Theater of Parts is the debut full-length collection from M. Mack, now available from Sundress Publications. Order a signed copy from Mack here.
Cover design by T.A. Noonan.
Theater of Parts investigates dramatic forms through impossible theater, a term coined by Caridad Svich in her collection of Federico García Lorca’s drama, and the impossible body. Mack’s project is clearly influenced by Lorca, Jack Spicer, and Gertrude Stein. The manuscript is obsessed with transmogrification through a cast of characters including Milquetoast the crossdressing transfeminine cockroach, The Actor whose body is ether, and the controlling force of The Poet whose transmasculine body stubbornly is. The project engages with the other, in the vein of queer and feminist theory, existing in and pushing against the confines of academic space.
Sally Keith, author of River House and The Fact of the Matter, writes: “Here is the story of Milquetoast, a many gendered cockroach, a story both funny and serious. Mack’s brilliant and timely collection crosses poetry and theater, queer theory and personal narrative, upturning new dimensions of language, gender, and an inner life. Theater of Parts is a totally transformative debut.”
Sonya Vatomsky, author of Salt is for Curing, writes: “M. Mack’s Theater of Parts is a cacophonous incision on the impossible body –– a book of noses and nipples, of scars and wigs and wings. It’s bound in mesh and written in the politics of language and the language of tongues and the tongues of characters acting out the transformation of being. It is the spectacle of family and the drama of strangers, of impressions and pronouns and what it means to be “carving out a space for myself, inside myself.” I finished the book and immediately read it again; Mack’s words are sharp, probing, and utterly unparalleled. Exeunt all.”
Susan Tichy, author of Trafficke and Gallowglass, writes: “In Theater of Parts, M. Mack embraces the absurdist theater of gender and naming, of body parts and bodies partial, in a series of dramas that cannot be staged but must be lived. As the house lights come up, we meet Milquetoast (‘What toast?’), a melancholy cross-dressing cockroach (‘Cross-dressing from what? How do you sex a cockroach?’). Transmogrified from 1920s comic strips and Beat poet resurrections, Milquetoast is only the first in a dazzle of proliferating characters—The Poet; The Actor, mutilated into The Poet’s dialogic Other; a gaggle of Tits, who may be a chorus line, may be doorstops to the public restrooms, their Nipples sometimes like little hats, sometimes like microphones; and of course The Audience, rarely sure what is visible or how to look. With precision of wording and economy of gesture, and the impassive tone of a stage manager supervising a deconstructed circus, M. Mack unfolds the acts and actions, the not-acts, the scenes, and the spectacles that together make up the de/re/gendering and regeneration of bodies. “We will need to use our collective body as a wide net,” the poet writes. ‘This is all or nothing.'”