Rusty Immelman Press trade paperback - copyright 2004
Cover art and interior illustrations by Warren Wucinich
Book reviewed April 2005
Review by Aaron Hughes
Blue Wizard Is About to Die is idiotic. This is a book of clumsy, illiterate poems written by and for video game addicts who are old enough to know better. The author is only 23, but that is plenty old enough to have figured out that no adult should go by the nickname "Fingers." (Besides, the name "Fingers" just doesn't go with this book's hyper-pretentious subtitle, Prose, Poems, and Emoto-Versatronic Expressionist Pieces About Video Games [1980-2003]).
Barkan's gloating fascination with slaughtering thousands of virtual people is not just sophomoric, it's disturbing. More to the point, the poetry is godawful. Here is a stanza from a poem named after the video game "Bubble Bobble" (a game so supremely inane it is difficult to believe anyone actually paid money to play it):
Blow green filmI feel I am being charitable in comparing this to the ramblings of a young child on an acid trip. That any adult might actually wish to read such infantile doggerel is astounding and more than a little frightening.
Bubble gum balloon;
Float away, little dinosaurs,
Blue Wizard Is About to Die is brilliant. Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan has captured the spirit of video games that resonates so strongly with many in the X and Y generations. His poetry is hilarious, because he understands what makes the games fun. What's more, he appreciates the deeper levels of meaning of electronic games as only a devoted player can. The opening lines of his poem "Defender" ("I have no idea what I am doing / But I am doing it very fast") perfectly capture the frenetic quality of that game, but are also a reminder of what Defender taught many of us about how to survive in the hectic modern world. Barkan appreciates the artistry that went into the classic video games:
these games were art
that you experienced; a moving formalism,
a type of aesthetic dance or movement drama
for the clutzy geeks, the desperate jerks,
and the punk kids of my generation
He also understands how, for those of us who became too absorbed in them, there was a strange sense of dread in seemingly harmless games like PacMan ("They are coming for me: / THEY ARE COMING FOR ME! / and I am / powerless / to stop them"), Joust ("part of a / renaissance festival gone / horribly / horribly / wrong"), and Paperboy ("it's not worth it, kid; / whatever they're paying you, / it's not worth it"). These poems almost move me to tears, recalling all those happy, innocent reptiles I steered to their deaths in 1986, playing endless hours of Bubble Bobble.
Blue Wizard Is About to Die is far more than silly poetry, it is a profound meditation on the human experience. In the penultimate poem "Haven't Played in Years" for example, Barkan describes the frustration, familiar to all of you who have downloaded MAME in recent years,* of being unable to play the old games at your former level and hearing the inner voice of your younger self berate you for your inadequacies. Barkan's dialogue with his younger self embodies the bitterness of the human condition, always failing to meet our own expectations:
No! Not like that! Don't you know ANYTHING?* - The best of the video game emulators, MAME makes it possible to download and play all of the classic old video games on a PC. Of course, none of our loyal Fantastic Reviews readers would ever do that, because it's illegal.
JUMP! Now shoot. USE YOUR MISSILE!
See; I told you. Let me! Let me!
He screams, jumping up and down.
Let ME do it! Let me play!
Like any other child,
I find his presence charming,
It's ok though; I kick his ass on the PS2.
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Copyright © 2005 Aaron Hughes
"Great Things . . ."
(shows an over-the-hill Mario)
interior black-and-white artwork by Warren Wucinich