow its way deep into your brain and then echo through your gray matter. You will find yourself thinking the way his narrators think, and will then wonder if those fucked up thoughts tunneled in recently or if they were always there just waiting to be dug up.
Putting you further at risk, we’re teaming up with Lazy Fascist Press to release a special digital edition of Rontel, Sam Pink’s new novel, debuting on Valentine’s Day 2013. The narrator of Rontel, excerpted here, admits, “If people had access to my thoughts and feelings, I’d be asked to live on a rock in outer space—one with a long tether to a building in Chicago if any of my friends (just kidding) wanted to come visit.” This man, however, is not a psychotic. He goes shopping with his girlfriend, he has a pet cat, he sees a loose hot dog on the floor of the supermarket believes it is the “saddest thing ever.” He is just like you. The reality is that this man’s disturbing thoughts and feelings are not his alone; we all banish and repress similar thoughts so we can function in society, so we can cohabitate without completely repulsing those around us.
In a sense, living in a city like Chicago or New York is like being stuck in a terrible relationship. There’s a harmony of infatuation and disgust—a rat scurries along the subway tracks, it’s revolting but at least you’re not the only watching. At least you’re not alone. You loathe the city, and yet you know you’ll never leave it. Yes, it’s dysfunctional, but—unless you’re nothing like the rest of us—so are you.
Rontel’s narrator is an unnamed man for whom life is a “pile of things” that refuses to work together; a man whose underlying problem is that adulthood arrived without ceremony or certification. The novel is unsettling (often hysterically so), and it would be easy to call it “gritty” or “raw,” but really it’s just honest. In Rontel, we begin to recognize ourselves in a man who cannot relate to others, we realize that we all deserve to be exiled for the thoughts we’ve thought, the things we’ve nearly done.
Here is the call of the void that we’ve all heard but aren’t supposed to acknowledge. Here is our secret suspicion and fear that the universe, in all its magnificence and complexity, might be conspiring for meaninglessness, aligning itself in time for you to get hit by a taxi while eating a hot dog as you cross the street.
And yet, despite all this, in life and in Sam Pink’s fiction, there is a longing for connection, for interdependence. We may be incapable of many things, but our ultimate desires, our yearning for something better than ourselves, persists. We’re each of us dysfunctional, but, as Rontel’s narrator insists, “I still work, motherfucker.”
Co-Editor, Recommended Reading
MORE FROM SAM PINK
An excerpt from the novel by Sam Pink
Recommended by Electric Literature
ON THE BLUE LINE TRAIN, there was a day-old newspaper on the seat next to me.
A small daily paper.
It had stories about what celebrities ate at what Chicago restaurants.
It told people what movies to see and what shows to watch and what books to read and what to do for fun.
It had “where to drink” suggestions that referenced “cool bars/city spots” for the white people in the city who all moved here together after college.
The daily paper also had “debate” articles between staff writers who were trying to be funny/cute.
The debates would be like, “Is it ok to date someone who hates your best friend.”
Or, “What’s the code for roommate bathroom sharing.”
Or, “Are moustaches cool.”
Or, “Hash browns or fruit for breakfast.”
Today I read the crime blotter.
I liked the crime blotter.
The only place in the newspaper where they just stated facts about something that happened without trying to make it fun.
My favorite crime blotter ever was: “Man in Uptown beats upstairs neighbor then drags her to the basement and sets her on fire.”
Today there were four news items in the crime blotter.
One was about a man forcing children into his car and then molesting them in an alley.
The next was about a man raping a child who attended the daycare his wife ran at their home.
Next one about a man stabbing his doctor then trying to rape her.
Next one about a man who died in an alley after being stabbed in the throat “repeatedly.”
I looked up from the paper and out the window.
Felt like my face was the ugliest melt ever at that point.
Like, the worst.
I felt so stupid looking.
Always felt ugly and stupid on the train.
Like almost, sagged.
Sagged out and sorry.
Sorry I’m so saggy, but I’m sagged out and sorry.
Suck my dick—I thought, addressing myself.
The train was underground.
I stared at the tunnel wall, and its lighting.
Thought about stabbing someone in the throat repeatedly.
Is there any way to do it except repeatedly.
Could it really stop after one stab.
I thought about stabbing someone once then just standing there.
Seemed like that would be worse.
What would I do just standing there after the first stab.
Would I talk to the victim.
If they said something to me, I feel like I’d definitely respond.
So I’d either have to stand there to make sure the person died or stab them repeatedly to ensure it.
Also, seemed like if I stabbed once then paused, it would be hard to get back into it.
It’d be like sweating in a shirt then taking the shirt off and putting it back on, like, fifteen minutes later.
Once seemed cruel.
That would be the worst thing to read: “Man stabbed in throat once, dies in alley over an extended period of time.”
Just get it done—I thought, looking back inside the train car.
Finish everything you start.