Much like a feature-length, adults-only episode of Futurama, this novella is a deranged cartoon set in space. In an alternate future, the planet Venus has been transformed into a theme park catering for both big and small. On the one hand, it's a place of childhood fantasy, of laughter, light and life, where the atmosphere is made of cotton candy and every dream comes true. On the other, it’s a place of dark adult desire, of cabarets and fetishistic sex, of gruesome death and funeral pyres, where nightmares can’t be contained by sleep. This polarity is mirrored by the characters: a naïve, childlike pirate, Captain Carl, who uses a dildo as a finger; a worldly-wise cat, Jiji, who likes nothing more than a good spanking; an insatiable placenta, Helen, creator and destroyer. Here, the dividing line between friend and foe is indistinct. A supposed enemy may, in fact, be an ally; a lover may transform into a monster. And it’s rendered in brilliant, kaleidoscopic detail, the attention to color and texture akin to that in Carlton Mellick’s The Cannibals of Candyland, the horror as sticky and bloody and icky as Chuck Russell’s remake of The Blob. A book which is a pleasure—at times, an uncomfortable one—to read, a sickly sweet, sweetly sick love story.
Monday, 30 January 2012
Friday, 27 January 2012
Metamorphosis Blues, the latest collection of short fiction from Bruce Taylor, has all the familiar elements fans expect: the meticulously constructed, rhythmic—indeed, almost musical—prose; dreamscapes where t-shirts can talk and the “raw stuff of space” is embodied in a man’s featureless face; arachnophilia (or phobia?). The familiar themes are here, too: the importance of childhood friendships; the ever-present threat of the past; the fine line between good and evil, where parents turn too easily into abusers and Santa is an anagram of Satan; and, most importantly, the overriding sense that the world, though sometimes dreadful, is full of wonder and magic. My favorites include “Movies,” the tale of a family theater trip that descends into surreal, comic violence; “The Ear of Ozone,” a ludicrously overblown pastiche of bad sci-fi writing which stars a malodorous alien, a semi-clad girl, and a cowboy with a one-word vocabulary; “You Can Hardly Wait,” the story of a nursing home resident, Bruce, who eagerly anticipates the apocalypse. This book makes me want to buy a telescope and watch the night sky for radioactive meteorites and cosmic death spiders. The end is nigh, and isn’t it comforting to know?
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Starring Evelyn Gurlimann, this comic—a blend of horror, farce, fairytale and superheroism—is divided into six short, loosely connected episodes, each one darkly mind-bending. The hero/ine, a wo/man of shifting and/or undefined gender/sexuality, more often than not resembles Charlie Chaplin with a thin pencil moustache and a wild ‘W’ of hair in place of a bowler hat. “His very presence heralds imminent disaster!” the opening page warns. Sure enough, in subsequent pages Gurlimann (accidently?) induces one man’s head to explode, another’s chin to sprout a pair of violently-kicking baby legs, etc. It’s horrifically absurd, absurdly horrific. And it’s thought-provoking stuff. “Making No Magnifisense” asks what happens when archetypal masculine heroism, in the form of meteor-shattering Magnificent Man, is confronted with the enigma of Gurlimann. “Oh, Emgee,” is a two-line dialogue about the (non)existence of God. As the episode titles suggest, Dimes loves to play with words, and the text is just as precise as the illustrations. “Something Peculiar,” a rhyming verse about Gurlimann’s stroll through Rottingwood Roads, a place littered with stiffened squirrel corpses, reminded me of Edward Gorey. Often, the lifespan of comics is short: read once, recycle. But after reading this, I flipped right back to the beginning and started again…
Monday, 23 January 2012
The story of two competing gangs, the elite NOLA and eponymous Crud Masters, this novella crossbreeds 1970s exploitation movies—turf wars, sordid sex, a high-tech, dystopian future in which the noble poor are pitted against the undeserving rich—with some classic, Toho-style kaiju action. I love the setting: a coastal tourist hotspot whose waters are alive with giant monsters of every mutation. And, even more, I love the array of filthy yet sympathetic characters, whose perversions and personal habits are akin to those of the characters in a Jordan Krall novel: Boogers, the anti-hero with a nasal spray addiction; Soda Can, the sexbot with a pelvic fire hose; Bovy, the girl with big breasts and an even bigger body odor; Uncle Grandpa, the stubborn old redneck who is neither an uncle nor a grandpa; Pvssy Bear, the bear with…fur. Unlike the characters, the prose is clean. It reads very smoothly, and the narrative moves swiftly, building to a satisfying and gloriously over-the-top climax (the last and largest of many, um, climaxes, I might add). A book which is a distillation of all my favorite movies into sixteen short chapters of non-stop literary bedlam, and one I’ll definitely return to in the high-tech, dystopian future awaiting us all.
Theatrical trailer for Frederick R. Friedel's 1977 horror/exploitation classic, Axe (aka Lisa, Lisa). A trio of sadistic, smartly-dressed bandits meet their match in Lisa, a girl whose daily routines include beheading chickens and feeding raw eggs to her paralyzed father. Her mop is soaked with blood, her sink full of giblets.
Friday, 20 January 2012
A lot of Barthelme's stories do nothing for me, but this one hits all the right spots.