Slackjaw Online Home
Jim Knipfel's books are available from Amazon.com:
It for Everybody, Jim Knipfel's 3rd memoir. An anti-spirituality
Buzzing, a novel about an aging and embittered journalist who
stumbles onto what may be the story of a lifetime.
Quitting the Nairobi Trio, available in hardback
Slackjaw, available in hardback
Also available, Blindfisch,
the German translation.
You can also send
email to Jim Knipfel
Copyright Jim Knipfel. Photo
by Morgan Intrieri. All rights reserved.
Slackjaw Online Home ~ missionCREEP.com
Slackjaw by Jim Knipfel
Slackjaw: He's Got a
by Mike Walsh, proprietor, missionCREEP.com
Jim Knipfel skillfully draws you into his Slackjaw columns
by meticulously documenting the tribulations of his day-to-day life.
These events, like applying for a job in a liquor store or a subway
commute, may seem relatively inconsequential at first, but Knipfel manages
to make them meaningful, funny, and often very tense. In Knipfel's hands,
these events rise to the another level.
As he puts it in the conclusion to I Ain't
Seen Sunshine..., "See, if you choose to--if you just sit back
and let it happen--every day is full of tiny little adventures."
Strange little events seems to happen to Knipfel more than most people.
In fact, they make him feel good.
After a strange encounter with an old woman in Return
to Strangeville, he writes, "Somehow, with that little exchange,
something had clicked back into place. Life was weird again, I knew
that for sure now, and I felt much better about it all. I continued
on into the office with a newfound bounce in my step. Well, not a bounce
actually, more of a limp, but it was something."
He doesn't have a good explanation for the odd occurances that seem
to dog him, but he has a few suspicions. As he writes in People
Think I Make This Shit Up, "I can't tell if the strangeness
that follows me ... is the result of some karmic backlash, the tiny
bit of demon technology implanted in my jaw by alien intelligence operatives,
or simply the paranoid result of the way a brain sodden by too many
years of rampant alcohol abuse perceives the world."
Maybe the personal and often private conflicts Knipfel shares are so
compelling because they are so real--hyperreal, I should say. And Slackjaw's
hyper-reality doesn't let you off easy. He keeps you right there with
him in a headlock as he examines the muck in his life, his thoughts,
and American culture.
But maybe it's the Slackjaw humor that makes readers care. This isn't
the kind of humor that rolls inevitably toward a big punch line. It's
not over-the-top or wacky. It's the kind that creeps up on you with
a sly remark, witty phrase, quirky attitude, corny midwesternism, or
ridiculous situation. Through all the patented Slackjaw hatred and overall
misery, his humor and sense of irony is always present reminding you
not take any of it too seriously. After several suicide attempts, Knipfel
has learned that if he's going to stick around he may as well get in
a few yucks.
As he says in one story, "I got a happy smile."
But the most appealing trait of the Slackjaw columns is the honesty.
Knipfel bares his soul week after week. It's all there, the grumpy opinions,
bleak outlook, alcohol abuse, mood swings, crumbling marriage, health
problems, and failing eyesight. At times he is loose and wise-cracking,
at others he's suicidal. He's not afraid to give you his opinions, politically
correct or not, and he's not afraid to show you his embarrassing moments.
There's a trust be builds with the reader over the course of numerous
columns that he's giving it you straight.
Like a soap opera (albeit a weird and edgy one), Slackjaw is addictive.
It may be an acquired taste, but once you get a little, you'll find
yourself coming back for more. Despite the sometimes excruciating detail
and relentless narcissism, Slackjaw is undeniably funny, compelling,
and endearing. Maybe that's why Slackjaw was voted the top column in
the NY Press by readers several years in a row.