Review: THIS BORING APOCALYPSE by Brandi Wells
Review by JOE LUCIDO
“[Domesticity] is a thing that has not existed for decades. Domesticity is dangerous, like the science or religion. Domesticity has long been eradicated,” the narrator of This Boring Apocalypse, Wells’ third book, says, after a cat she forms of puss to keep her company crosses the street to live in another house—a house full of other, skinless, cats and a patchwork woman and man whom the narrator once loved and eviscerated and consumed piecemeal and forgot, and whom the narrator comes to love again and again. How beautiful is your spleen? How adeptly can you disassemble a body? How is it you get rid of or keep anything? The characters in these pages know only one way to test these questions: You do. You cut bodies open and hold spleens to light. You bury things that bore you. You remove the arms and legs of those you desire, stamp them with acid, keep them in your basement, regrow them for a new day.
The exploration of the human body is central to the tension in This Boring Apocalypse. The book opens with the narrator wanting a woman’s legs so badly she snaps them off and carries them around, before she grows bored of them decomposing and puts them in a closet. Soon after, the narrator cuts off the woman’s arms, worried that the woman may be seeing someone else. The narrator keeps her limbless lover in a tub of ice and continues to trim and take pieces of her until she loses interest and diverts her attention elsewhere. Strong want and indifference like this cycle throughout the narrator’s journey, and though she is complicit in many gruesome acts, her grief and loneliness still permeate these pages. In one of my favorite passages, the narrator turns her attention to her own body:
I believe the education of the body should be slow. It should be a determined thing, mapped out and well planned. I will instruct my arms as to which direction they ought to grow. I will be certain my leg growth is correct and balanced. Blood flow will be passionate. Bone growth will be passionate. All of my organs, passionate. Passionate lungs and spleen and liver and heart and kidneys and intestines. My intestines will be the most passionate intestines. I could pull them out and use them for a variety of high stakes tasks.
The repetition of “passionate” resonates here, as if the narrator is attempting to figure out what the word means, or what it means to have a flight of feeling so strong. The narrator’s quest for autonomy and emotion, though often steeped in violence, is what makes her endearing, what made me want to hollow out the next body with her, to see her assuage her loneliness. Even in her acts of violence are shortcomings, and she worries others will judge her. “Your wrongs are so small, people say. They laugh and cover their faces with their hands and I feel embarrassed over my very small wrongs,” the narrator worries, as she ups the ante on her acts of “egregious wrong.”
Far from boring and often funny, This Boring Apocalypse cycles birth, death, and human relationships in a hellish landscape that grows more inviting with every decapitation. I did not want to leave this gruesome, loving apocalypse. I did not want to leave the patchwork woman who, so patient in her own torture, keeps growing back and giving herself to the narrator. I did not want to leave the narrator’s journey, filled with ceaseless yearning and disappointment. I wanted to stay in This Boring Apocalypse, where nothing seems permanent, where rats test on human subjects, where things are, remarkably, always growing. I wanted to stay forever, but, as the narrator tells the man and woman she plants and grows after they request she not speak in clichés: “them’s the breaks.”