David Peak’s Museum of Fucked, Reviewed by Matt DeBenedictis

Museum of Fucked

David Peak

Warm Milk Printing Press, 2009

Reviewed by Matt DeBenedictis

Museum of Fucked by David Peak is a Pawnshop

Have you ever been to a pawnshop? A real one. Not one of those reality show types where they sell shined and gleaming personalities behind the counter. A true pawnshop has shelves stuffed with items still clothed in dirt and grime, with the cracked-knuckle moves that got them there. Those shelves are built on Burt Reynolds jokes and bad bluffs three decades old. The conversation there would be sour and sound like a shower before your execution. The people who live in Peak’s Museum of Fucked have nothing left but desperate moves, and are like those low-priced items that haven’t had value since they were stolen the third time.

This chapbook contains fourteen tightly laid out tales that make you feel like a lens has been zoomed in on one specific concrete slum, one where the liquor stores close, where the sun’s left, and where it’s always winter. Fucking year round. Avoiding Sam Lipsyte or the hallowed Jesus’ Son-style of connecting each story through locations and characters directly, Peak’s stories are instead viewed through a scope of desperate language. If Peak’s sentences were pulled any tauter, their length cut any shorter, the frantic actions depicted here wouldn’t truly be captured, or at least they wouldn’t be felt to a point worth a damn. Each sentence is a quick drag from a cigarette, just enough to fill you up, just enough to matter, just enough to get you to the next one. You can read each story quickly as if your breath is fading off to the next world, that way you can taste the yearlong winter cold of Howard Street in the opening story “End of the Line”:

It’s midnight, Howard Street, the end of the line. Corridor of storefronts and brick, glass and brick, the bus terminal down the street, intercoms buzzing. The streetlights buzz, flicker. This is where my friend gets robbed, where someone held a gun to his forehead, stole everything, even his shoes. The sky is purple. The streetlights flicker orange and there is mist in the air. The street is filled with shadows.

In Museum of Fucked, a clenching, thick context, rather than dialogue, keep the characters moving. That context creates the purpose for deathblow words and movement from characters that are more dying than alive; and lets us know who is really fucked, who, according to one voice is all of us: “Close it down. Just close it down. I don’t even want to hear it,” a man on the phone says in the chapbook’s title story, declaring us as all fucked.

The most cutthroat of all the stories in Museum is “Economy,” and it’s not because it’s gruesome; it’s just that these three sentences inked to page are the Sermon on the Mount for the fucked ones:

I read in a magazine that you’re never supposed to give away pets for free on Craigslist. You’re always supposed to charge money, like forty dollars minimum for a cat, or maybe more for a dog. A person interested in killing animals for pleasure would never pay forty dollars.

Museum of Fucked may be teaching us that when nothing is left, take what you can get.


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