In early 2008, a call for submissions was sent out from PistolPress, a young publisher managed from Montreal and Toronto, “seek[ing] reports on the imaginary, the made-up, the falsified and the absurd.” Their call was answered and resulted in an anthology called The Future Hygienic, comprising the work of 20 different writers in a book of 177 pages.
The name comes from Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of the Dada movement, who wrote in his Sept manifestes Dada, “Is poetry necessary? I know that those who shout loudest against it are actually preparing a comfortable perfection for it; they call it the Future Hygienic.” A portion of this is quoted on the copyright page of the book, which does not resemble a conventional copyright page. Not only does it list the editors and tell the reader that the copyright on the book is for 2009, but it also informs the reader that the book was made over the course of one and one-sixth of a year in seven different apartments in Montreal and that “those with hooves are most likely to enjoy this book.” The unconventional nature of this one page alone sets a tone for the rest of the book.
The Future Hygienic is an acute, and in many instances funny, anthology. The works contained are not limited to poetry or prose, or to any other restrictions; on page 153, the recognizable rhyme and metre dotting Ian Goodman’s poem “Acheron” is almost shocking, though not unwelcome. In many instances, a piece transcends a particular form.
Peter Schwartz’s four contributions – “Call Me Radio,” “Natural Causes,” “Degeneration,” and “Catapult” – are prose poetry. In the first of these he writes: “Wrap the radio in newspaper. Mix mediums; all you’re risking is your loneliness and shirtsleeves;” in the last he describes a “catapult made of night waiting this whole time to be filled.” In these short pieces, he beautifully captures images of modern, future, or non-existent worlds.
Daniel Aureliano Newman’s piece in the anthology, “The Coolidge Effect in Gallus gallus: Implications for Human Demography,” is a report on the breeding habits of chickens and how this behaviour relates to humans, complete with footnotes, graphs, and tables. The level of scientific work that went into this study may or may not be astounding; however, if you see someone reading The Future Hygienic and laughing to him or herself, there is a good chance that they are reading Newman’s piece. It’s not prose, it’s not poetry – it’s fake science.
The contributors to The Future Hygienic are at the start of their literary careers, and even though they may not all exhibit brilliance yet, they all show promise. PistolPress plays a significant and essential role in the publishing world, giving new talent a medium; they publish novels and anthologies like this one that would not be published by a large press but still have a market and artistic merit.
Uniting many of the writers featured in the anthology is their common maintenance of blogs or presence in online literary journals. Schwartz is the editor of DOGZPLOT. Five of the contributors have their own personal blogs. Through these online sources, we can access the work of all of the writers featured in The Future Hygienic without buying the book or using any paper; the entire anthology is even available online for free download. This follows a larger trend, bred by applications like Google Reader and RSS feeds, which give readers the capability to easily access the work of a diverse selection of artists.
The Future Hygienic is an entertaining and interesting collection of many genres and forms of literature, and maintains continuity in the concept of a far away place that can only be accessed through the pages of a book.