Essays and Fictions by Brad Phillips: We arent up for sainthood.
I can recall where I was when I first heard about Brad Phillips. This parking lot across from a pizza place in Evansville, Indiana. I was in Indiana on business, but the whole time I was there, I was more astounded by how much of an unknowable void it was--which is to say, it's remarkable I remember the parking lot I was in when my boyfriend, in Atlanta, told me about Brad Phillips over the phone. He said Brad was one of his favorite artists and that he wrote fake artist's statements. I can't remember much else he said then, but there was a discount retail outlet and an industrial commercial bakery in the parking lot.
When I got my copy in the mail of Brad Phillip’s Essays and Fictions, I let my boyfriend read it first. While he was in the middle of reading it, we broke up, I moved out, and I told him he could hold onto it and finish it. It wasn’t until after our two-month break had ended and we had gotten back together again, when I decided to sit down to read the damn book and review it, that I found a letter Spencer wrote to me, folded up within its pages. I’ve been thinking a bit about the dialectic between analytic and emotional reactions, and while I don’t think humans experience either things solely from one perspective or another, Spencer’s bittersweet, emotive note probes the core of Phillip’s book so precisely, accessing Phillip’s originating point in a way I can’t imagine how I’d improve upon.
The letter, in my best unedited transcription:
Yet another package has arrived for you. This one plastered with stamps bearing peace roses. They are rose pink and cannot be coincidental. This medium of communication has appeared to become a reflection or extension of your own personal aesthetic. Too bad they don’t know you are a beige tennis W.A.S.P. NOW! A missed connection. Stay one step ahead.
I felt the urge to write you after finishing (not completely, I still have one chapter to read) the Brad Phillips collection. I will leave the critique to professionals but there are a lot of themes he explores that I am sure you will appreciate. Constructing personaes as a defense against death. The knowability of others. His whole artistic project has been a long eulogy. A multimedia patchwork of suicidal ideation. Like when you over walk over a bridge and calculate the distance. With the comedy of an A.A. share in which someone confesses that they took the money designated for christmas gifts and went on [an] odyssey of crack sour motels, stretchmarked whores, and police intervention. To any with a history [of] 12 step meeting attendance there will be a sense of jovial familiarity.
His personae has many similarities to David Berman, The Silver Jews frontman. Both are tall, gangly, hard to pin down men who find the balance between chaos + order in their craft, even if it alludes them in their private or spiritual lives. They are erotic in that they embody sex and death, vulnerability and ambiguity, so completely.
I really got a kick out of this book and I wanted to thank you for letting me hold on to it during this period of transition.
Thank you for teaching me the healing power of patience.
Thank you for showing me the importance of harmony.
Thank you for sharpening my mind.
Thank you for being a model of persistence.
Thank you for exposing me to the force of compassion.
Thank you for making me ratatouille one night.
My mouth waters like an anxious dog every time I think of it.
Thank you for releasing me from the delusion that order = tyranny.
In the letter you sent me while I was at [REDACTED] you told me that this is what love looks like. I deep desire to see the other person live in the most fulfilling way. Our relationship has ended, but my love for you has not. I am forever grateful for all the lessons you taught me and the times we shared. Alright, maybe would of spared the last three months of no sex and muted resentment, but we arent up for sainthood.
-Unconditionally, Inconsistently, and loyaly
Spencer K. Doane
—P.S. Uhh what do I do about bills?