BY KATIE STOCKDALE
Telos and Other Psychographs is not a classic reading-for-entertainment book. An anthology of author Euphrates Moss’s works, it has an overarching theme, but is not a continuous story. This is a book that requires its readers to actively think on a higher level than an average novel. This book is not for everyone, as in college, stories, novels and series are preferred material for reading for fun. Telos and Other Psychographs offers an interesting take on the modern literary movement. However, the book is for those who enjoy getting to know authors through their smaller pieces (poems, essays and short stories) and who appreciate the anthology format.
The collection starts with an introductory essay, in which, for the first time, the issue of pretension is obliquely raised. Moss’s style is to use larger academic sounding words and several of his poems follow earlier styles imitating Victorian poets and even trying to recapture the language of epics. In short, Moss is aware that he sounds pretentious and admits it in his introduction.
Views on pretension vary, but there is a sort of respect that goes with the admittance and acceptance of a tone that can be found critically negative. The introductory essay is indeed pretentious, but I find most modern essays have a similar tone. Pretension seems to be a necessity as their goal is to convince the reader of something and the author therefore adopts an academic tone. This essay focused on explaining the author’s self-created concept of “inconsistentism”. Some of the poems also have pretension as an overwhelming tone. As some readers enthusiastically enjoy pretension and others enthusiastically detest it, individual preference decides if it is too much. For myself, it was not a detriment to continue reading.
The short fiction pieces were my favorite. Some featured returning characters that were easier to connect to than the poems. Being longer than the poems, it was also easier to identify some of their shared themes. These themes include the question of love vs. obsession, self-identity and the creation of it, and that odd time between adolescence and adulthood that we had named college. What made the short stories so interesting is Moss’s handling of unlikable characters. As critics of YA novels can attest, the search for identity can often produce a whiny tone in a character that can still be difficult to read.
Not so for Moss. The whiny aspect of the character is balanced by other aspects of Moss’s writing, descriptions, the situations the character gets himself into and his counterpoint, who is also unlikable, manipulative and, honestly, mean. However, Moss’s writing invites you to recognize the characters as someone you know, or perhaps someone you’ve been, and that makes the experience much more personal than his poems.
There are some odd pieces. A rap is attempted that becomes out of place with the style of the other poems, and in general, reading rap is an awkward endeavor. The style is meant to be spoken, more perhaps, than any other. The poems vary in content and so the first inclusion of more adult topics is jarring, but simply needs continued reading to get accustomed to. The piece, “‘The Treachery of Poems”’ is long, winding and in the middle of it, includes more disturbing adult themes, that could be too much for some.
I would not recommend reading this book all at once. It is, in essence, an exploration, and to properly explore literature, breaks are necessary. Pieces should be thought over, themes examined within the reader and their own lives. This is not a book to read for distraction or in-between classes. It is an undertaking that demands more of its readers. It might be better suited for the classroom than a dorm room, but then college is the place to explore academia in all aspects of life. If you wish to explore, Telos and Other Psychographs is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
Katie Stockdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org