The Nancy Reagan Collection
Author: Maxe Crandall
Publisher: Futurepoem Books (2020)
The Nancy Reagan Collection is a response to growing up queer and trans under the rise of HIV-AIDS. Crossing genres and generations, this performance novel remixes the AIDS archive through an ever-spiraling politics and aesthetics of mourning. Alternating chapters offer up a narrative throughline composed of hallucinogenic episodes from the perspective of a nameless, grieving protagonist in the midst of the global carnage of the Reagan dynasty. Part revenge, part fantasy, the book experiments with poetic practices that challenge conceptions of memory and morality, activism and escapism, grief and beauty.
"'What is there to say that you haven't not said already?' Maxe Crandall fills the Reagans' famous silence on AIDS with a dazzling fantasia on glamour, grief, testimony, fandom, and ferocious indignation. Crandall refracts the crimes of the eighties through the icons and cultural debris of that era-so many coldblooded ways for flesh, power, and image to meet in mass death. Global catastrophes ornament Nancy's reign of just saying no as the CIA runs crack to fund the Contras. She floats above, a ghoulish death's head, dead and life-like, the pole star of this performance novel. 'Nancy introduces hallucination at the viral spike.' Above all, The Nancy Reagan Collection explores the meaning of the image in all dimensions, blunt and cryptic, 'the live self blinks behind the one represented.' Like Nancy, you will smile one of your political grins."
"'He looks like the future,' Maxe Crandall tells us. But what looks like the past? What can look at this never-ending past? This dark dream of a book is one answer. The Archive. Memory. Poets Theater. Elegy. Grief and rage undergirding high fashion; i.e., the world. Maxe conjures all of this, and conjures the conjuring. Time, genre, perspective-these things are unstable. That is, of limited (endless) use. Imagine a multiplayer video game-that is, a script. Pick a stage, any stage, and gather to you your closest enemies. The more harshly glittering the lights, the better. The past (which is to say the present and future) intervenes with increasing urgency. Your gloved hands will always and never touch."
–Claudia La Rocco
"The energy and the invention of this work are impressive. If you read it sympathetically, you will like it."
–Samuel R. Delany
"Maxe Crandall's The Nancy Reagan Collection is a virtuosic experiment where the all too harrowing reality of the Reagan era and its discontents (AIDS, Iran-Contra, the beginning of the end of the progressive American dream) meets a phantasmagorical interlocution with its strangest protagonist-Nancy Reagan. Crandall hauntingly weaves poetry and historiography together alongside an index of our fallen ancestors to remind us of the bizarre ways that queer and trans people's lives are enmeshed in deadly intimacy with people whose politics and politesse kill us. I love this book."