Review: ‘selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee’, by Megan Boyle

Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express EmployeeSelected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee by Megan Boyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Selected…’ by Megan Boyle is a rich addition to the catalog of Muumuu House, a sort of literary, cultural bastion for young writers that resonate thematically with the work of founder and internet-famous ‘symbol’, Tao Lin.

This enjoyably ambiguous ‘collective’ centers often around anxious-yet-stoic, stream-of-consciousness, I’m-okay-really-but-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life work of a complex flavor that many describe as the signature zeitgeist/milieu/something of my generation, a claim I have knee-jerk reaction toward deflecting as reductive and broad-brushed until I read the work and nod constantly, writing ‘Yes/pretty much/word/this/yup/lol’ in the margins. Megan Boyle’s debut collection of poetry is absolutely no different, and this is a good thing.

Yes, actually this is what my head sounds like. It may often feel like stereotypical ‘teenage angst’ that has ‘grown up’/gone to graduate school/spent years reading Lorrie Moore et al/’decided’ to exist as much on the Internet as off of it/etc. but that’s okay because it’s ostensibly the truth, to my mind.

Boyle’s speaker even nods toward the role of production of such an effect in the creative process itself:

“i relate to 90% of what lydia davis says, but i’m not sure if it’s because we’ve actually had similar thoughts, or because her style of writing makes me think we’ve had similar thoughts. i think a little of both.”

We see a bit more of this concern RE: life/art interplay later in the poem ‘every thought i had while walking to school’:

“am i consciously trying to think interesting thoughts because i think i’m going to write this down later?”

Another accusation/’hallmark’ of this kind of writing is a kind of self-indulgence one might expect with stream-of-consciousness writing almost constantly zeroed-in on how one feels at any given moment; a notable flourish in this book is a tendency to now and then shift this focus entirely to concerns of a larger scale, tied into mortality/the passing of time/the speaker’s effect on the world:

“do i only feel depressed because i constantly ask myself ‘how are

you feeling right now’ and sometimes don’t have an answer

i just looked at this and thought ‘professional blogging asshole’

i will be 24 in october”

and again, from one of the book’s most overarching and refractive moments:

“i am still unsure of what ‘life to the fullest’ for me would be, mostly i just

try to be well-liked in social situations and not die

i silently ask myself questions in the first person limited a lot, i.e. ‘am

i okay right now.’ if i mess up conversationally i will switch to second

person, i.e. ‘you fucking asshole’

sometimes i narrate my life in the third person in my head and won-

der of it’s good enough”

and in an early poem, put simply:

“everything i touch is going to be a fossil someday”

Two compelling paradoxes (and their resulting, understandable confusion) continue to be the matter of such work: feelings of anxiety clashing with feelings of stoic, existential boredom/directionlessness alongside intense loneliness clashing against the desire to be alone. The persistent shakiness between these emotional flares often feels anchored in the physical (sex/drugs, but without the ‘exciting’, cliché celebratory addition of ‘rock n’ roll’) as well as the intellectual/emotional. There are many comments both in and about the ‘Muumuu House aesthetic’ about the internet/social media/chatting that feel markedly appropriate; fewer things are as defining to my generation and technology seems enveloped in the same paradox: bringing people together while separating them. It’s an incredibly deep and nuanced conversation to consider, and I’ve not seen it articulated as appropriately or with as much emotional/artistic intelligence as I have here. One superb moment, from the poem ‘7.20.09’:

“i’m consciously avoiding social situations. it feels okay, not really

different than before. maybe i’m a little more calm or something, and

it sort of looks like other people are having more fun than me all the


maybe i should stop doing that before people start forgetting about

me in their weekend event planning

i keep thinking about updating my blog, twitter, and facebook with

‘AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,’ then leaving the internet indefinitely”

and here’s a moment that speaks a bit to this feeling outside of the context of the internet:

“i feel

like getting drunk/stoned with people is just a way to ‘pay dues’ to a

voice inside my head which says ‘you should be social,’ i don’t expect it

to result in feeling genuinely connected to anyone.”

This mention of ‘connecting’ resounds throughout the book on many levels, and what I perhaps enjoyed most about the entire book was the occasional moment of empathic consideration, often along the same plane of other thoughts/emotions, i.e. the classic existential questions aka who we are / where we’re going, mortality/the future, etc.:

“the guy next to me is typing expressively

seems like he’s looking for attention

he has a huge jug of water, like something a family would bring

to a sporting event

in ten hours we’ll both be in other places and the computer lab will be

dark and quiet

in 50 years our children will have families”

So maybe there is a connection somewhere in the nature of loneliness and separation, another strange but familiar-seeming paradox, and while the internet is an incredible, daily metaphor and reminder, this is a far older and human-nature thought/emotion, one the entire book sits upon and adds to, one worth exploring.

As is this book, I should by end be saying. Many detractors of this unique style have and will continue to point to the simplistic, accessible language and stilted-seeming tone/’craftwork’, and they do so at the cost of failing to interface with where the real work is–the nuanced introspections, emotional depths and genuine empathy that many are legitimately struggling to find a place of/place for. This book has a great deal to say, says it well, and knows you don’t always have to dress up/put on a costume to say it. It made me feel less lonely, or at least less lonely in my loneliness; it also made me want to spend more time writing. These are honestly perhaps my only real criteria for liking a book. I like this book.

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