Cuntionary / Repent at Your Leisure (or The Folklore of Hell) by Benjamin Perez
(BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 2010)
Benjamin Perez’s bi-textual “ur-cunt,” Cuntionary / Repent at your Leisure (or The Folklore of Hell), is a femanifesto on PCP. The thin volume, a generically transgressive mash-up of lexicography (at times reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devils Dictionary), folk tales, and poetry, provides a historiography of the cultural boundaries of biblical language and examines the paradox of religious belief in a post-Enlightenment Western culture with an intensity that almost defies this reviewer’s power to adequately describe. Impossible to generically define, it is both a treatise on language and a poetic plea for all of us to more closely [re]examine the complicated relationships between language, thought, power, and knowledge. The text begins with a warning for the reader that demands she question any and all received knowledge:
Scholars know very little about the author of Repent, but they do know three things: 1) the author was a low-ranking angel, a member of the order of cherubim (one of those adorably chubby, rosy, literally sexless—and winged—tots one finds dawdling about the clouds of Heaven, both actual as well as in gaudy paintings); 2) the author was an eyewitness of, but not a direct participant in, the first war in—and for—Heaven, as well as the subsequent Fall of Lucifer, that is, God’s casting of him and his throng of rebel angels to Hell (although not an overt member of the rebellion, scholars believe the author held deep sympathies for the rebels, and was punished accordingly); and 3) the text itself is the oldest known example of pre-Babelic writing, and is the closest scholars have to an actual example of Edenic—or Adamic—writing (alas, the original text is lost, so they are forced to rely upon an ancient bi-textual translation from the proto- Hebraic). Although scholars know very little about the author of Repent, this has not stopped them from creating elaborate—and competing— schools of interpretation. (1)
At its core, Cuntionary is a fragmented poetic tapestry threaded through with an unrepentant and torrential indictment of Abrahamic religious doctrine for its conceptual contribution to the lapsarian status of women in the Western world. The lexicon of “cunt” is filled with retold fairytales, a reconstructed mythology of the war in heaven (which is itself a powerful metaphor), a contextual analysis of western philosophy, and a Barthesian reclamation of the power of the word to define the world:
Cunt is a single matter-energy undergoing phase transitions of various kinds, with each new layer of accumulated “stuff” simply enriching the reservoir of nonlinear dynamics and nonlinear combinatorics available for the generation of novel structures and processes
— M. De L., A Thousand Years of Nonlinear Cunt (3)
In what can only be described as a direct refusal of Western traditional cultural structures and beliefs, Perez challenges modern Western notions of a rationally ordered universe that can be described and narrated through logical discourse. Through the fragmentary narrative style, Perez [re]imagines a possible future outside of traditional cultural constructs. As these competing narratives vie for the reader’s attention on the page, Perez illuminates the holes in the tapestry of “Master Narrative” and instead provides a trangressive mash-up of “meta-narratives” designed to question our Western cultural acceptance of “God as supreme author” of the world. Reminiscent of Luther’s theses, the so-called “Great Notice” was composed in secrecy and simply appeared one day “tacked or nailed” to every church, bank, and city hall (1). The text posits a revolutionary philosophical vision that promises to be as powerful and controversial as the Protestant Reformation.
Like his first publication, The Evil Queen: A Pornolexicology, “Cuntionary” is both blasphemous and unapologetic in its rhetorical interrogation of religious conviction and unexamined acceptance of a “Master Narrative” that entitles white-male-privilege at the expense of all others. In a stanza of poetry entitled “SPITEFUL FATHER” Perez declares:
Spiteful Father sat on a gale
Spiteful Father threw down a veil
All of Her daughters and even Her Son
Couldn't free Mother from
bondage spite-spun (5)
Perez’s Cuntionary openly challenges the assumptions of Western religious indoctrination and misogyny while also explicitly examining the cultural baggage encapsulated within a Madonna/Whore mythos:
You have this image of yourself in a wedding dress sewn entirely of hymens—little ovals stitched together— faintly pink and transparent, like cherry petals, and vibrating with miniature howls—some of pleasure, some of pain, some of disappointment—and when you move there's the delicate sound of membranes tearing (5)
Throughout the text Perez entreats his readers to question their own ideological contributions to the cycle of sexual repression and silent complicity in legitimating violence against women. This text is not for the faint of heart; however, it is recommended for anyone who is prepared to fearlessly deconstruct her own ideological assumptions about the way language influences the construction of the world around us.
Kimberly Wine is an academic writer who reads way too much Roland Barthes, loves generic transgression, experimental poetry, and avant-garde visual art that engages and interrogates the metaphoric borders of self and other in order to rethink conceptions of and the consequent definitions of identity, literary merit, and cultural value.