Mermaids for Attila is a fun, hands-on, toy-like book on the subject of well-orchestrated national behaviors. In it Servin considers horrors and the weirdest political truths. Characters discover themselves in communities where citizens engage in intricate dances that appear great, ugly, exploitative, silly, or even beautifully unremarkable. How do they know the steps? As if they had cribsheets, they are unshakably confident in their footwork. They want so badly to be in a play that they are anyway. Jacques Servin is an adept at imagining how things-once freed from their ordinary moorings in an administered reality-might recohere in a world where life actually lives. Mermaids for Attila is a bathotopia for the living, a naked lunch on Baker Street where the strangest ideas become well-seasoned truths.
"Jacques Servin is a comic writer whose awesome intelligence sails along and occasionally ploughs the border between language and a half-dreamed, half-lived life. The titles, seemingly plucked raw from the middle of still screaming paragraphs, can by themselves cause a kind of vertigo: "The Method of Distillery Was Remarkable but We Angled Down," "Bad Day on the Moon," and "Spooky Days of the Wide-Eyed." The paragraphs themselves heal magically fast because Servin is a frighteningly inventive writer. At times the undertow of other languages and a mysterious occult quality make the text quake…. I felt occasionally that I was riding a tilt-a-smorgasbord during an earthquake. Mermaids for Attila is a stupendously original collection, and Attila the Reader can but accept these mermaids (Servin stories) with awed (if occasionally queasy) gratitude."
—Andrei Codrescu, author of Belligerence
"Jacques Servin is some kind of crazy genius. His work entertains me, irritates me, and every now and then affects me with a touch of awe."
—Vance Bourjaily, author of Now Playing at Canterbury
"At a time when conventional narrative fiction is making an utterly boring comeback, it is a relief to find writers like Jacques Servin who are willing to acknowledge that verbal representation can no longer be regarded as anything more than a point of departure. Servin's stories untell themselves with an ease that is both amusing and disturbing, working playfully with the inherent instability of the linguistic medium and at the same time establishing a seriously critical relationship to the violent banalities of current social environment."
—Stephen-Paul Martin, author of The Flood and Open Form and the Feminine Imagination
War Memorial World-
At the entrance, one hundred guards in various states of squashedness. Mo, the tallest, exhibits concave rib cage. "How did it happen. Mo?" "I leapt into military situation with my hoedown still tapping its vim in my ear-ka-blooey!" We get enough of the picture. His friend Alexis is revering something small and metallic on the floor. "Come close," he says to our pleated-trousered leg. "This war," he says, involved a cost of three thousand bushels of aught-aught-six, and a good many lives of my comrades gentle in brooks and the fairs we got so very, very used to." Where is his face? "In the sixth month of it," he says, "the bloodhounds contrived to undo me."
"Tell us about your face."
"This war," he says, "involved the throwing of abundant livestock into the rivers of Hell. We were marching and growing a certain panache when clummo! The river swelled and only by remarching all the back to the front could we have repaired our situation, so clummo! We threw a farmful of livestock into it. Boom! The river stopped. Now who says there ain't no such thing as sympathetic magic?"
Mermaids for Attila
Mermaids for Attila