Sunday, November 15, 2009

bizarro review #3

"Asphalt Flowerhead". Crossing Chaos Enigmatic Ink. 2008.

Wallets are cumbersome things. Mine shit the bed a while back and I figured a driver's license and a library card didn't warrant a new one which meant fresh real estate in the back pocket. Now, whoever had the idea to make Forrest Armstrong's "Asphalt Flowerhead" the size of those little green Bibles deserves a beer because I've been able to carry it with me everywhere, in my back pocket, opening it at random and savoring Armstrong's deft, vivid prose one or two paragraphs at a time.

The novel opens at a literal hole in the wall, Club Africa, an art gallery/drug den run by the enigmatic Brad Kelly. The club is raided and we follow the friends through the diaspora. Bill is a painter, arrested on his first offense and dropped into a hallucination chamber. Nail is a junky who gets bailed out and sets out to create a new drug in the questionable hope that the proceeds might bail out his friends. Johnny is a junky who seeks spiritual enlightenment at the risk of self combustion. And then there's Chevy, born into a perpetual acid trip, an Einstein-esque father of a weapon of mass destruction more deadly than any atomic bomb. We follow these characters at a lightning pace, leading to my one complaint, which is that, while I don't need character names to be Pynchonian, in a story that moves this fast, it would be beneficial to have slighlty more distinct character names than Bill, Brad, and Johnny.

From homicidal fascist cops to a robot destruction of Amsterdam, the story is so surreal and apocalyptic and the voice is so eloquently angry that one can't help but imagine the words being shouted through a bullhorn, from atop the burned out shell of an SUV, which, in my opinion, is something all serious literature should aspire to.

I believe that Forrest Armstrong is the real deal. I believe that his talent for language is something to get excited about, and I think "Asphalt Flowerhead" is a great introduction and an ideal place to become a fan.

Buy it here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

bizarro review #2

"Peckinpah" by D. Harlan Wilson. Shroud Press, 2009.

In 1994 Alan Moore wrote a short story about a woman named Maureen Cooper, a bartender who slowly comes to realize she exists only as a character on a popular TV soap. The story was dense, verbose, brilliant metafiction, blending the story of Maureen with that of the actress who played her (who was herself not who she seemed) with a vicious polemic on television and its effects on society. It was called “Light of Thy Countenance” and there are two reasons I bring it up: first, because I feel that it is the spiritual predecessor to D. Harlan Wilson’s amazing “Peckinpah”, and secondly, because of Alan Moore himself, who felt strongly enough about this book to provide a blurb on the cover.

“Peckinpah” is difficult to categorize, a satirical meta mash up of microfiction and microcriticism into something that maybe resembles a novel but is, I think, something much more interesting.

The back cover blurb does its best: it tells us “Peckinpah” is about Felix Soandso, the husband of a murdered woman who must wreak righteous vengeance on her killer, Samson Thataway, the hyperviolent leader of the Fuming Garcias, a Reservoir Dogs-esque clone army. Sure thing, back cover, but I’d argue that the story is just as much about a man who tears pigs in half or a shoe store clerk witnessing his coworkers disappearing beneath a stampeding tractor or corn stalks that open to reveal chainsaws.

Amidst all the absurdity, a wide variety of film motifs come under fire, such as rape scenes, lazy endings, and the fetishism of weaponry and violence. But it’s the oversized role of film and television in our lives that seems to be the biggest target: pay attention to the chapter in which Felix Soandso is introduced to the single worst moment in his life through the screenplay excerpt that we have just read. Or the only chapter in which a book makes an appearance, the cover depicting an alien riding the blast of a nuclear explosion.

Throughout its entirety Wilson manages to keep the language terse and punchy. It is a brief novel made briefer by the force of its language, but if you’re like me, you’ll pick it back up and read through it again, slower the second time. And once again it will entertain and, more importantly, once again it will get you thinking.

Next up: Forrest Armstrong's "Asphalt Flowerhead"

Light of Thy Countenance (the whole story)

Buy "Peckinpah"

Monday, November 9, 2009

bizarro review #1

"Ass Goblins of Auschwitz" by Cameron Pierce. Eraserhead Press, 2009.

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV. Nickelodeon, mostly. Ah! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren & Stimpy. They were light-hearted and funny, sure, but deep-down they were kind of unsettling, and with your eyes glued to the tube, you felt like you were given a glimpse into truly twisted minds, minds that were trying their very best to warn their audience of the darkness of adulthood to come. These cartoons with their drab colors and their focus on offal and snot and lint and gas were just too ugly and honest to be on the Disney channel.

“Ass Goblins of Auschwitz” is what happens when those kids, so mesmerized by the cartoons of their youth, grow up and write stories of their own. AGOA is a Nickelodeon cartoon pushed to the extreme and injected with cynicism. You’re born, things are good, you start to check out girls, and before you know it a goblin has his finger in your ass and is turning your friends into cider, you’re mutating and growing wings and you’re becoming one of them and you’re rebelling and you’d do anything to get out of the prison you’re in.

I promised myself I wouldn’t use the word “imaginative”, but AGOA is so filled to brimming with the products of a big, Mountain Dew-fueled brain that other words fail. The first half of the book is gripping, every page contains a unique, surreal image or idea, but it does not let up for a moment, and if you are not careful, by the end it could bury you under them. I enjoyed the quick pace and the brevity, but I also found the last twenty pages to be exhausting, a wild dash for the finish could have been sharper, more fleshed out.

That said, I can’t wait to see what Pierce will do next. With an imagination as fertile and frenzied as his, I’m sure I won’t have to wait long to find out.

Buy it here.


People sometimes give revolutionaries like Che Guevara shit for executing folks. The Batistas, I think they were called. I hear some people say that what Che did was monstrous, that he was a monster. But I’m just saying, that if I rose up and took a country, and I had all these people of power, the people who continually made decisions that knowingly stifled my rights, these people who deliberately sacrificed the health and safety of me and my family for an extra dollar, the CEOs of all these big corporations with their ugly tans and bright white teeth and BMWs they earned off the backs of the poor, you couldn’t expect me to not to have every single one of them shot.

Just sayin.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

i hate money

I want to light money on fire and stomp it out on the floor and really twist it and grind it to make a point. I want cigarettes to taste and smell good so I can smoke them because they are fucking cool. Also then I could drop the cigarette on the burning money and that would show everyone my contempt. I wonder what would happen if an extremely rich dude cashed all the money in his banks and holdings and stocks and put it all in a pile and burned it like the Joker. I have this feeling that would fuck some shit up on the real. Like if Bill Gates did it or something.