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New Millennium Boyz
A novel by Alex Kazemi /// WARNING: spoilers in the review
New Millennium Boyz
WARNING: spoilers in the review
Aesthetics in literature is quite a new trend. The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” becomes obsolete, as marketing and the text itself become apparent about what is written and presented. Everyone is going to make judgments on what the book cover shows in this age of short attention spans. Instead of the writer applying old creative devices, like plot or ethical conundrums, we get new devices around the painting of pretty pictures; that is, what is only written in the English language. What is “novel” eventually has to make way for the newer forms and artistic expressions that could only be done with words and language.
We might have a new art movement obsessed around Ryan Trecartin, and for the next two decades, we get redundant and epigone art based around a popular aesthetic connected to a generation.
…Or so we think?
New Millennium Boyz, by Alex Kazemi, is peppered with literal Fruity Pebble sprinkles throughout the text.
Such examples include,
“Want A Slim Jim, Brad?”
“What are you listening to?”
Oh wow. I remember I saw Tricky in 2018.
“I like Moby.”
“I’ve been trying to get into Fatboy Slim and Jamiroquai.”
Yes. I remember enjoying all those bands growing up in the early 2000s. I remember The Box channel in 1998, and calling in (and typing in phone digits) for Eiffel 65’s Blue, and I bought the CD album at the defunct Circuit City around the same time.
“Can you imagine being a rock star today? The hottest girls throwing themselves at you ’cause you got a video on MTV?”
“You’re like one of the only people who probably watched that Dark Skies show before NBC canceled it.”
Already the first chapter of New Millennium Boyz (with a “Z”) shows off a smorgasbord of what made the Y2K era. It’s all those silly things that I recall growing up with, and in return, all of it still reminds me of the Y2K paranoia porn of Trecartin’s art films. Trecartin once said that he had no other influence but the Disney channel itself.
The protagonist, Brad Sela, is 17 years old and enjoys all the innocent consumerism that the burgeoning decade has to offer. However, after meeting two new transfer students, Lu and Shane, he goes down the path of being a disgruntled “goth” kid, and something unearthly starts to unfold.
I admit, the whole “wigger” and rap references done by white people put in the mindset that the lates ‘90s and early 2000s was a war between “Nu-metal vs. Rap,” and later, we entered a new war around even more niche genres in the mid-2000s, like “Emo vs. Crunk.” I never used rap lingo ever, and not even sarcastically or ironically. What remains is a clash between who fits in as a masculine young boy, vs. who is sensitive and is “girly.” The infusion between the two might entail homosexuality, or the obsession around youth as a form of neglected and missed intimacy.
But I smile when I read,
“I’m a total net-head. I’m online all the time. I’ve got my own Tripod site.”
It reminds me, that only if I could be able to resurrect my old Geocities Gameboy Camera chiptune netlabel back in 2008, “Killing 774,” (named after the KMFDM song), and see it in 2023, that would be awesome. Luckily, a friend was able to save all of its data and put it up on the Internet Archive. I still see myself as a “demoscener,” which is a term that no one uses anymore, considering the internet is now “normal” in 2023. But these terms become obsolete when a new generation has to rediscover the past as simply “vaporwave” for hipster posturing.
With all these popular cultural references abundant, lingers a worship of “Jesus Christ” by the boring and outdated suburban families of nowhere America. Honestly, I don’t know why this fad was popular in the 1990s. It even affected Tooth & Nail Records, where bands like MxPx and Pedro The Lion wrote explicitly in the text that they worshiped Jesus, but kept it under cool and “alternative” music of the time. I can’t stand this “Jesus Freak” mania either, or the pampering white parents that socially killed the millennials to death.
But I digress.
The collage art almost becomes stereotypical of the decade.
“We’re Americans. How do you expect me to be chill without a 7-Eleven in walking fucking distance?”
“No MTV News. No AOL. No Deja. No Hercules cartoon on Saturday mornings. No PlayStation. No X-Files message boards. No new episodes of Low Days…”
It’s the enjoyment of such “hyberobjects” do we enjoy the text. A “hyberobject,” by Timothy Morton’s definition, can be described as, “objects which have a vitality to them but you can't touch them, like race or class, or climate change.”Not to get lost in Morton’s creative writing ramblings and semantics, but any peculiar object that has some type of power over us, or we center our lives around, can be considered a hyperobject, like a Playstation console, a 7-Eleven store, or even using a computer to log onto a message board.
In the first chapter, Kazemi gives us prose about hyperobjects, and how we appreciate their existence over us. I couldn’t help but think of a similar work; Ron Silliman’s poem, Xing, which was published in 1996, and dealt with the theme of playful hyperobjects in rhythmic prose, from Homer Simpson, Citi Bank, Quaker Oats, to a white Sedan, and all of it, “dull as memory.”
The boys attending “camp” together, is the beginning of “the hero’s journey,” where an institution transforms itself through “supernatural aid,” and an abyss of the bildungsroman soon awaits them. The Surge Soda and The Real World references are mere zeitgeist distractions from what is to come in the plot. I agree, that the eternal “summer camp” or “band camp” is a traumatic event for any millennial. It can be highly sexual, hedonistic, or downright violent. Close friends I knew growing up with, always tell me about a personal high-school sexual escapade story that summer camp was “the best thing ever.”
If the “snapshots” and “moments,” like us enjoying the experience of the “band camp,” are made up by urban legend and hearsay, we as people can only understand things on the surface level of the iceberg. Contemplating Ernest Hemingway’s theory of the iceberg, the real themes of the novel are underwater but implicitly stated. Sure this is “fiction,” but what the fictional characters were thinking this way before the narrative ever began? We don’t make the text visible if we rely on the cuteness and playfulness of the “object-oriented ontology” that distracts the reader from greater truths in the text.
We also enter a state of Marcel Proust's technique of involuntary memory. We never asked what the characters felt and memorized their references to Woodstock, Ring Pops, and Blink-182. In 2023, these all become nostalgic trips, but for some, they become traumatic experiences. Take, for example, Carl Jung’s association method test. A list of words is presented, and the patient immediately has to speak out, in another word or sentence, how he or she feels about the word. If the reader sees the word “Ring Pops,” and it immediately brings up “blowjobs,” the etymology of that word was culturally created. Perhaps the reader had a good experience with Ring Pops or thinks Ring Pops are lame and ironic, or might even have a traumatic experience. The time that it takes to calculate a meaning for a word too has repercussions, as a traumatic association leads to pussyfooting and an inward reflection on depression.
And to further show this association, “They better sell Surge at the concession or I’m going to be very fucking pissed off.” And, “I need to get some Surge in me before I break down.” It may be funny that an outdated soda was in high demand, but as also reflective of a certain type of angsty and suicidal teenager from the 2000s.
Kazemi also reflects on the magical occult in his writings. In my own opinion, I’ve read Michael Dummett’s The Game of Tarot, and I became an “atheist” when it comes to any flowery “magic,” or any type of William S. Burroughs rich kid superstition, as Dummett once wrote, “The Tarot pack is the subject of the subject of the most successful propaganda campaign ever launched: not by a long way the most important, but the most completely successful.”Dummett is making this point because he comes from a “Ludology” point of view with the history of games and design, which contradicts the ignorant and socially acceptable “Narratology” school, that sees games as mere toys to tell “stories.” I’ve taken this stance long ago because once you see the art of design, you appreciate science over religion.
As such, any type of “horoscope” reading is also bunk. While I understand that the power of a mood ring can shape our feelings and give us sophist advice, we are never too far away from understanding that design plays a greater role in interactivity, and how a machine functions to create art. I do, however, appreciate the history and logic behind esoteric subjects like the Kabbalah or Gnosticism, as the modern works of Gene Wolfe’s Book of The New Sun or James Joyce’s Finnigans Wake is littered with this kind of hidden understanding and enlightenment towards a greater truth. But again, we should never get caught up in idolatry worship over a pretentious new-age understanding of something that isn’t there, as I also tend to take Umberto Eco’s argument of the creation of deranged conspiracy theories in his novel, Foucault's Pendulum.
All of Kazemi’s characters reflect upon magic and the esoterica as being a device for teenage intimacy.
“I do believe it because I truly think we are all star children, made of the cosmos…”
“So, when are you going to ask me about my sign?”
“I’m a Pisces. Cancer and Pisces are water signs. We are prone to over-dreaming, over-feeling, over-empathy, over-everything.”
Maybe I grew up liking Martin Gardner puzzles. It’s not a household name like horoscopes are for the middle class. Yet Gardner teaches the reader to be critical of the text, or, “if it works like the hypothesis stated.” I would like to have an additional alphabetical index at the back of New Millennium Boyz, where it lists every single consumer object or popular culture thing referenced, including the page numbers. That way, I could make a diagram of webs, where I can find out how “Ministry” is related to “The Doomed Generation,” while it goes back, to say, Robitussin. This is where I feel like everything ties together in Kazemi’s aesthetics. Ignore the plot, and see how much the hyperobjects dictate meaning. This puts things into a bigger picture, and like what Gardner did in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, we see what connects, and what doesn’t.
This product worship found in New Millennium Boyz is becoming the new avant-garde. I saw it in similar writers, from Shaun Partridge, Brandon Adamson, and Richard Houck, who take material worship and take it to an entirely new level of an Unpop-style subculture. But I believe Kezemi takes that material collage art technique beyond everything before the last decade, and outrun these previous writers. Even to an extent where we have a “neo-Warholian” rediscovery in creative writing. The magic can be found in the tiniest of “Fruit of the Loom” clothing and personifies itself with a new, edgy personality.
I am personally influenced by Haruki Murakami's use of Western tropes of popular culture and Proustian trips, especially in his magnum opus, Norwegian Wood. The title is named after a song by The Beatles. So why isn’t there any originality? Why not call it something else than an independent property one might get sued over? Because you might as well “sample and take” the hyperobjects around us, and claim it as our writing, even if it’s through the personal songs that we like.
Who’s to say that KMFDM song is NOT a great work of art? Because under postmodernity, it IS a great work of art! (Even if it’s in the context of; “KMFDM is blaring out of Lu’s car at the far end of the lot… Lu and I sit on a bench watching them kiss each other’s necks, grab each other’s tits, and rub each other’s thighs.”) The chorus of Everclear’s “I Will Buy You a New Life” is just as important in explaining the text as it is poetry of its own. The cringe nature of crass commercialism creates a level of irony, where we separate ourselves from the art, and reexamine the social control that is happening. Shall we embrace “Chinese food makes me sick,” or shall we look back and realize how awful that music was?
As for the dark part of the story to ponder, there is also a certain aesthetic of being a goth in the 2000s. What this implies is the tragedy.
The transgressive tragedy in literature isn’t something new, as it’s been around since 2011 with Andy Nowicki’s The Columbine Pilgrim and expressed in Robert Stark’s 2017 novel, Journey To Vapor Island. It’s a popular theme around a negative inverse of coming of age, where adult ownership is accomplished through something immoral. As the disclaimer states at the beginning of the novel, “This book contains scenes that some readers may find disturbing or upsetting, including descriptions and depictions of self-harm, sexual abuse, drug consumption, offensive language, and violence.”
And the realization here is that darkness only leads to death. I don’t mean to go any further and spoil the details of exactly what happened in the plot, but the theme is related to being a spoiled millennial.
The millennial generation woke up in terror because the fun consumer utopia they grew up in had no purpose. So they turn to the coddling art of Teenage Stepdad, plug into Means TV, and cry about how “that wasn’t real communism!” The millennial generation was protected from the broken world of the welfare capitalist state, which also gaslights its victims into the idea of liberal “freedom” and choice. The millennials have become spoiled children who can’t operate the world we have now, and now resort to “cancel culture,” “inceldom,” and fake forms of leftism. This is a reflection of an undeveloped child who fell from grace, and their entire semantics is defined by hyperobjects and irony. And when ethics is put to the test, they commit atrocious acts of selfishness and decadent hedonism.
Dennis Cooper wrote in his novel, The Sluts, that the internet provides an ironic “safe space” for the most sadistic and perverted people, where all desires become sincere, and the desire contradicts the liberal world’s order for egalitarianism.
The sadist has the ultimate power because he can break liberalism in two; by separating desire and equality, while desire is expressed through the work of creative writing, art, performance, and sincerity. The normal person, or liberal, can't handle the "fetish," and blame him as evil. This, I believe, is where New Millennium Boyz shines. The ethical swing is a balance between what we can do, vs. what is right or wrong. The consumer capitalist nature of America gives sadist powers to all of its citizens, at the expense it leads to a narcissistic death.
It is a reflection of how pornography transforms the mind into a cartoon, and how it is projected into a reality that isn’t real. That’s a narrative worth reading about.