Sasquatch Stories By Mike Topp
(Publishing Genius, Baltimore, 2010)
Review by Anna Mockler
Nobody Ever Expects the Spanish Inquisition
It's this unexpected quality that makes fully-mature individuals laugh out loud in public places while reading Mike Topp's "Sasquatch Stories". You're going along in your day, things to do, relationships to consider, your health, your apartment, politics, global warming, coffee shop lines, mysterious subway closures, capricious bosses, deadlines, injustice, people who stop walking right in front of you to text, bankers spending bonuses on bijouterie while you are taking your boots to the shoe guy for a second pair of new soles, when will the landlord fix the broken tiles in your shower... you're tightly cocooned in your life when suddenly you read or remember:
I dropped a dish and broke it while listening to a record. So I just played the record backwards until the dish came together again on the floor and hopped up to my hands.
That's the entirety of "Broken Dish". You read it, you laugh. That laugh of astoundment, which isn't a word, but should be, where the cocoon's silk ruptures, revealing clear blue absurdity beyond. But wait, there's more. These two sentences, and the dozens like them in Topp's book, have a delayed reaction as well. You're walking down the street, the person in front of you stops short to text, I'm / I'm / I'm, and instead of feeling vexed, you laugh at the healed dish leaping up to your hand.
These very short pieces are also excellent in a bar, when you've already let your obsessions crack a bit here and there. Have a beer with a friend or three while you flip through "Sasquatch Stories" for gems like this:
PET PEEVE: If there's one thing that really ticks me off, it's the meaninglessness of life.
Topp's pieces are low-grade koans, which is not a knock — often you don't want a full-strength koan. It'll make everything around you seem trivial, and though generally it is, of course, you can't go on with your day if it's shown up as too trivial. If you know what I mean. You can't dismiss your kid's dentist appointment as essentially meaningless in the great flux of life, nor can you rise above rent, and so on. Topp gives you a gentle jolt of not-sense that reconnects you to the surrealism underlying your life. There's no tsunami, the ground stays underfoot, only you move forward with a bounce, you don't bother ambiguity and it doesn't bother you, you slide around the texting person, you meet the deadline or you say straight up, "Hey, I'm going to be late." Ease prevails.
If you're ever in a helicopter and you begin to feel chilly, I bet you probably shouldn't turn off the gigantic fan.