Vijay R. Nathan’s poetic sensibility is sardonic and sarcastic and pop-culturally astute and thusly the perfect sensibility to mercilessly skewer the cult of celebrity that currently seems to occupy humankind’s every waking hour. Through this highly-structured poetic cycle he has fashioned a universe out of Snapchat and Google, viral memes and whose movie quotes remain culturally relevant after how many years. Into this universe he introduces the celebrities and their quests for the titular spiritual practice, the sadhana of being just average joes while maintaining the perks of their fame. The conundrum that arises is that it is their celebrity itself that both created the need for a renewed sadhana and makes that practice to be so difficult to maintain.
As such the celebrities find themselves stumbling through their lives, ill-equipped to deal with simple situations let alone the anomalies introduced by Nathan: Winona Ryder’s shoplifting ordeal morphs into a sales floor battle with the Lovecraft baddie Cthulhu. Natalie Portman touching herself provides the framework for a debate over the use of dance body double in “Black Swan”. Jodie Foster and Sacha Baron Cohen share edibles in an attempt to fend off the more unpleasant memories of “The Accused” viewings. Additional notables that share similar misadventures in these interwoven poems include Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Zack Galifianakis, Keanu Reeves and Tim Burton.
Throughout these episodes the sadhana the celebrities seek remains elusive, and in the climactic scene when Joaquin Phoenix recreates his real-life hermiting in a Mojave Desert cave that causes the entire concept of celebrity collapses in on itself, they all come to realize how they’ve trapped themselves forever in what is their unique fame reality. The author’s choice to convey that ultimate realization (and all the events leading up to it), through poetry allows extension to a level of absurdity that would appear clumsy and heavy-handed were it conveyed through prose. This format choice is just one instance of Nathan’s mastery of his voice and demonstrates a level of perception and craftsmanship often lacking in today’s populist literature.
If there is any flaw here it is that the poetry cycle’s topicality is bound to one day leave it dated and eventually obsolete. Thankfully, Nathan’s writing conveys the thematic ideas in such a universal sense that will certainly allow for the topicality to be renewed at any time in the future by simply replacing the proper names currently in the poems with those of whomever happens to be the “It” celebrities at the time.
Handling the unique challenges of writing erudite satire with an overwhelming deftness of craft, Vijay R. Nathan has created a scathing and hilarious lampoon of fame culture in CELEBRITY SADHANA.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for IndieReader