Matt Forney
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The Death of Ideology by Blair Naso

the-death-of-ideologyStop the presses: the manosphere now has a poet laureate.

Or at least it will in a few years. The Death of Ideology, the debut of my Return of Kings colleague Blair Naso, is far better than a book by a kid in his early twenties has any right to be. A compilation of poetry, short stories and song lyrics, Naso’s work is alternately touching and hilarious. While marred by the errors of a first-time author, The Death of Ideology is an absolute must-buy even if you’re not into poetry.

The Death of Ideology is a shade over 150 pages’ worth of stories and poems, organized into three “movements,” the logic of which eludes me. Naso’s verse includes everything from nihilistic whimsy (“Eugene and the Monkey,” “I Think I’ll Go Home and Cut My Wrists”) to chuckle-inducing sexcapades like the Andy Nowicki-esque “My Therapist’s Couch” and the anti-fellatio anthem “Barroom Wife”:

Don’t try to hide.
And don’t weave and duck.
Let me pay your tab.
A gentleman must.
You keep eyeing me
And laughing, but
Come on, woman.
Let’s fuck.

There’s a certain unadulterated joy in reading The Death of Ideology, the joy you get from reading something that’s completely devoid of pretension. While Naso’s prosody could use some work, he’s clearly studied his verse and knows what he’s doing. His poems and songs flow off the page effortlessly, and I could almost imagine a twangy country beat to go along with some of the lyrics.

Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that Naso could become the Millennial Wallace Stevens.

Ah, Wallace Stevens, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, sneered at by the ivory tower. Stevens was a modernist poet, but he bucked the mainstream trend of sentimentality and schlock by writing about nothing. By “nothing,” I mean he just wrote poems for the hell of it, without making hackneyed moral statements or wasting time with “deep” moral themes.

What’s hilarious about Stevens is that none of the lit-crit types seem to be aware that he was mocking him. For example, read the Wikipedia page on his poem “Anecdote of the Jar” if you want a laugh. All these morons trying to read into it a meaning that doesn’t exist, claiming it’s a metaphor for “male dominance,” a commentary on Keats, and so on make me shake my head.

Sometimes, a poem about a jar on a hill in Tennessee is just a poem about a jar on a hill in Tennessee.

Naso clearly has this aspect of writing down. Many of his poems display a snotty contempt towards the idiocy of the world, like John Dolan without the social retardation. Take “Daddy’s Little Girl,” a snide swipe at the Southern culture of sports worship:

She’ll graduate and marry Bill,
Then shit out three kids and be the greatest
Youth football mom ever. Her sons
Will grow up to rape cheerleaders
And her daughters will let themselves be raped.
The Baptist church won’t even notice.

The short stories and prose pieces in The Death of Ideology are where Naso falters. To his credit (or maybe he’s just doing a wink-wink-nudge-nudge type of thing), he acknowledges this in “An Attempt at Prose,” one of the better stories in the book:

So every kid each chose a mate, often based purely on looks since it was a one night stand, and had the youth pastor ceremoniously marry them. And so they all consummated. But then as six approached, Aaron started having anxiety and shot himself instead. The parents came to pick their kids up to find they’d all been having sex in the church. The youth pastor, of course, was fired, but there was still the theological issue of marriage. Some parents said that the kids were too young to make such a decision knowledgeably, yet still a marriage is a marriage, and these kids swore to protect each other until death do them part. Some parents wouldn’t let them be together, actually, no parent would let their kids be married, but they would still find ways to fulfill their marriages, often including sex in the school bathrooms.

Naso writes in an dark, absurdist style, focusing his ire on Churchianity, liberalism and life in the Deep South, but his problem is that he doesn’t know when to stop. Every time he lands on a good joke, he hammers it out to the point where it stops being funny, then pulverizes it into dust for good measure. The most egregious example is “Battlefield! In Outer Space!”, a sci-fi satire that stretches on for fifty pages, flogging its punchlines well past the point of no return.

The Death of Ideology is also hamstrung by its lack of editing. While not a deal-breaker, there are enough typos and grammar errors to irritate my inner Grammar Nazi. Combined with the too-clever-by-half nature of Naso’s prose pieces, it makes getting through certain sections of the book a slog.

Aside from this, The Death of Ideology is one of the finest books I’ve read in some time. I was frankly skeptical of a guy as young as Blair Naso publishing a fiction book, but despite his amateur mistakes, he’s pulled off something truly remarkable. If he learns to shut up every so often and proofread his work, his next release could be amazing.

Click here to buy The Death of Ideology.

Read Next: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline