One finishes this collection with a dazed feeling not unlike that of someone who has spent the night fast-forwarding through tapes of Entertainment Tonight and the Cable News Network. Harold Jaffe, co-editor of Fiction International, is relentlessly topical, drawing mostly on news reports about rock stars, actors, politicians and terrorists; the subtitle “Fictions” is one of many ironies in these pages, reflecting Jaffe’s conviction that in the circus of pop culture, it has become difficult to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.
One wonders, however, whether readers already disillusioned by today’s blurring of ideas and advertisements will want to further immerse themselves in Jaffe’s streams of pop culture consciousness: “What can one say that hasn’t been said about the ringworm of child molestation,” Jaffe writes, “is it really happening?, is it lurid imagining erected on lurid imagining in the service of classic-formula COKE and the New Old Vigilance?”
The jumbling of fact and fiction has been captured more dramatically before. In “Mediaspeak,” for instance, Donna Woolfolk Cross juxtaposed an ad for Coca-Cola against a speech by Gerald Ford: “I’d like to buy the world a home (Coke) / There’s a change that’s come over America (Ford) . . .”
Many pieces in this collection do have considerable impact, though, presenting a collage of various dreams, ambitions and fears, from “Illegal Aliens,” which re-creates pachuco and cholo street dialects, to “Madonna": "(She) glitters like neon viewed from the wrong side of the scope,” Jaffe writes, “she’s there and not there, making contact with our nervous system like an electrified dentist’s implement tap-tapping our tooth.”