Squid Pulp Blues

I’m reaching a point at which I’m entering Bizarro books with less and less skepticism. Not to be a complete snob, but I see “weirdness” as a delicate thing. Too many people try to be “weird” and “random,” but their efforts fall flat, aren’t interesting, and stink of “trying too hard.” You probably know the type. After a couple of years of reading books that fall into the Bizarro category, though, I’ve hardly been let down. When I picked up Squid Pulp Blues, I faintly felt my skeptic swimming around, just below the surface- but by the time I got to chapter 3, he must have drowned, and I was hooked on Jordan Krall’s story.

I can be a bit lazy with books, even short ones, but I finished this one the same day I started it. The world of Squid Pulp Blues is a colorful and interesting place- one of my absolute favorite aspects of the book is that Krall doesn’t attempt to explain everything the characters encounter. There are strange and mysterious things in Thompson, New Jersey that remain strange and mysterious to both the reader and the town’s inhabitants. Life doesn’t always give you answers and, thankfully, neither does Krall. Of the 3 stories, I feel that the first and third are stronger than the middle child, but all 3 are pretty entertaining.

As a minor sticking point, there were just a few too many squid references. Every once in a while, I’d think “yeah, ok, squids, I get it.” The book could also use another round of editing. There’s typos, and a few instances of duplicated words. At one point, the word “both” was spelled “book.” How does that even happen? OVERALL, this is a quick, addictive read, and it’s convinced me to pick up another Krall book in the near future.

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D.D. Murphry Secret Policeman

For several chapters, I was sure that D.D. Murphry Secret Policeman was somehow about me. I was suspicious of it, but then my employers let me know that it was just a coincidence. knowing that, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Alan M. Clark and Elizabeth Massie make a good team- I love the idea behind the story, and I very much like most of the story… there was just a little something that seemed to be missing. I have no idea what it was, something intangible, perhaps, but still a very enjoyable book.

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Satan Burger

A past version of myself wants to rate this book with 5 stars. It wants to make references to it, even though most people won’t know what Satan Burger is. If I could have read this book during my formative years, I feel it would have been Very Important to me. I would have thought Carlton Mellick III was a kindred spirit, and that I should gouge out one of my eyes just so he had another hole to f- me in, filling me with what I might, at the time, think of as “GLORY.” This book would have been transformational had I known about it 30 or 40 years ago. The me of now would rather give this book a 4 star rating, because I like and enjoyed it, but the impact isn’t the same. I think, though, it’s a little unfair to take something out of its place in Time and say “well, it’s not got the same impact!”

The passage of time doesn’t detract from it, in my opinion. Or, it shouldn’t. Once, I would have loved it. Now, I like it. I’m going to rate it based on then, though, because if you’re someone who likes weirdness, or maybe it’s just your Nature, and you didn’t really have an outlet for it, once upon a time, or a sense of belonging because the internet wasn’t what it is today, I think you could have read this book and felt pretty inspired. And maybe you would have really pursued your own weird style, knowing that someone else had transformed theirs into a book… and it would have been pretty great. Maybe now, you’re like “yeah, whatever, I see ‘weird’ commercials and eat ‘bizarre’ cereal all the time,” but I don’t think that attitude does this book any justice.

10 years ago, this book was,or would have been, genius- for some. Now, I think it’s still pretty good, but my opinion is skewed, slightly, only by the fact that I’ve read other Bizarro stories since then, and I’ve watched a slew of things created by what is probably the Greatest Generation, those who fall between X and Y… and so maybe something that was very fresh for its time is a little less fresh now. Don’t let that spoil it for you, though. Satan Burger is worth reading, especially if you’re new to the idea that a book can be titled “Satan Burger.”

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Peckinpah

D. Harlan Wilson is easily one of my favorite authors, but I always feel like I’ve survived a Psychic War after reading one of his books. They are exhausting, but good for the [mental:] economy. Peckinpah is no exception. It plays out like the manifestation of the collective conscious of the American Midwest if it were, at times, being raped by the collective unconscious of the same region after absorbing and integrating the mind of a man who is good with words.

If you’ve seen Frank Booth’s intro in Blue Velvet, and thought “huh, that’s weird,” you’ve never tried to visualize the people of Dreamfield… or Pseudofoliculitis City, or Vulgaria… I have to imagine that it’s what Hell must be like, though at the same time, I feel like it’s always lurking behind the every-day faces in our every-day world.

Though Peckinpah seems like a quicker read than Wilson’s other books, it’s no less demanding. It’s an uphill hike through some difficult terrain, but it’s entirely worth it.

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Ocean of Lard

I wish I could give Ocean of Lard a rating of 4.5, rather than 4, but I can’t. No one thinks to make half star ratings for sites like this. Yet scores can average out and equal fractions of a star. Some site will even display like 4 stars, and then a little tiny piece of coloring on the left arm of the fifth star, so you’re supposed to guess at what that means… 4.10 stars? 4 and 1/5? Who knows?

I’m not saying I need to vote in 1/5ths, or even in easier-to-manage 1/4ths. I’m just saying halves would be nice. So i could give this book a slightly higher score, while not saying it’s the perfect book. It’s a really good book, though. Which-Way and Choose Your Own Adventure is awesome, and until now, the only one I owned was some old Batman one I got somewhere. In the Batman one, I got locked in a phone booth (as Batman) and poison gas killed me. In Ocean of Lard, I had cooler options. Stuff Batman would never do… stuff probably even Batman villains wouldn’t do. But I did it… in my mind, feeding off of Carlton Mellick and Kevin Donihe’s minds. And I’ll do it again. And again…

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Tales from the Vinegar Wasteland

When I was a kid, someone suggested to me that I go see a play by a man they kept calling “Ionesco.” The play was The Bald Soprano. At the time, the idea of sitting through a play, especially one about a hairless singer, sounded horrible, but I went anyway… it didn’t take long to realize I’d made the right decision. The Bald Soprano was like my own personal Bodhi tree, justifying everything I’d ever written (or ever wanted to write), and waking me to the wider world of Absurdism. Something like this may be on the fringe, but it was nice to know that there was, at least, a fringe to begin with.

Skipping forward in time, to now, someone gifted me a copy of Tales from the Vinegar Wasteland, by Ray Fracalossy… and, as usual, I was half very interested, half dreading it. The blurbs on the back cover singing the book’s praises left me feeling skeptical. Would this be Absurd, or would it be monkey cheese and pink hamster doom with pie? I got it pretty quickly, though- Fracalossy is clearly able in invoke the spirit of Absurdism. Finishing the book, I was left with the same feeling I felt 57 years ago, as I watched the lights dim on what was the greatest thing I had ever seen up to that point. Reminders are nice.

The bulk of the book is where it’s at, and I think it’s totally fair to call it a modern classic. I’ve always wanted to put something together as well as Fracalossy has constructed this piece. It’s literally brilliantly done, expertly erasing the lines between waking and dreaming realities (both fortunately and unfortunately for the protagonist), and mixing in some pretty excellent wordplay. On top of that, there’s a collection of short stories in the back, which I also enjoyed (especially the PAINFULLY true “Me and the Martian” and “My Thoughts While Raking Leaves”).

If you like anything that I like, you’ll like this book- there’s no way around it. And if you know me, but you think my tastes are too eclectic, yet you want to try to take an interests in my interests, but you only want look at one thing that I like (and you tried Tim and Eric, but hated them), then I’d recommend Tales from the Vinegar Wasteland. It’s not just weird, or po mo, or monkey cheese, or lulz random!… it’s truly Absurd, and very much worth reading.

This is one of my all-time favorite books.

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Super Giant Monster Time!

There is no doubt that we live in dark times, from climate change threatening to melt the polar bears, to hadron colliders conspiring against us with miniature black holes, to the series finales of both Lost and 24 in the same month- it really seems as though we may be doomed. But, as bleak as things may be, whatever the odds stacked against us, we can stand tall and say that we truly lived in the best of times, when Bizarro authors roamed the earth and wrote books. We can raise our greasy fingers to Doom’s face and say “No, Doom! Go back to sleep! Die en der fhtagn and never wake up, Doom, you horrible piss!” For though we may be cast in the ominous shadow of titans, we also stand in the presence of the weird gods of a new, weird Olympus!

If and when we are destroyed by Cataclysm and Armageddon, let it be not the books about intergalactic finance and sparkling vampires that survive, but the books like Super Giant Monster Time! Books that gave us a choice, that let us into the realms of possibility, rather than confining us to the simple journey from Point A to Point B. And when a new race emerges from our ashes, and sifts through our ruins, let them find Super Giant Monster Time and say “Yes! I have a choice! Yes! I can choose my own mind-fuck!” Let them find this book and in their dawning know freedom.

Whatever our Fate, I would not trade my time here for any other in history. We live in a time when being part of a niche doesn’t require you to live in New York or California, when we can change the way people remember history by altering Wikipedia entries to say that William Howard Taft had a visible boner throughout his inauguration, and when books like Super Giant Monster Time can, as though destined, reach its intended audience.

True story: I was in an office, printing this book out (PDF, another miracle of our times) on a confiscated printer, and as I sipped my tea, I glanced down just as a picture of what looked to be a massive, ejaculating dick flooding a room with semen, while a distressed looking man who apparently made a bad decision struggles to keep his head above la creme de l’homme.  Be careful.

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Sex Dungeon for Sale

Patrick Wensink’s Sex Dungeon for Sale! is a quick read- you can finish it in about the time it takes to sit through Were-Dragon vs. The Teenage Psychic Mummy from Mars 6, or whatever movie SyFy is playing in between episodes of Stargate. Wensink has a natural flow to his writing style that carries like a casual conversation, and it’s peppered with what I thought were some excellent uses of metaphor. His stories have a subdued strangeness to them. I never felt like Wensink is trying too hard to be random and weird (what some call “Monkeycheese”)- the absurdities of the worlds he constructs parallel the absurdities of our own world. Things seem strange at first, but plausible. Even when writing about debates over “Kill” settings on a dish washer, or breakfast before a suicide bombing, it comes across as oddly casual, rather than a preachy commentary on contemporary mores.

With only 11 short stories, Wensink gives us a taste of his range: Donor 322 is dark, Wash,Rinse,Repeat mirrors portions of our current culture while doubling as a love story with detective elements, and My Son Thinks He’s French has an irreal aura that reminds me a bit of D. Harlan Wilson’s work. Wensink definitely has potential, and I don’t want to name-drop too much, but I got the same feeling from this book that I got from Kevin Donihe’s Shall We Gather in the Garden: this is a good first book, and I think he’s only going to improve from here.

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Washer Mouth: The Man Who Was a Washing Machine

I think Washer Mouth is Kevin Donihe’s most polished book. He has a way of making the entire story seem natural, rather than bizarre, despite whatever’s going on. If House of Houses is the right direction, then Washer Mouth is the one that says “you can buy a Donihe book and not worry about being ripped off,” which is what I will be doing from now on.

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The Overwhelming Urge

If this is an introduction to Andersen Prunty, I want to read probably anything he writes. I liked enough of the stories that I don’t want to just name 3 or 4, because that would exclude too many other ones I liked. It wasn’t just the stories, there are specific sentences in the book I want to go back and memorize so that I can recite them in my head when I need a laugh.

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