"Amidst the utter absurdity (which, I suppose one should anticipate, given the title) there are moments of great poignancy, as promised in the book’s epigraph from Whitman, which bears repeating, especially these days:
I observe the famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d to
preserve the lives of the rest.
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the
poor and upon negroes, and the like.
All these—all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
With this in mind, Boehl has concentrated his imaginative efforts upon the lines between life and art, and between war and life. He writes, in “(Shipwright) European Oils”: “He went off to war while the older ones, the alcoholics in khaki pants, dripped paint all over the place, worried about the redness of red and blackness of black.”
In lines such as these, one senses guilt, the kind of guilt Bataille describes as inherent to the artistic endeavor. That is, there is something that needs to be done, and meanwhile, the writer writes, the artist makes art. Sees, hears, and is silent, except for his useless words."