John Henry Ryskamp
(FC2 --- Distributed by 
Northwestern University)
The poop sheet tells us that Ryskamp is a lawyer by trade which becomes more apparent as we drag ourselves through this trial by fire. Nature Studies is a riot --- not a riot ha-ha, unfortunately, but a riot of name-dropping and literary and classical references thrown in everywhere to let you know that the author has read everything, and is willing to upchuck it before us, before lunch, like the puppy's breakfast.

In the 75 pages we managed to get through there were loud and pesky references to Virginia Woolf, Einstein, Ho Chin Min, Baudelaire, Motherwell, Courbet, Mondrian, Christ, Martha Graham, Verlaine, Constable, Byron, Tagore, Sal Mineo, Montgomery Clift, Rilke, Jung, Freud, Joyce, Duchamp --- you name it. Every now and again, a tiny scintilla of wit would pop up,

    One might say, It was about time, rather as Derrida replied when asked, what does deconstruction do? "It depends."

But more often than not, this is a long, long Porkies for neo-intellectuals, vide:

    In fact, I should say that, intellectually speaking, the culture is "now" [now being the date of publication of the book you are reading] living in about the year 2038. Curious, ain't it? And which year are YOU living in, cher lecteur? [How the tiresome little weasel does torment his reader!!]

[Note: Brackets are courtesy of the author, not this reviewer: although the sentiments expressed are not too far distant from my own.]

It makes one wonder how the editors of FC2 made it through this without going bonkers. One of them is, incidentally, dragged in on page 55:

    "Even your editor at FC2, Curt White, complains about it." So I am writing here (and you will see this in the manuscript of the book): Shut up.

The very same Curt White turns out to be not at all Shut Up but rather the composer of a most doubtful blurb featured at the top of the front cover comparing Nature Studies to Tristram Shandy which got us to wondering which Tristram Shandy they had in mind --- certainly not the funny one we read in college. Maybe he had another Stearne in mind --- one, more likely, more to his taste (with a few less vowels) named Howard.

A brief time in the arms of Nature Studies is not unlike being on a 42-day cruise from Bermuda to Borneo spending the meals trapped at the dinner table next to that big bore who can't quite figure out why all the rest of us seem so eager to abandon ship somewhere near the Sargasso Sea.

--- R R Doister

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