How To Take Yourself Apart How Make Yourself Anew:
Notes and Instructions For/ From a Father

  by Aaron Burch

Pank 2010

Paperback & Kindle
First collection

Book Website: HowtoTakeYourself Apart.com

Aaron Burch is the founder of Hobart: Another Literary Journal. His short fiction has appeared in numerous respected locations including SmokeLong Quarterly, Quick Fiction and Pank. Having concentrated on editorship for the last few years, he is now focussing on his own writing. His second collection, How to Predict The Weather, is published by Keyhole Press.

Read an interview with Aaron Burch







"I poured liquids on myself, took bets what color it would dry. Cola dried the color of coffee. Coffee, cola-colored. Whiskey: the color of fresh-cut maple, or fine sand from a virgin beach."

Reviewed by Mark Dalligan


This is the first chapbook I’ve come across, though Wikipedia tells me they were common between sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, are being revitalised in the digital age. I can see their attractiveness, small volumes, literally pocket sized, constrained by limited space to focus and distil the author’s message. They are ideally suited to Flash.

Burch achieved publication of this volume (no, too big a word, better "pamphlet") by winning Pank’s first chapbook contest. He already has a number of publishing credits and his editorial skills seem to have been in full use here, paring words and feelings down to the bone.

The work splits into three sections: How To Take Yourself Apart: Instructions; How To Fold Paper Cranes: Tales, and How To Make Yourself Anew: A Bestiary. The first is a dissection (the chapbook’s eighteenth century anatomical cover illustration is apt) of memories and awareness, a stripping down and rebuilding. It is also very challenging to read in that way good writing can be, a bouquet made from the author’s intention and reader’s interpretation: each floral arrangement likely to be unique.

Here is an example from the first section, entitled How To:
Cut from the front of scalp back to the temple. Start where the tip of the widow’s peak might be, if you had one, following the hairline. Make sure the blade is sharp to pull through the skin with ease, though be careful to not let it slip in too deep. Holding your forehead down with one hand, pull the skin above it back slow, like peeling the plastic off the top of a container. Tools that may help: tweezers, scalpel, any of a variety of dentistry instruments you may be able to acquire, the tip of the blade itself. Peeled back, the skin may stay on its own or you can hold it in place or, most recommended, pin it back with some kind of clamp, hair pin, binder clip. Retrieve the small piece of metal or plastic or even paper you’ve been keeping though you never knew why. Place it against the exposed area. You may need to move it around until in place; when there is a pang of regret or forgetting, you’ll know how it fits. Fold the scalp back into place, reattaching as you best see fit. Don’t worry about the scarring or healing. It will have already happened.
The second section is more "traditional" a melange of short tales and observations that mix the surreal with the everyday. The final section reverts to a more instructional approach, a kind of magical imbibing of animal attributes. Together, these parts form a whole, a skeleton fleshed with life experiences.

Overall, Burch’s collection is impressive. He is an original writer (and there aren’t many of them) who can reveal the world in a new way.




Read excerpts from this collection on HowToTakeYourselfApart.com


Mark Dalligan’s short fiction has appeared in a number of on-line and print publications.

Mark's other Short Reviews: Kim Newman "The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club"

Philip K. Dick "Human Is?"

Robert Shearman "Tiny Deaths"

David D Levine "Space Magic"

Lee Rourke "Everyday"

Alan McMonagle "Liar Liar"

Curtis Smith "Bad Monkey"
                     
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If you liked this book you might also like....

Aaron Burch "How to Predict the Weather"

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