Book Reviews

Published on September 22nd, 2022 | by Conor Hultman


Book Review by Conor Hultman: “Early Stuff” by Sam Pink

Early Stuff
by Sam Pink
11:11 Press ($24.95)

Some writings are little writings. “Little” to mean in terms of size, not importance. More popular terms are “minimalism” and “maximalism.” Examples of good little writings:

  • Sappho’s lyric poetry, the less than one hundred surviving pages of which still confirm her as the best poet on love
  • Baltasar Gracián’s conceptist maxims, advice about how to live, written in a clear style crammed with ellipses
  • Richard Brautigan’s novels, poetic genre parodies that arrange the surreal and the humane into a volume that fits in your backpocket
  • Sam Pink’s books. All of them.

Early Stuff collects four books published ten or so years ago. Sam Pink’s style is direct, fast, vernacular, potent. Every emotion you feel while reading is delivered with the minimum of excess. There is no bloviation. The metaphorical language one is tempted to use when describing this style always comes back to violence. It has something to do with the speed, the surprise, and the technical power. But these poems are about agonies and ecstasies of the most beautifully human nature. These poems are about self-loathing, and loving others, and feeling vulnerable, and unexplainable sublimity, and the irony that underscores any picture framed with the human eye, any two nouns and a verb becomes a cause for hilarity when you understand.
Here is one of the short ones that I think shows off all the compassion and laughter you will get from reading any given page:

Elderly Couple
Tonight I sat in a booth at a fast food restaurant and looked out the window and in the parking lot there was an elderly couple sitting in their car eating ice cream together and they looked so happy that I asked one of the employees to kill them for me but instead of complying, the employee asked me to leave. I waved to the elderly couple in the parking lot as I walked by. It’s hard not to become an elderly couple yourself when the only person you talk to is yourself and you’re so in love.

I would recommend getting Early Stuff and leaving it somewhere in your house to dole out as needed. One fingernail is enough goodness to last you the day. At over four hundred and fifty pages, the price is very fair (the 11:11 Press website has a sale on right now: the paperback for $15.99, or the signed limited-edition hardcover for $31.99). You should buy his other books, too, my favorites including The Garbage Times/White Ibis, Ketchup, Person, and Hurt Others. You can order them directly from the author, signed, by direct message on Instagram (@sam_pink_art) or Twitter (@sampinkisalive). He sells paintings and drawings, too. The cover for Early Stuff is an original. An abundance of creative talent that points to a new renaissance. Buy and read all of Sam Pink’s stuff! I have, except for one, Rontel, which I am saving because I don’t want to face a world where I have read every Sam Pink book.

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