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HTML Giant Reviews Edmund Berrigan’s Can It!
The first time that I read the title of Edmund Berrigan’s bold book Can It!, I misread the words as a syntactical anomaly. The words seemed to combine a common inquiry (“can it . . .?”) with aggressive, declarative punctuation. This removed the deferential, cautious quality from Can It!, while adding an insistence that did not negate the underlying doubt; Can It! was a juxtaposition of the curious and the angry and a coexistence of blunt assertion and self-reflexive wonder.
Far from being an error, my misreading of Berrigan’s title served as an avenue into the text, which embodies many of the same concerns as the near-paradoxical titular wording. Can It! is at once an intimate and touching memoir of Edmund as a child and a young man as he experiences the death of his father Ted Berrigan, the later death of his stepfather Dale, and lives as a growing artist in New York City. Can It! is also a fully realized post-Language-School work, sections of which strive to tear apart Berrigan’s established personae and voices, and a playful tribute to the avant-garde surrealist aesthetic that was ushered into America nearly a century ago (and which seems to be experiencing a contemporary renaissance). These styles and traditions jumble together from section to section and form a whole that is rife with Whitman-esque contradictions and pleasantly revels in its inability to be pinned down in genre or intent.
Read on at HTMLGiant.