"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"