Issue No. 88
When I first received Joseph Riippi’s manuscript, Because, I ended up reading it front to back in one night. I dove right in and was lost in the yearning and desire of the book’s short, punctual chapters. I think it was the novel’s structural device—a list of sorts—that made it impossible to stop. In the same vein of Joe Brainard’s I Remember, every line of the book begins with a declaration. Riippi’s declaration functions as bold and brutally honest desire: “I want.” Using these two simple words as refrain, Joseph Riippi cuts down to the core of the narrative. From the novel’s opening preface, he offers us an explanation, “Because I wanted to make something beautiful and figure things out. Because I wanted to write fiction, but I’m not sure that I did.” You see, the novel is just that: It’s a transcript of a personal search. It’s as much about understanding as it is an exploration of trying to be understood.
I want you to understand—and because Joseph Riippi wanted to understand why he felt the way he felt, he let the novel open up the emotional floodgates. Financial stability, failure, and the infinite promise of making good on all that might have originally gone wrong, the novel glows with the a quiet and heartfelt curiosity; its cadence worked its magic on me and forced me to inspect some of my own “wants.” I found in Riippi’s writing the clear message that we’re all in this together. We, the people, share the same fears, the same hopeful fantasies, and, most of all, we still draw hope from the very same places. Because became that book that reminded me why literature is one of our most important coping mechanisms.
I want to know beforehand that this excerpt will register in every reader the same sort of enthusiasm it did to me. I want to watch Joseph Riippi’s novel age with time, becoming its own antidote to life’s often strange and unexpected choices. I want you to read this.
I want to know what you think.
Publisher-in-Chief, Civil Coping Mechanisms
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Excerpted from the novel by Joseph Riippi
Recommended by Civil Coping Mechanisms
I want to collect leaves in autumn on a brick college campus and press them between the pages of a paperback guide on arachnids. I want to spend a weekend trapped alone in a library.
I want to dangle from the minute hand of a clock tower at a quarter past the hour and listen through the ticking for approaching sirens.
I want to drive an ambulance at full speed down an avenue. I want to take it up on two wheels, screeching around a corner and running the red.
I want to carry a stretcher up flights and flights of burning stairs in a fire. I want to do chest compressions on the old woman in a brownstone while shouting, Don’t you die on me, Don’t you die on me, Don’t you die on me.
I want to cut someone loose from the belt they used to hang themselves. I want to catch them in my arms and say, It’s okay, it’s okay, as they gasp. I want to stick my fingers down the throat of a best friend who swallowed a bottle of pills. I want to hug someone tightly and have them hug me back.
I want to sit with my grandfather during the coldest nights of his war and comfort him with true stories about his future.
I want to deliver a baby in a taxicab.
I want to save lives and make new ones.
I want to change the tire of a stranger’s station wagon on the turnpike shoulder in a rainstorm.
I want to run across a four-lane highway and lie down on the yellow line and listen to the tires moving past. I want to know what it’s like to be hit by a car.
I want to know what it’s like to be driving the car that hits someone. I want to know what it’s like to cause a truly tragic, deadly accident. I want to know what it’s like to accidentally take life and keep on living.
I want to shoot target practice at camouflaged mannequins in a wheat field while magnolias sway pink and purple in the distance and a platoon of soldiers cartwheels past with melodic battle cries in their mouths.
I want to know what it’s like to hold a new baby in a hospital delivery room. I want to know what it’s like to hold a four-day-old baby in the middle of the night near a crib and realize the reality of fatherhood. I want to know what it’s like to be a newborn baby. I want assurances that I can and will be a good father.
Untitled by Donald Gjoka
found this old piano in the bushes last spring, hiking around an island. it’s been there for so long the tree is growing into it & it makes me wonder who used to play it and why it’s outside
out of all the words they could graffiti this is what they chose
“Beauty isn’t a fucking game. It’s a form of embodied cultural capital held by those with privilege. Objective beauty is the purest, most distilled form of the dominant aesthetic of the ruling class. As a social asset, it’s powerful stuff. The world says yes to beautiful people in a million…