We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon (2005)

We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon
: A Tribal-Love-Rock-Novel Set in the Sixties on an Outpost Planet Called Memphis

Livingston Press, 2005

$25.00 hardcover, $14.95 paperback

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“It’s a beautiful, quirky, spooky, rhythmic, hilarious and sneakily moving piece of work.”
M. Allen Cunningham, author of The Green Age of Asher Witherow

“Corey Mesler’s exuberant, spaced-out love letter to the 1960s—and to his hometown of Memphis—gives renewed meaning to the phrase, “Far out!” Invoking the ghosts of Richard Farina, William Kotzwinkle, Richard Brautigan (who appears!), and Thomas Pynchon at his most whimsically stoned, We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon, with its cut-and-paste assemblage of poems, stories, and memoirs, deftly captures both the innocent charm and the dark menace of the period. “
Marshall Boswell, author of Alternative Atlanta

“If this was music, it’d be a slippery, jazzy ‘Green Onions’ with a sitar break played by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, using the edge of his dictionary for a pick.”
Marshall Chapman, author of Sweet Little Rock and Roller

“This book is best approached as poetry: playful, allusive (and often elusive too), with a distinctly hippie sensibility, which veterans of the Age of Aquarius will recognize instantly, and which will give other readers a vivid sense of those bygone, patchouli-fragrant days. Indeed, this book is perhaps most accurately described as a literary version of that Sixties-specific phenomenon known as a “Happening”: there’s a lot going on, it’s often colorful and entertaining…{and}a good time was had by all.”
Peyton Moss, ForeWord Magazine

“Imagine The Crying of Lot 49, mixed with Richard Farina, mixed with early Rolling Stone magazine pieces. Think about the playful word play of poet and playwright Tristan Tzara. Mesler’s work here is like taking a hit of acid without experiencing the possible longterm aftereffects. Well, maybe…”
George Singleton, author of Novel

 “Tying all of these disparate elements together in one big tie-dye, Mesler’s prose and verse swirl psychedelically, making use of obscure words like paralipomena and clerihew, as if learning to speak a new language. He possesses an easygoing, slightly stoned wit: he refers to a character’s canvas as being “like those paintings by that painter” and describes a memory as “strained through the cheesecloth of time.” Overall, his writing possesses a noodly quality, as if each sentence were either a guitar solo or some hippie variation on square literature. [Mesler’s] ’60s may be perhaps equally rose-colored, but in Carbon the times seem much more personal and idiosyncratic than generational. In fact, at times this amiably ambitious novel — especially the poems, which read as later-in-life ruminations by any one of these characters — often reads like Mesler’s attempt to reclaim a personal past from the mass-market memories of flower power and Woodstock. He’s fighting against the public demystification of the past, desperate to unmake certain connections, to leave some things unexplained. As Camel observes, ‘Mysteries … were beautiful as mysteries.’ Far out.”
Stephen Deusner, Popmatters

 “Mesler’s language is spare and excessive—a contradiction held and delivered by humorous and graceful syntactical arrangements. These are narratives which give visibility to the cracks from which versions of Self erupt. Since ‘home’ (thus returning to it) is destabilized by a shifting sense of Self, Mesler reveals nostalgia as the poetry of the thwarted attempts which expose how awful, awkward, and endearing humans can be when ripped open by the complexity of history. Mesler invokes nostalgia to engage with the difficult issues it creates…It’s a fragile enterprise—how we coordinate our identities with history, how we then come to terms with versions of ourselves. We are Billion Year Old Carbon suggests that it remains a worthwhile experiment.”
Selah Saterstrom, Ellipsis: Literary Serials and Narrative Culture

“[A] sexy and energetic novel-ala-collage…As energetic as the beginning of this book is with its unfettered adventures and engorged dreams, Mesler is at his best describing the end of an era…Billion Year Old Carbon is a bold and often humorous tribute to the brave and foolish times of galvanized youth.”
Susan Henderson, Arkansas Review

“How about a feast?  Really, the language of We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon is a regular smorgasbord of tastes and styles, and while all the echoes from the 60s (Brautigan, Kotzwinkle, Vonnegut–you know the litany) are fairly conspicuous, I keep thinking of Ondaatje in his early books where he combines narrative with lyrics and documentary material.  This book is very different in tone from his but similar in daring. ”

Steve Stern, author of The Angel of Forgetfulness

“I am embarrassed to say that this is the first book of Mesler’s that I’ve read. It won’t be the last. He evokes, in his stories populated with characters such as Johnny Niagara, Camel Jeremy Eros, Madame Sabat and Sweetness Enlight, the mythical Midtown Memphis… It’s a love poem (and there is plenty of poetry throughout this book), not just to a city on the river, but to the geographic and soulful boundaries of Midtown. And it’s written to the soundtrack of Captain Beefheart, Buffalo Springfield, Furry Lewis and The Beatles…I didn’t know what to expect from this book though I expected it to be well-written because I know of Mesler’s work ethic. It is exciting for me to have an author with so much out there that I have yet to tap into.”

Richard Alley, from his blog, Urf!


Cover photograph by Doug Cupples. Cover art by Toby Mesler.

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