Ashley Farmer. Jellyfish Highway Press, $10 paperback (80p)
Like me, you may only know Farm Town as a Facebook app you blocked the moment you got an invite. But no prior knowledge is needed to lap up the irony, satire, and poetry of Ashley Farmer’s novella The Farmacist. The book—which could just as easily be called a novella-in-flash as a collection of prose poems—explores the pastoral and the digital world. And in turn, it explores a world of disconnection: “You flick a key and pixels contract, the bright sample images more resonant than exact, more compelling than fact, and all of it edited to the hilt.”
But Farmer infuses the serious with a good dose of humor—“Hit ‘Like’ If You Love Your Mother”—and the writing is equal parts wit and terror translated through fine poetic prose. The speaker laments, “I never thought my parents’ avatars would die.” In a world where, “Your body is 100% water and 5% download error,” Harry Houdini, Sigmund Freud, the Devil, and the reoccurring Dr. Doomsday and Aluminum Head visit Farm Town. And our speaker, planted in the real world—in the bathroom, looking out the window—is always returning to the farm, which “reminds me in the ribs the clocks changed for daylight savings, winter greening into spring.”
In Farm Town, “You toil hungry and broke and harvest 10,000 mango trees only to discover they’re worth less than a single patch of lavender. Your animals can’t breed or reproduce and you can’t slaughter them. They stand there purgatoried. They wait to be moved by the electric current that is you.” But Farmer reminds us that in the real world, we might find ourselves in a shitty bar in front of a game of Photohunt playing, “addition or subtraction of body parts and black straps and wisps of hair on naked women. I’m foolish but not so easily fooled: in one photo she’s whole, in the other incomplete.”
I found myself laughing and shuddering and starting whole passages over just to laugh and shudder again. The first release from Jellyfish Highway, The Farmacist is a solid start for a promising press. (December 2015)
Purchase The Farmacist HERE.
Reviewer bio: Christy Crutchfield is the author of the novel How to Catch a Coyote. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Mississippi Review, Salt Hill Journal, Juked, and others. Visit her at christycrutchfield.com