Somatic Book Review of The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu
The Ants Sawako Nakayasu Les Figues Press (2014) $14
To read The Ants by Sawako Nakayasu, begin by buying or making Chinese food (noodles or rice, beef, chicken, tofu, or veggies, that is your choice) and a hamburger. You will also want to acquire a timer of some sort and a metronome. Once you have both Chinese food and a hamburger, proceed to dump the purchased or made food onto the ground of your front porch, back porch, balcony, garage floor, kitchen floor, bathroom tiles, bedroom carpet, the grass of your yard, or the strip of grass implanted in the sidewalk outside your apartment. Dump the food anywhere you will walk past at least twice daily. It is preferable that this place will not be disturbed by other humans, or creatures or objects. Once you have chosen an appropriate spot and dumped the food, wait. Wait for the ants to come to you, or rather, to your humble offering.
When the ants begin their steady invasion, lay down on the ground near the food you have dumped. You can lay on your back or on your stomach or on your side, but make sure to open the pages of The Ants and extend the book towards the offering on the ground. Begin the metronome. Watch closely as the ants approach your offering. Take note of their strong legs, and swiveling antennae. Reach out and turn the pages of the book slowly and with great caution. This will allow time and space for the ants to intermingle with their literary counterpart. Make special note of if the ants are marching with or against the rhythm. Try alternating rhythms with the metronome.
Once the ants are comfortable inside The Ants, turn off the metronome (this step is optional, you can also read to its beat, pounding out a syncopation with the book’s spine each time you turn a page) and begin the timer. You will want to record, as you go along, how long it takes each ant to eventually exit the pages of the book. Do not put the book down at any point until all the ants have clamored out of and off of The Ants. Keep reading while the ants crawl over your fingers and palms and forearms, even after they’ve traversed up to your elbows and shoulders. When you do put the book down, be warned. (There are side-effects. You may find yourself wanting to cover yourself in oil paint, stomp in a freshly calmed puddle, bake a carrot cake, buy an analogue wrist-watch, measure time in apple-speed, walk the Great Wall of China, or super-glue this book to one of your palms.) It is likely that Nakayasu’s rhythmic little soldier words will keep marching through your head for at least as long as it takes to stop feeling the ghost steps of the ants on your skin.
Review by: Kat Fossell