Published on March 14th, 2023 | by Conor Hultman0
Book Reviews by Conor Hultman: “No Such Thing As Broken,” by Atticus “Little Tank” Davis
The artist’s journey in literature typically has less to do with art than personal discovery, histories of relationships, and the struggle to figurate oneself in distinction from the world.
No Such Thing as Broken is refreshing for having just as much to do with art and the artist as with other people, and with a wider variety of art. We follow the protagonist in San Jose as he puts together a band, Bathsalts, runs a disastrous tour, builds and strains friendships over art, zine-making, and online writing, and crashes in and out of sexual encounters. Another atypicality of this künstlerroman, whose generic shape follows artistic naivety toward professionality, No Such Thing as Broken sees the artist in a series of minicycles, dependent on the self but inspired by others; he plays a show and hooks up with a girl only to find out she owns and loves his zine from years ago, the controversial reputation of Bathsalts follows him in all his ventures, he is constantly being excluded then rediscovered in circle after circle. This is the first artist’s novel I’ve read that understands the contemporary reality of the arts; there is no “establishment,” nor really “scenes,” rather pockets of associated people connected through the Internet.
An eye for people is what “Little Tank” has in spades. The cast of band members and their friends (and their friends’ friends) are painted in composites of the smallest characteristic actions, tics, and features until you think you could pick them out in a police lineup in real life. “She pulled out a cigarette, a neat two-slaps and a cigarette, slowly comes out. Like a Ren and Stimpy brand zoom-in.” “Dante was this skinny punk kid: he noticed me in middle school because of the way I dressed. Orange Sherbet colored Chucks and a green jogger with an anchor embroidered into the chest. He had short hair, looked as if it was growing out for a few months after a shave, he talked to me immediately about music.” The descriptive gallery of characters is worth admission alone.
And this hyper attention to people is on the theme of the self fixating on itself through others. Atticus loops into discursions on everything from punk politics, college, women and men, and literature as it comes up in his observations of himself and people. This novel is written in an engrossing, dissolving blend of description, action-in-scene, interior thought, diatribe, and dialogue, with scenes moving across states and time. Rather than a plot moving toward a climax, it’s a young and immature person moving toward a full man, and the collage narration aids this end.
Atticus “Little Tank” Davis has a fast and heavy way with language, a disarming self-assured and breathless voice. No Such Thing as Broken drums a hole in your heart.