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J. A. Tyler

J. A. Tyler is the author of Inconceivable Wilson, A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed, & A Shiny, Unused Heart. He is also the founding editor of Mud Luscious Press.


“Seasoned with the dark essence of Bukowski, J. A. Tyler harbors a dismal narrative voice all of his own.”

– Small Press Reviews

"Beautiful, gripping, terrifying and et very poetic, A Shiny, Unused Heart is a must-have for all lovers of real ground-breaking (and heart-breaking) lit.”

– Seb Doubinsky

“Reading A Shiny, Unused Heart is not just listening to the story of this man, it is experiencing it.”




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A Shiny, Unused Heart

It is in the combinational weaving of both the insinuating and the blatant that make this book’s singing so unsettling.


J. A. Tyler’s A Shiny Unused Heart (Black Coffee Press, 2011) is, to me, a radical ballad of grief. Sometimes people think of grief in the context of loss or lack, but the grief of which this book sings is very rich — is its own indelible surplus. This is not the grief of any singular moment but the grief of moments that eventually lead to more moments of grieving.

This succession of moments is heavy with excesses of sensation that are insinuated (“he wants to paint her out”) but there is also a lot of blatant statement of the sensation (“he has a hole in his gut”) (“pathetic and lonely and fucked up and sad”). It is in the combinational weaving of both the insinuating and the blatant that make this book’s singing so unsettling.

I think that to be unsettled is to be beautiful. This is one of the reasons that this book is so stimulating to me. It feels like being held under a sort of gelatinous liquid that I may or may not someday teach myself to breathe in. I practice the possibilities of that breathing or drowning or? throughout the duration of the experience of the book.

I also appreciate that the book is not very accommodating to readers in the context of keeping them above that liquid quality. There is too much active practice of the fracture of light below! We are capable of being in the below with the characters, slough-ly: “Him, lying on the bed in half-wet clothes [. . .] “uncalm, uncollected.”

With us set below the gelatinous (by author) we can keep ourselves there (as way to honor the book — to stay with it) as we try to deal with the realities of this unforeseen offspring that changes everything. Yes, in A Shiny Unused Heart it is the arrival of offspring (which brings joy to so many) that is the demise of the lovers. Breaking or shattering how he “[once] leap[t] into her body. . . . How they ate the bodies of one another.”

It is true. I want my body to be eaten by the characters and presences in this book. I let that happen to me while I am here, consumed by the husband, the wife, the phantom offspring, the offspring in person, the “non-linear revelation” — all of these. I also eventually find myself wanting to be ravaged even by the grief itself, which through the coiling process of the book’s unfolding becomes a sort of autonomous presence driven by sound and thrum. I know that I want to be intaken by the autonomous grief, because I have somehow become it. Because through the experience of the book I have become part of its archives of grief.

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1 Comment

  1. Jordan Blum said on 03/01/12 at 9:28 pm Reply

    Oh, how true it is that grief gets stronger as it continues, and I think it’s interesting that you seem to be uplifted by such heavy ideas. Has it eaten you fully yet? haha.


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