Aaron Burch

Reviewed by J. A. Tyler

There is a vibrant and steady aggression to Aaron Burch’s writing, and HOW TO TAKE YOURSELF APART, HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF ANEW is especially thick with this wrenching, forceful language:

Try to let it happen naturally. Don’t think about it, don’t think about not thinking about it. It isn’t in your shoulders like you think. The most common misperception. A whole generation, more, all doing it wrong, a mistaken translation. Try to forget everything you know. Everything. This is the first step, though, admittedly, the hardest. Impossible for most. It is in the neck, the small of your back, your triceps. But if you haven’t been able to forget everything, knowing this is pointless. Will only make it worse. If you think about where it is and isn’t—the shoulders, the neck, the back, muscles in your arms you didn’t know you could control—you’ll never get it. But if you get this far. If you get it.

Subtitled as “notes and instructions from/for a father,” Burch mixes seemingly actual directions for cutting ourselves open, for digging inside, with vignettes of boyhood / fatherhood and the powerful distinct nature of that relationship:

Saw, back and forth. Think of your father, out in the garage, handsawing 2x4s into smaller pieces in what seemed an impossibly few number of back and forths. Try to remember what he made, the different things he’d cut himself free from. With one saw in each hand, hold them to your head like antlers; or, reach up to your head and grab your antlers like saw handles. Realize: without both, you aren’t real. A myth, a unicorn. Think of right and left, before and after, old and new. Back and forth.

HOW TO TAKE YOURSELF APART, HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF ANEW takes the tangible concrete instructions of folding paper, finding shapes in clouds, making connections with those around us, and turns them into weapons, uses them to impale us, makes a father a spearhead and launches it through our sternums. Burch is somehow lovingly violent with words and smiths a text here that hacks at our limbs and then shows its own blood. A wonder, this book—how it fits so tightly under our skin:

I don’t want to go.

I could just fold you up and put you in my pocket and keep you with me, I said.

And I did just that, in half, then half again.

I can remember only two facts from growing up: nothing can be folded in half more than eleven times, and swallowed gum stays in your body for seven years. I fold her in half and tuck her in. There, there.

Or, I fold as many times as I can, counting. I put her, folded, in my mouth and swallow, pushing her down my throat with my index finger, inviting her to stay forever.

  1. […] HERE. His review of Aaron Burch’s HOW TO TAKE YOURSELF APART, HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF ANEW is HERE. And his review of Lonely Christopher’s Satan is HERE. Also, check out the reviews of […]

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