"Bouzi" is low rent. She can afford peroxide, but in 29,779 words, you're not going to find her using it. She still wears black acetate and lycra, but her mind is on a deeper subject-the god swaddled in her memory, now taking over her 21-year-old universe: the poet-performance artist Jesse Costco.

"Bouzi" tells the story of her search for Jesse in retrospect; but at times her narrative can lapse into the present tense, as if to indicate how alive these scenes remain to her.

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"Bouzi" is low rent. She can afford peroxide, but in 29,779 words, you're not going to find her using it. She still wears black acetate and lycra, but her mind is on a deeper subject-the god swaddled in her memory, now taking over her 21-year-old universe: the poet-performance artist Jesse Costco.

"Bouzi" tells the story of her search for Jesse in retrospect; but at times her narrative can lapse into the present tense, as if to indicate how alive these scenes remain to her.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The heady 21-year-old narrator who gives her nickname to this effusive first novel sounds like she's in love with the modern world, and more in love with her sometime boyfriend, the full-time bohemian slacker Jesse Costco. Bouzi retraces her "mad dreams," her infatuation with Jesse and their perilous antics across the streets, playgrounds and ratty apartments of a nameless small American city (which resembles Portland, Ore., where the author makes her home). Bouzi meets Jesse; they fall for each other; they spend charmed days together. Days become weeks--then it ends. The love story exhibits all the momentum a reader could wish (though its final events could have used some editing). But the experiences of Bouzi, Jesse and friends serve mostly as a frame for Robin's fanzine-like and rhapsodic prose. Trying hard to sound hip and poetic, and often succeeding, Robin combines Gen-X verisimilitude with a slangy, near-hallucinatory, sentence-by-sentence idiosyncrasy. Her writing can be amateurish, but more often it's offbeat and quite vivid. The best of Robin's enraptured paragraphs render this short narrative distant kin to the work of Elizabeth Smart, or to Allen Ginsberg's Howl, which Jesse and Bouzi invoke. Like those authors, and despite rough patches, Robin combines real literary power with appeal to teen readers, who may see beyond the well-placed props of a generation--the secondhand skates, the junk food, the clothes in piles--and thoroughly enjoy this odd debut. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887391750
  • Publisher: Creative Arts Book Company
  • Publication date: 7/1/1999
  • Pages: 109
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


My job, for the next forty-five minutes, was to go around to each of the tenants to make sure their showerheads and faucets were working. I didn't know much about plumbing, and I didn't need to. I just had to help install three PVC pipes, tighten the valves, listen to country-western songs, and knock on doors. This was temporary work, but at least I would make seventy dollars in two days, in addition to my night shift at the Nacho Bug.

    There are other minor adventures in my life I feel like getting into, other miscellaneous stuff on my mind tumbling around like in a washing machine, before I get to the faucets:

    For one thing, I keep on thinking of buying sunglasses.

    Pictures of them are everywhere—

    Mine are two-thousand miles away in C-Squat, also known as Superstar Devilchunk by Zook, who let me into her life for a while, unbelievably—

    I just flipped through a magazine (in my sister's fine beauty establishment) where there were fifteen ads for sunglasses, all trying to get the '50s-race-car-driver in the twenty-first century across. It made me feel like going out and buying some right away, if I had the money

    Actually, I'd want a pair just like Jesse Costco (who we will be getting to), the finest poet in town, who makes me want to ride palm trees like rockets in the breakdancing smog. Jesse makes me want to melt into the cracks of hot white sidewalk like an insect on a griddle—

    My poetry is off right now, but oh, you get the point.

    "Com'ere, girl, you've got some flyaway gray ..." my sister said as she tenderly whipped a bowl of powder-blue cream with a rubber spatula, her gnarly long nose and eyelashes pointed down, revealing her double chin and all her skin in shadow, engrossed as she was in the dim corner of the cramped, but long room.

    There weren't any customers, but she was expecting a special early-evening appointment soon, a mutual friend named Trent.

    I'm glad she didn't have the ceiling-mounted TV on (it sat there like a large, outmoded science fiction bug who has been separated from its feature-length film for over twenty years). This place, with the rush-hour sun creeping through the thick, pattern-glass windows, and so many small armrests, and bins of brushes, gloves, tubes, applicators in a rainbow of sizes—they all felt like mystical devices in a synagogue: Prognostication Central.

    The ceiling fan was broken and the outside sweat was sleighing off the tip of my nose, over the ledge of that curve between my nostrils and upper lip, and onto my nude mouth. (My sister was upset I quit wearing lipstick last week: "Purple is the rage these days, and I know it would go so well with your eyes.... You could try out the kind with sparkles in it. You'd look really Debbie Harry—Cramps-era ...")

    ("You'd look like an aging moviestar in a Kinks song," my foster mother, Lynn, added, before she got back to spooning the rest of her texturized-vegetable-protein shake.)

    I must admit, my mind, as usual, after an afternoon stroll, was still on Jesse. I was thinking of finding out where his neighborhood was (someone at one of these cafés would know) and casually sitting outside on one of the corners, right at the corner of two sides of the building, sitting on a little pillow, or standing up, pretending to notice the clouds or stars moving (or a daylight moon) across the sky—or, as one of my childhood books, Space said, you can really feel the earth moving if you stand absolutely relaxed and still at the corner of a building. THIS IS TRUE. Some astronomer believes it, as do I.

    Did I hope he'd run into me? Did I hope I'd be doing something crazy enough to get his notice? Yeah ...

    "So what color would you like it?" my sister, Rune, absently said.

    "Soda-pop brown," I answered, getting myself to ignore the magazines and flattening a folded-up scrap of a paper bag from my pocket.

    I was going to write down notes from my walk, just quickly the kinds of people I saw, and the rhythms stuck in my mind—but it had been a million years since I actually wrote—

    "I've got the perfect green, baby," Rune said, and held the dim white spatula high into the air, letting foamy loops of the blue plop loudly into the aluminum bowl.

    I sank into a tan imitation-leather chair, foooofff ... clinked my nails against the thin chrome arm, rested my head against the too-low headrest, and heard the humming of tires and the click of parking-meter-handles barely making it through our cave of glass.

    "So how are you, baby?" Rune asked.

    "Crazier every day. Crazier if anyone knew how crazy."

    Which in this city, man, what my crazy is is innocence, but if Jesse knew ... it's still crazy to me.

    She beat me to asking her how she was: "Go up to him, you fooo-ool. Go up to him," she teased me.

    I noticed how the silence in here was ancient, sad, horrifying, deadly

    ... Why were we in these bodies, alive here? I felt like I was in someone else's funeral parlor—really, someone else's dead dream.

    Every day I go through a million mood swings like this, and on top of that going crazy with what I am doing with my life. I am getting to that age where I better do something quick, or I will just seem ordinary ... no longer a child star ... porn.

    I launched myself up and over to one of the elevated swivel chairs, clattering my rubber sole against its loose chrome launch-pad circle, pumping the delicately ridged but grimy pedal, grabbing a pair of amber-handled scissors and a big, square, watermelon-shaped hand-mirror like a holdup, and casting an absurdly sly, big-lipped smile into one of the many interconnected, ornate, oval-shaped mirrors.

    The edges of this one were garnished with photos of baby heads, blurry in a flash so they looked like worms—actually, this baby, more than most, looked like a worm—

    I sought the right angle with the hand-held mirror echoing the big one, held chunks of my hair like a mad farmer preparing to paint with ripe tomatoes—Jackson Pollack-style—

    I kept on holding up chunks and frowning.

    "You just can't do it," Rune said with a snip in her voice, "What you whacked off a couple of days ago was perfect. No repeat performance here. It's the best haircut you've ever had. You know if you did more, you'd look uneven, bare, like a cabbage."

    "Yeah," I said. I knew, too.

    I quietly put the scissors down on the beige-pink counter: thunk.

    "I know. But every time I cut I feel like I'm getting closer to him. You know, his cuteness."

    My voice was wearing a trenchcoat, holding a skull, pacing through fog with barbells.

    "Find out when his next performance is," Rune said.

    I nudged a castaway pile of blonde curls on the counter.

    "There isn't a next performance, I think. He either shows up or he doesn't."

    "Why don't you read? Then he'd know about you—"

    "It hasn't occured to me," I dejectedly said, I said like an old shoe.

    "Obviously, not all the people there are jerks—"


    "He shows up ... you anti-socialite."

    "Maybe I am getting ready," I said.

    "Fuck you, you are ready," came the voice from the back room.

    Grim black hair like a sneaker factory marched in, with a tattered black tank top saying "Death To Ronald," with a disembodied clown nose and a disembodied pompadour hovering behind a faded, computerized black grid.

    He usually wore more modern shirts, but the black was a constant. Trent would wear just about anything if it was black.

    "Oh-lah," Rune said to Trent, as he jiggled his body in front of one of the oval mirrors, squinting his long, flat nose and narrow eyes, making one side of his half-Japanese-half-Puerto-Rican mouth crash into a cheek as if he tasted a bad pill.

    His hips in those scuffed leather pants kept on making robotic, but fishy little poses, the belt made out of bottlecaps and suede laces binding him like a high-speed logging rig, or a gun.

    He looked like Buddha with amnesia, with need to collect guitars—

    Once over the course of two weeks, we had shared a small white bottle of pebble-smooth nasal decongestants. Forever after that, he'd joke about my secret "coke streak"—in reference to those patches all over my scalp and eyebrows that are prematurely blinking white. "Hard life, Bouzi," he'd say to me, patting me on the back like a bro.

    Bouzi is my last and now really my only name.

    I knew I had to get up and leave, do something crazy.

    As I was about to tingle out the front door, Rune added, "Hey, baby, if anyone in this town is made for old Jesse-pie, you know it's you—"

    "Yeah! Fuck'im!" Trent added, with old world charm. I mean that. His words always sounded like he came from a bleaker place where all that was obvious was life and death, not dreams. This also made him strangely tender and even more like a sad little angel fraud, in all his black.

Chapter Two


Separated by a shell of glass and a dozen degrees, I was under the veil of mono-white, moon-crater-spit leaving the valley of burnt-hair and aerosol-incense like it really was a harem whorling away from me through rough cradles of concave flesh-color galaxies of linear time—little gray dots of baby-worm eyes, two electric bipeds and rattles of blood hid behind the sun-swallowed rainbow curls and heavy lids of a cartoon starlet some nineteen eighty-two person helped paint, still dreaming of Xanadu and xylophones: Shear and Saucy.

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Table of Contents

By way of introduction One
Ode to Shear and Saucy Seven
The Past Nine
A Vision in Tin-Foil Fifteen
After Hours Twenty-One
The Daring Young Man Twenty-Seven
A Meeting Thirty-Nine
Trance Forty-Five
The Evidence of Fire Fifty-Nine
Hot Voodoo Tips Sixty-Five
Robot on the Inside of My Brain Eighty-One
A Talented Threesome Eighty-Seven
Ode to a Baked Potato Ninety-One
"Electricboy" Ninety-Seven
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