Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 1)
By Mike Faloon
The Annotated Boris arrived today. Happy days. Not jumping the shark, slamming the side of the jukebox, “Howard!” Happy Days, but rather celebratory days, and what could be more apropos? It’s December 23. The holiday season is in full gear. No work for ten days. Good times with the family. Consuming an inordinate amount of salty snacks and malty beverages. Plus, I’ve got gobs of good music lined up for the coming days (the new Treasure Fleet should arrive any day, just got the new Evens record). The only thing missing from my holiday landscape is a good book. I just finished Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? It was wonderful and left me longing for an equally great read. I’ve picked up and put down three or four books in recent days. None of them stuck. A couple days ago I read the first chapter of Philip K. Dick’s The Simulacra. Pretty good. Most likely it’ll blossom into a compelling read, but it hasn’t crossed that line yet; I’m still thinking as I turn page to page. But I’ve got The Annotated Boris in hand. 130,000+ words from Rev. Norb, complete with 982 footnotes.
The Annotated Boris is subtitled Deconstructing the Lyrical Majesty of Boris the Sprinkler (And Other Tales As the Need Arises). As the title implies it’s a thorough break down of the 70 some odd song lyrics that Norb wrote while a member of Boris the Sprinkler, one of the best bands of the ‘90s.
I didn’t expect this book for several months. Back in September I found myself the lucky recipient of an email from Norb in which he’d emailed me a PDF of the book. I thought it was still in feedback stage. Something to be released in the coming spring or summer. I tried reading that PDF and stopped rather quickly. My brain started to ache, overwhelmed by the avalanche of goodness. In part it was the book itself—tons of dense, pop culture rich reading. In part it was my aversion to reading anything longer than a paragraph on a computer. (I’m forever missing bits of emails because I end up skimming them and overlooking the later parts, which are often the main purpose of the email.) In part it’s my shock and dismay at receiving a Rev. Norb book. For years I’ve talked with friends about the idea of Rev. Norb book. I've hoped for a collection of Maximum Rock and Roll and/or Razorcake columns. I remember Sean Carswell saying he’d mentioned such a book to Norb but it never came to fruition. Or maybe it was Todd Taylor. In either case I don’t think many of the columns—written from the mid ‘90s forward—survive in workable formats.
So today I have The Annotated Boris. I got as far as the back of the title page before stopping to reach for my notebook. I noticed that Norb used “I,” the upper case version of the pronoun. Norb is a legendary proponent of lower case “i.” I’ve never understood why he makes this choice. I think I asked why once. I don’t recall his answer. Regardless, the deviation from the norm, the use of upper case “I” caught my attention. Here’s the scenario that unfolded in my head: The use of “I” signified that Norb, the writer, the person, the civilian was stepping out of character. (“i” = punk rock frontman, zine columnist; “I” = the real Norb, the actual Norb) I glanced at the facing page. I saw an abundance of “i”s. Aha, I thought, the use of “I” was deliberate, a conscious choice. It was not merely a formatting issue. (Nor was it, I assumed, a norm imposed by an editor or publisher because The Annotated Boris appears under the “Bulge” banner. In essence a self publication.)
In that fleeting moment I tried to conceive of aspects of Real Guy Norb. Wherein lay the differences? A change in voice, lower in register? A change in deliver, less manic? A change in attitude or outlook? I got stuck on these variables. I didn’t want—wouldn’t want—them to change. I dig immensely what I’ve read from Norb lo these many years. The confidence he projects, the precision of his thinking, the unapologetic genius level of recall—I see in these attributes an idealized “some day” version of myself. And all the while, over the course of hundreds of columns, I’ve operated with the idea that Writer Norb is equivalent to Real Guy Norb. I assumed I’ve been getting the peek behind the curtain version. That’s been the point. He digs into what’s really there and lays it out with a level of spontaneity and insight that's perfect. (Lenny Bruce meets Jack Kerouac meets Lester Bangs meets Rev. Norb (yes, there are precedents and predecessors but there’s but one Norb).
I’ve found my book for the holidays.