Liartown: The First Four Years by Sean Tejaratchi. Feral House, 2017. 9781627310543.
Sarah: It’s weird, I recognized the image of the possum on the cover because it was the author’s twitter icon. He’s one of those guys, I don’t know if I ever followed him, but everyone thought he was hilarious and retweeted him a lot, so I saw his tweets. Then once I got into this book, I realized I know him from like five other things. He’s super creative and you will recognize some of these pieces from his Liartown blog.
Gene: It’s a sort of Photoshopped looking cover.
S: Almost photo collage. Tejaratchi’s background is in design and among other things he makes props for films. He also makes the things in this book. One of the reasons I like it and thought you’d really like it is
we’re both really into book and magazine and album cover design. We can recognize things from different eras. We’re trash collectors of cultural items.
G: We’re trash collectors! That’s a good way to put it.
S: He absolutely is the same kind of person. Here’s the first pieces, grocery ads that are… weirdly confused? Like if you had a grocery ad written by someone with a severe head injury or…
G: Like an English as a second language thing? I see peanut loaf, river nubs… I like this because it looks real and you wonder “Why am I even looking at this?” and then, oh!
S: Everything in the book is like that. They absolutely look like real things, real books and magazines and ads, then the jokes sneak up on you.
G: (turns page, laughs)
S: That’s part of a whole series — he started off with a picture of a naked guy in the Civil War and then he thought, “People are so into the Civil War, there would be souvenirs from historic landmarks, there would be historic re-enactors…” and made all these other things that would spring from that reality, where some guys were naked during the Civil War for some sort of philosophical reason. There’s a VHS cover for a movie based on it, Bare Heart starring Jude Law, Jodie Foster, and Robert Duvall.
And back in the old days, when you had to go in search of porn instead of it coming to you, there were these magazines…
S: I liked this one especially because the joke surprised me. A magazine called Country Mile, an Over Yonder Publication, for adults only, rural views. Then in the far background of the pastoral scene, a tiny naked person, barely visible, has a little star to hide their genitals.
G: Oh, that’s funny! I love this one, That’s Close Enough.
S: It’s a whole series of fictional pornographic magazines for people who like to watch things from very, very far away.
G: People on a dry lake bed. “For the long-distance man.”
S: There’s a series of magazines just for friends. “Pals,” “Ladypals”.
G: The gay magazines that aren’t quite porn magazines.
S: Or they might just be for same sex friends, it’s hard to say.
G: “They Don’t Call It Sin Anymore”
S: There’s a list in the back of the book of ideas other people gave him and how he adapted them. That was from someone who told him there was some loophole in Catholic cosmology that you could write pornography if it took place in heaven. Which I find hard to believe, but he based this book cover on that. I pretty much want to show you every page of this book. Here’s a series of porn magazine covers based on people looking tired and unenthusiastic. “Lesbian Psychic”! (laughs)
G: Describe “Lesbian Psychic” to the everyone unlucky enough not to have this book in front of them.
S: There’s this seventies-style faux lesbian sex scene, and the look of supposed sexual ecstasy one one woman’s face looks so much like she’s seeing some horrifying vision of the future that there’s a thought balloon above her head, in which the Twin Towers are exploding!
G: And it’s clearly from the seventies…
S: So she knows decades ahead of time! I also enjoyed Badly Cropped Teens.
G: Oh, possums!
S: A Japanese possum fanzine. This is exactly what it would look like if it were real. He’s so good at this. It feels like you’re plunging into an alternate dimension.
G: Birds With Human Penises? (starts snorting with laughter)
S: (laughing) I like that if you tried to explain this idea to someone, it would make zero sense, but when you actually see it…! He comes up with a goofy idea, but then lovingly makes it into an object. He’s made a calendar and souvenir plates.
G: There are fake ads on the Birds With Human Penises calendar! What are these? (laughing)
S: There’s a book that looks just like those pet owner manuals that are so old that libraries have to weed them, called “Enjoy Your Shit-Assed Little Bark Machine” by Pertricia Blussing and Rudith Scrotelli.
This is the Stephen King book, then the poster for a movie a few years later: Stove Wolf. He made this whole world. He’s captured the typeface, the colors… this was based on this photo a friend sent him of a stove on the street. So he put a wolf in it.
There’s an album called Difficult to Strip to Hits which absolutely looks like a K-Tel record, but then his selection of songs! (dissolves into laughter)
G: “Cat’s in the Cradle”!
S: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”!
G: Just the poem at the end of “Nights in White Satin”.
S: He makes band gig posters and comes up with great band names, which everyone does, but then the gig is at the Clothing Optional Center for Homeless Teens. Apparently the photos for this came from when he worked at a copy center and a guy came in who had a Jon-Erik Hexum fanzine, a posthumous fanzine, and gave him the photos he had, so they show up in the fliers.
This is the most recent thing of his I saw online…
G: I’ve seen this! Did he make this bot? (ed: it’s a twitter bot by someone else, inspired by Tejarachi’s work) It generates quotes from Ice-T’s character on Law and Order: SVU.
S: Descriptions of the crazy new drugs kids are taking.
G: “Kid’s drugged, wakes up in a sauna. Five guys shine lights in his eyes and tell him he’s trapped on the sun.”
S: He does a whole series of fake Netflix pause screens…
G: (laughs) (turns page) (screams with laughter)
S: There’s a lot of fake Yankee Candle scents, too. The whole book is great. There are public domain books republished with horrible covers. Jane Eyre with a dirtbike, The Crucible with a dog in a birthday hat.
G: Lotta dicks in this book.
S: Yeah, lotta dicks.
G: If you’re dick-phobic, don’t pick up this book.
S: There’s a lot of porn jokes. He’s got VHS tapes with hand-written labels, and I’m sure this is a way to get in more title jokes without having to mock up a whole cover, but they’re great. Dial M for Orgy
G: Bereaved from Behind
S: More Or Less Twins, That Looks Uncomfortable Vol. II So, anyway, this makes me laugh until I weep and I worry that people will judge me when I show them the book!