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Tag Archives: bizarro

Mighty in Sorrow: A Tribute to David Tibet and Current 93 (2014): An Endless Winter in this Dog Day Age

Jordan Krall (ed.), Mighty in Sorrow: A Tribute to David Tibet and Current 93 (Dynatox Ministries, 2014)

Cats, holding hands, with blood-hungry expressions, dance around a tombstone on the book's cover.

And I lie in the arms of a smiling girl who calls on Christ and the pale queens.
photo credit: griffinwords.com

If you’re a fan of British Dark Folk band Current 93, you don’t need me to tell you you need this book. This isn’t a review for the established fans; this is one for the folks who may not have ever heard of C93, or its brilliant, insane, workaholic, polymath of a frontman, David Tibet. Tibet is a man of wide-ranging, often obsessive interests, from the mundane (Enid Blyton’s relentlessly optimistic elf Noddy, Louis Wain’s cat portraits) to the dangerously “evil” (the works of Aleister Crowley and Byron Gysin). All of which makes his music endlessly fascinating, once you’ve developed a taste for it. More to the point, it serves as the broadest of launching pads for a literary tribute. Tribute albums come out all the time, with other, usually lesser, bands covering the work of the masters. When’s the last time you heard of a tribute book to a musician? The rarity of the concept alone should draw you in.

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Santa Steps Out (1998): Your Childhood Flayed Bare and Skullfucked

Robert Devereaux, Santa Steps Out (Leisure, 1998)

[originally posted 29Mar2002]

The book's title looks as if it is carved into a blurry, spotted  letter to Santa on the book's cover.

The writing is, um, on the wall.
photo credit: fright.com

My reverence of Robert Devereaux’s first novel, Deadweight, borders on the worshipful. After recently re-reviewing it, both one of my best friends and Devereaux himself e-mailed me and told me exactly the same thing: to get my hands on Santa Steps Out pronto. So I did (well, a little less pronto than I should have). They were both absolutely correct.

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Dinner at the Vomitropolis (2013): Lucifer “The Hammer” Valentine

Jesse Wheeler, Dinner at the Vomitropolis (CreateSpace, 2013)

 

Three of the novel's more unsavory characters await their first course on the book's cover.

All spew can eat!
photo credit: goodreads

I should start out by saying that while my particular kinks are pretty wide-ranging, there are a handful of things that make me recoil pretty much instinctively. Vomit may not be at the top of the list (it depends on the day), but it’s always somewhere in the top three. So while I am in no way the target audience for this one (I read it on the recommendation of a bizarro-loving friend), the only thing that saved this one from the trash heap for me is that the only place Wheeler turned the book into fetish material, he was satirizing. Which is not to say that fetishism does not pervade the entire text, but Wheeler knows how to slot things into different levels where that is concerned. This is an impressive skill, even when it’s done instinctively (I can’t say that is definitely the case here, but it feels more natural than planned, so I suspect it).

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King Scratch (2010): It’s an Honor Just to Be Nominated

Jordan Krall, King Scratch (Black Rainbows Press, 2010)

 

photo credit: tower.com

“Other than that, Mrs. Nyarlathotep, how did you like the play?”

Jordan Krall’s obsession with squid continues apace, and he keeps honing it as he goes along. This is, of course, a good thing, as it guarantees that each book is going to get better as we go along. I can’t claim to have read all of Krall’s output (he’s quite the prolific guy), but it is definitely the case that each of his books that I have picked up, if we go in chronological order, has been better than the last. Which is a pretty tall order when going from Fistful of Feet, which was a pretty singular achievement, to King Scratch. Yes, the latter is better, but on the other hand, comparing the two doesn’t necessarily make sense; whereas Fistful is a bizarro take on a tentacled spaghetti western, King Scratch almost has a noir feel to it. So I can get out of having to directly compare them by assigning them to different genres (despite both being far more bizarro than anything else).

Plot: There are moonshine smugglers in New Jersey. Specifically, in the world this novel inhabits, there’s Jim and his sometime lover Peggy, who are contacted by Jim’s ex-wife Laura, who’s worried about her father and who wants Jim to go over and check on him. And then there’s Black-Boned Keith, a nasty sort who’s got his eye on Jim. So much for the main human characters, because then there’s Abraham Lincoln, a psychotic tentacled beast who…

why am I even trying? Summarizing the plot of a Jordan Krall novel is like attempting to explain the uses of the pluperfect tense in Latin to your chinchilla. You can do it, but it’s ridiculous to even try, and if anything, you will end up spoiling the surprise (and pleasure) for the recipient of your efforts. What I should just be telling you is “buy this book, squid-face, and read it as soon as you can.” So buy this book, squid-face, and read it as soon as you can. ****

The Baby (1973): You Weaned Him When?

The Baby (Ted Post, 1973)

 

photo credit: darkeyesocket.blogspot.com

“There Shall Be Mayhem Wherever He Goes!” …which is all well and good except he never leaves the yard.

Veteran TV director Ted Post (Hang ’em High, Good Guys Wear Black) and screenwriter Abe Polsky (The Rebel Rousers) turned in this 1973 gem, one of the few movies I have ever seen that I can truly say defies description. IMDB lists it as a horror/thriller; it is that, but only for about ten minutes of its length. Pieces of it are melodrama, absurdist comedy, even a minor dose of courtroom thriller. But the one overarching genre that defines the whole film, were such a genre to exist, would simply be “weird”. This is an unforgettable, if low-budget and amateurish, movie.

 

photo credit: ithoughtyousaidthiswasablog.blogspot.com

“I know they said not to play with my balls! BUT I WANNA!”

Plot: the Wadsworth family—mom (Strangers on a Train‘s Ruth Roman), sisters Germaine and Alba (High Plains Drifter‘s Marianna Hill and The Way We Were‘s Susanne Zenor, respectively), and Baby (Chaplin‘s David Mooney), are recipients of social assistance because Baby is, in some way, mentally defective. Their old social worker leaves the case, for reasons we are never given, and Ann Gentry (The Loved One‘s Anjanette Comer) takes over. She immediately takes a liking to Baby—who’s actually twenty-one years old, though does not walk or talk, sleeps in an adult-sized crib, and wears diapers—and quickly becomes convinced that, far from being a medical problem, Baby is being kept in this state through the family’s negative reinforcement. She beings to wage a war against them to get custody of Baby, but soon finds out the Wadsworths are very accustomed to playing dirty when it comes to fighting the state…

The movie, which has faded into obscurity over the decades, is mostly remembered now for its twist ending; in fact, when we got to it (while it’s perfectly set up, I gotta say I never saw it coming despite the rest of this sentence), I got the feeling I’d seen the movie before, despite being almost positive I haven’t; either it’s been copied somewhere or I’ve read about it in the past. I’d read online about the movie’s big twist ending while watching it, and so I knew something was coming, but… wow. That was perfect. One of the best Big Twist endings of all time, right up there with The Usual Suspects and the original Ocean’s Eleven.

photo credit: frabjousfather.wordpress.com

All tuckered out from a day of tire-swingin’!

 

Unfortunately, much of the rest of the film doesn’t match it. There are a number of times during the film, most notably during Baby’s birthday party, where Polsky seemed content to go for shock-for-shock’s-sake. (Consider the character of Dennis, who spends the entire party sniffing after Alba like a hound in heat—even after she, oh, requests he hold his finger over an open flame for a full minute in exchange for sex.) The acting, in general is wooden, this despite Post having landed some of Hollywood’s solid B-list talent. Having recently seen Good Guys Wear Black, though, I feel quite comfortable putting the crappy acting down to Post’s directorial (lack of) skill. The outdoor lighting is washy, though that could easily be a problem with the DVD transfer, and the indoor lighting is often murky. The pacing of the first seventy minutes of this eighty-nine minute movie are confusing at best. In other words, there are a whole lotta problems with this movie…and I’m going to tell you to ignore every last one of them and watch it, because that ending is such a killer. Trust me on this. ***

 

The long-form trailer.

Heresy and Hearsay (2010): Bizarro Win.

Garrett Cook, Heresy and Hearsay (No press listed, 2010)

 

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us.

A short (seventy-six pages) collection of stories and the occasional poem from Garrett Cook, bizarro author extraordinaire. When he is on, he is on, and a few of the stories in this collection are hit-that-switch-and-burn. Sure, you’ve got your straight bizarro tales, which are amusing but won’t necessarily blow your head off (I mean, how can you not get the giggles at “Meatballs of Knowledge”, in which the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden is replaced by a sexually-depraved sub sandwich?). And then there are the stories that crank it up to eleven. “The Man in the Film Noir Hat”, with its skewering of noir conventions covering a pathetic (as in the root of “sympathetic”, “antipathetic”, etc.) core that tugs at the heartstrings a little, or “Assorted Salesmen at the Birth of the Antichrist”, which even though it is not in any way structured like same, reminds me of an international megacorp’s annual report, or the collection’s closer, “Along the Crease”, the tale of a romance that could destroy the world. That’s good stuff right there from a high-level perspective (it’s one of those stories that drives people who should know better, like me, to want to ask an author “so where do you get your ideas?”), but when you get down into the nuts and bolts, it’s also a well-plotted, perfectly-paced story that’s written like gangbusters. “Edward was nervous, as he almost always was. But this was a bigger, alien breed of nervous, with massive fangs and claws, more distinct than his typical twitch and doubly threatening. Edward wasn’t ready for either a relationship or the end of the world.” I grabbed that little passage in particular because it does something very interesting—it’s a straight narrative passage (in other words, it’s the “tell don’t show” stuff I’m usually yelling for authors for doing), but Cook’s language is so rooted in images here that it doesn’t feel like a straight narrative passage. We know Edward’s nervousness is different because we are given a physical description of both what it’s like now and what it’s normally like. Keep the brain engaged and you keep your reader, and Garrett Cook understands that very, very well. This is solid stuff indeed. I’m not sure if it’s still in print (I seem to recall Cook giving this away as a kind of sampler of his work a few years back, rather than it having been for sale anywhere), but if it is, it’s definitely worth picking up. Garrett Cook is one of those bizarro authors whose work comes straight from the heart, rather than the gut, like Vincent Sakowski or Forrest Armstrong, and I suspect that it’s these guys who will most appeal to people who aren’t yet familiar with the genre. So if you don’t know bizarro, by all means, grab yourself a copy of this and get acquainted. And if you already do, well, here’s another author to add to your shelf that you are most likely going to adore. Garrett Cook is the real deal. ****

The Overwhelming Urge (2008): Who Wears Short Shorts? Andersen Wears Short Shorts!

Andersen Prunty, The Overwhelming Urge (Eraserhead Press, 2008)

 

photo credit: D. Harlan Wilson

Mr. Prunty’s Dirty Shorts.

I’m a pretty big fan of Andersen Prunty’s. While I can’t claim to have read anywhere near the man’s entire output—he’s easily one of the most prolific authors whose bibliography I keep track of—what I’ve read has been good stuff from front to back. The Overwhelming Urge, a collection of mostly short-shorts, is no exception. While it would be more accurate to label most of these character sketches rather than stories, they never fail to be interesting. And when Prunty does show up with a full-fledged story, as he does a few times in this collection, wow. “Discovering the Shape of My Skull” is a darned fine blend of horror, humor, and existential angst, a blend that Prunty has come close to perfecting. This is fine stuff indeed, and if you get a chance to pick a copy of this up, go for it. *** ½