The Jonathan Swift of the bingo hall and elder-care, the Alexander Pope of pet-care and the dinner parties of the liberal intelligentsia, Marion Farrant continues her assault on the unaccountably disaffected and disillusioned of the Western world with The Breakdown So Far, her eighth volume of extremely short stories for those of us who seem to have lost both our way and our attention span. Unsparing in her critique of the New Age syncretism the mall culture has substituted for authentic emotion and belief, our adoption of Buddhism appears in her work as a rationalization for our ubiquitous materialism of the soul, Zen as our guiltless doctrine of neglect.
Yet as in all such relentlessly dystopian social parodies, there resides behind each of these brief entertainments a stifled scream for help, a trapped yearning for genuine human contact and sympathy, an arrested existential lust for meaning. Where has our sense of order, propriety, history and community gone, Farrant’s stories beg to wonderstories that span the stylistic range of personal journal, objective reportage, fiction, fantasy and writers’ workshop exercise? In order to answer these questions, Farrant’s new stories meticulously trace the breakdown of our language by ridding it of everything unnecessary and excessive: the breakdown of the post- Kierkegaard, post-Sartre existential position through its extension into the absurd; the breakdown of sense and sensibility through its alienation from perception; and the breakdown of discourse in literary craft, the social occasion and the commoditization of the individual and its attendant merchandizing of desire. Each of these stories is a new instance of the author’s ongoing attempt at understanding language ironicallythrough itselfa willingness to let the deadly serious be as playful as it wants to be, a courageous shedding of what Tom Robbins called the tyranny of the dull mind.”