A Ship Sails to the Edge of the Sea: On Brian Oliu’s LEVEL END

You read LEVEL END by Brian Oliu: the end, point of change, point of loss–the loss of love, memory-blur, or like the way a house sounds when it is emptied of what it possessed before you awoke, alone. It is in and through spaces such as water, sand, foreign lands, or a children’s song park where you slip into the labyrinth. Yes, this is the end. It is here where you confront final bosses, save points where hearts help, but fade, too. The music is always changes when you enter. The levels that you have completed, the missions and journeys along the way, are told in the context of this level end, this final boss or save point–the most crucial spot for reflection, for it is here where you could die or lose. In these zones of confrontation, a pixel-tapestry of story (it’s all story) emerges, a mind in recollection, “re-membering” a life into something other than it was or a life as it is recalled–skewed, blurred, beautified, something solid yet watery, fleshy and transparent. You will not hold this in your hand, for how can you palm a labyrinth without balance? This is not a platform from where you move jumping across grassy fields, down chutes, up gold staircases to rescue princesses, squash foes, and gain life for more power. The platform has morphed into a network of mind-tunnels sewn loose enough for you to catch glimpses and trails of Oliu who hides himself under the shadow of a final boss. But do not come too close, for as you approach and try to grasp the treasures, you will fall into yet another tunnel of dead flowers, jeweled sugar, a garden. For, although you won’t know it until you reach the end–this level end–there is a magic in these lyric essays that outlasts the slim number of pages you receive. A text is deceptive when you must put it down for fear of losing yourself in the puzzle it presents. Approach with caution and caution is given. You may want to rest, you may need a hard bed for the night or an inn to rest for lack of a church. Heal your wounds. Here is where things burrow up from the ground, where women made of feathers dance with self-seeing eyes or brothers who control weather. If you are like me, it will not be enough for you to read this only once. There are lives within these pages that give the reader more life and that, when it comes through a book, is magic and do not think of dogs or how dogs die in water as if Oliu is only speaking of dogs, which he may be, but he may be speaking of how children die or of how things and girls and people go away and die and the words we use in the sense-making of such loss are never enough, too much to say. It is better to be silent. It is better to know that when you enter the room where the final boss awaits your coming, the music will change. I tell you this so you will know that what you are entering into when you enter into LEVEL END is more consequential, more beautiful than a peaceful end. It is an experiment in attempting to give weight to a complicated mind, a mind that feels the ways in which things fade, die, drown. When you were living in Japan, you came across a word in the Japanese language called “yugen.” It is an odd word that denotes the way one sees a ship sail to the edge of the sea where the sky meets that sea and that ship grows smaller and smaller to a speck and then gone. It is the feeling of wandering into a woods and not knowing whether or not you will return–you will not. It is something to be treasured.

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  1. [...] asked Brian Oliu, whose LEVEL END I recently wrote about, to give a list of his favorite video games and why. Oliu’s work in [...]

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