book review

The Role of Fantasy in Franz Kafka’s Amerika

by
Daulton Dickey.

amerikaIn Amerika by Franz Kafka, the character Karl Rossman is shipped away to America by his parents following a scandal with a servant girl. From hotel employee to bum to servant, young Karl experiences a panoply of adventures and emotions as he tries to find his way through life. Superficially, it’s a straightforward tale, a Huckleberry Finn-esque Bildungsroman. Since Kafka rarely wrote superficial tales, however, it is possible that Karl’s adventures mean something else–for Karl and for Kafka.

Interestingly, the title “Amerika” comes to us from Max Brod, who changed Kafka’s original title. Kafka’s title Der Verschollene, however, translates to “The Missing Person” or “The Man Who Disappeared.” Why would he give the novel a title that expresses the point of view of Karl’s family while the narration itself follows Karl, giving only passing mention to his family? (more…)

The Mortuary Monster by Andrew J. Stone — Book Review

by
Daulton Dickey.

mm-coverGonzalo lives a strange existence. Like his parents before him, he’s a cemetery man. Stuck in rut, Gonzalo wants something more. Bitter at his lot, he stumbles through life, performing his chores and routines, over and over again.

He lives and works at a funeral parlor. Corpses are his only friend–actual corpses: they walk and talk, stuck between here and the other side.

Gonzalo helps them transition from life to death. He treats them as friends, and sometimes even lovers. But everything changes for him when he father’s a halfbreed–half human, half corpse.

The Mortuary Monster by Andrew J. Stone is a novel filled with charm and imagination. It’s more fable than horror. Imagine if Neil Gaiman and Terry Gilliam wrote Night Breed, then you’ll have an idea of the wit and style of Stone’s debut novel. (more…)

Home is Where the Horror Is by C.V. Hunt—Book Review

by
Daulton Dickey.

Home is Where the Horror Is C.V. HuntDarkness lingers everywhere in this world. One way or the other, it will find you. Some of us are prepared for it while it blindsides others. The world itself is dark, filled with strange and perverse creatures. The strangest of which? Humans. While we each struggle with our existential slumbers, we try to make the most of it. Sometimes we’re lead to the light; at other times, chaos.

Evan Lansing is down on his luck. His passion for photography leaves little time for work, putting the burden making ends meet on his girlfriend, Naomi. Sure, he works part-time but he doesn’t make enough to help ease the burden. He wants the life of an artist, of a photographer specializing in scarred and deformed bodies.

His luck nosedives when Naomi breaks up with him. He moves in with his brother but his overbearing sister-in-law inspires him to get out as fast as he can. His mother recently died and left a cabin in the country. In need of repairs, the cabin sits and waits for improvements before Evan and his brother can put it on the market. To flee his sister-in-law, Evan volunteers to live in the cabin and work on it. Then the strangeness begins. He meets an odd set of neighbors who both repulse and fascinate him. But the strangeness, oh the strangeness lingers, always on the edge, always ready to change everything. (more…)

6 Awesome Celebrity Memoirs

by
Daulton Dickey.

This is by no means meant as a definitive list. Thousands of great artists and celebrities have produced thousands of great memoirs—or autobiography, whichever word we prefer these days—over the years. This list doesn’t even include some of my favorite memoirs, but, for brevity’s sake, I wanted to focus on the six that come to mind whenever anyone asks if I have a favorite memoir.

Groucho and Me
Groucho Marx
Bernard Geis Associates, 1959

grouchoandmeWhile his humor might feel dated, Groucho remains a true original. From his voice to his puns to his eye-rolling delivery—literally, the man punctuated gags and puns, usually jokes he knew were bad, by rolling his eyes or glancing upward—he’s spawned countless imitators, most notably  Bug Bunny.

He started comedy on the Vaudeville Circuit as a teenager. In the early twentieth century, theaters around the country offered variety shows featuring various performers: comedians, jugglers, singers, dancers, burlesque performers. Filled with puns and innuendo, vaudeville gags helped lay the groundwork for early cinematic comedies. Many of the biggest stars in the early days of film, in fact, started in Vaudeville, including Charlie Chaplin and, of course, Groucho Marx.

Groucho attained worldwide fame as the centerpiece of the Marx Brothers. He not only inspired generations of comedians—he also inspired counterculture movements, especially the movements of the 60s. Groucho—and the Marx Brothers—were fiercely anti-establishment. They challenged authority, the notion of government—democratic or fascist—and lampooned higher education. They also attacked the human condition, satirizing the wealthy, the poor, the credulous, those seeking fame and those running from it. Few targets escaped the brothers’ sights.

As a personality—both on and off the screen—Groucho was a prankster and a showboat, arrogant and miserly. He simultaneously sought and thwarted attention. In most cases, it’s better to view a celebrity’s autobiography as a sustained PR effort. Even in their worst moments, they later spin the story to minimize their appearance or effects on situations or people.

Groucho’s penchant for telling autobiographical stories and anecdotes in different ways to different people often makes it difficult to tell truth from fiction or to assess the veracity of his claims. It’s better to approach this is a book of dubious truths. Don’t let that discourage you, however.

Having little formal education, Groucho in later years aspired to become a writer. He devoured books and befriended some of the biggest modernists of the twentieth centuries—his letters to TS Eliot are great. He took writing seriously, and it shows. His prose is fluid, conversational, and never stuffy. Much of the book reads as if your funny uncle is relaying personal anecdotes. Although many allusions and jokes are dated, this books is still well worth checking out.

The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
Marilyn Manson with Neil Strauss
ReganBooks, 1998

thelonghardroatoutofhellIf you somehow don’t know who Marilyn Manson is, he’s a holy fuck read that first chapter nothing I could write can or will do this book justice so just read that first chapter fuck me what an insane and disturbing chapter Christ it will haunt you just read it already

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Very True Review of Very True Stories Starring Jeff O’Brien

by
Daulton Dickey.

So I’m sitting in my car outside work. Lunch hour drags when it’s hot outside and you forgot your lunch. I debate driving across town to grab a bite, but I’m neither hungry nor motivated enough to expend the effort.

Voices on the radio chatter, something about an ‘incident’ somewhere over the east coast or New England. I focus on the story but the ‘incident’ remains ill-defined.

Can’t be too important, otherwise they’d issue warnings, make declarations, cut to in-progress news conferences of sheriffs or mayors, FEMA or Homeland Security.

At least thirty minutes have passed since I started my lunch break. Christ, I’m bored. I light a cigarette and check my watch. Ten minutes have passed since I started my lunch break. Fuck me. How am I supposed to kill fifty minutes when I’m this bored?

I pull my phone from my pocket and open the Kindle app and flip through the titles inverytruestoriesstarringjeffobrien my library. One stands out: a woman kneels beside a heavyset bald man, who’s standing and thrusting his arm in the air. The title? Very True Stories Starring Jeff O’Brien.

What the fuck is this?

I have no memory of buying this book.

I download the file and read the opening page: a dude looking to get laid takes home a creature disguised as a woman. Tentacles emerge from her pussy and morph into two women.

What in Christ’s name is this? And who the hell is Jeff O’Brien? (more…)

Book Review: Sorry, Wrong Country by Konstantine Paradias

by
Daulton Dickey.

Konstantine Paradias is a man of many trades. In a country populated by a seemingly impressive amount of eccentrics, he seems to have encountered them almost daily while in the course of struggling to make ends meet. Depicting life in modern Greece, a country with a long and storied history and currently trapped in a bleak economic spiral, Paradias offers snapshots of weirdos, eccentrics, and everyday folk struggling to live and to enjoy life. A work of non-fiction, this book is hard to fit into any sub-categories: it’s neither memoir nor history nor current affairs, and yet it’s all three. It offers no sustained narrative or heavy-handed thesis. Instead, it’s a collection of vignettes offering snapshots of people the author has encountered throughout his life as a jack of all trades.

sorry wrong countryReading this book is like viewing Greece through a kaleidoscope. Cycling through every short chapter is akin to twisting the kaleidoscope, revealing new colors and images. In the process, and if you pay close attention, it shows you new ways to view and to understand every person you encounter. And that’s where this book’s greatness lies: in focusing on people, usually eccentrics or strangers most people would overlook or ignore, Paradias imbues this book with humanity, with a genuine respect, even love, or at least empathy, for everyone he encounters. (more…)

Review: Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 by D. Harlan Wilson

by
Daulton Dickey.

dharlandwilson3In an age of corporate omnipotence and adherence to formula, experimental fiction has fallen further into the gaps, obscured by the shadows of genre and ‘safe bets.’ Of the few experimental writers working today, D. Harlan Wilson embraces the shadows, creating works without pretense to genre or formulae.

Wilson eschews orthodoxy in his latest works, Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 (also recently collected in a single volume), and produces a work both maddening and refreshingly different—and new, which is what makes these books so interesting: you’ve not encountered anything like them. As a result, you can’t approach them as traditional novels. If you do, you’ll find the experience of reading these books less than enlightening. (more…)

Book Review: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

by
Daulton Dickey.

Setting aside debates about whether or not we as a species are hardwired with a predilection toward violence, we can at least agree that our species displays a knack for it. Point to any period in human history and you’ll highlight an age rife with violence. From the Sumerians to the Romans, from Christendom to America, our stories and cultures reflect, and even glorify, violence. As foundation myths—Romulus murdering Remus; Washington crossing the Delaware to slaughter sleeping enemies—entire cultures are predicated on romanticized violence. Yet violence is never romantic. Or noble. Imagine it not as an abstraction, as something others engage in, and imagine it as a thing-in-itself, as an action or activity injuring or ending the lives of living, breathing human beings, as a carnal act committed against sentient meat, and you’ll find nothing amusing or romantic about it.

Popular entertainment treats violence in a variety of ways, from the absurdity of cartoons such as Looney Tunes or B-movies to the unflinching realism of Cormac McCarthy novels, and our society seems to view it in its many varieties, not always as acts of brutality. As such, we Americans tend to treat violence with a sort of flippancy, occasionally calling for appalling acts against people or countries as politics by other means.

Bracketing causal speculation, somezerosaints people live and dwell in violence—directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently. Human civilization is a series of Möbius strips, sets within sets within sets. Some subcultures navigate broader social rules and norms while playing by different sets of rules altogether. These subcultures tend to epitomize violence as means to ends. The violence perpetrated by drug cartels is a prime example of this Möbius strip strip within a Möbius strip, where shadow laws and governments, of sorts, operate within broader society. These cartels reap violence on such massive scales that it’s hard to wrap our heads around. So many tens of thousands of people have been slaughtered that we’ve abstracted the violence—and we view these deaths as nothing more than numbers and statistics.

And we’re rarely afforded opportunities to humanize those caught in these traps. But by creating situations with seemingly-living characters, fiction can and does serve a purpose: it transforms statistics into shared experiences, allowing empathy to replace apathy or antipathy.

Zero Saints (Broken River Books), Gabino Iglesias’s unflinching portrayal of violence, revenge, and redemption is the kind of fiction that can illuminate the toll violence takes in the real world.

Fernando is a small-time drug dealer in Texas. Having fled the chaos of the Mexican cartel wars, and entered the states illegally, limiting his opportunities, he’s taken a job as a pusher for a dealer who’s carved out a decent territory in Austin. And he’s about to have a bad week. (more…)

Book Review: Decker: Port of Call: Hawaii

by
Daulton Dickey.

To appreciate the book, we should appreciate the web series on which it’s based. To appreciate the series, we should appreciate the man responsible for it: Tim Heidecker. A cult figure, Heidecker is known as one half of the comedy duo, Tim and Eric, who are responsible for some of the strangest comedy programs of the new century.

Leaping onto the screen with an animated series on Adult Swim, Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim and Eric hinted at a comedy style far from typical fare. They peppered their show with absurdity while maintaining a stylized tone—equal parts farce, broad comedy, and understated, at times almost atonal, humor. It was such a singular and unique show that it’s not possible to find an analogue. Something like a sketch comedy show for the digital age, it was like something out out a Jodorowsky film, a surreal romp through the minds of men unafraid to approach comedy as conceptual nonsense. (more…)

Review: Albina and the Dog-Men by Alejandro Jodorowsky

by
Daulton Dickey.

When writing about poet Arthur Rimbaud, Henry Miller asserted, and this is a paraphrase, that you can learn much about an author by the type of words they use, and the frequency with which they use them. If such a proposition holds true, then we can learn about Alejandro Jodorowsky by analyzing the words he uses through his short novel, Albina and the Dog-Men (Restless Books). Two words recur here, “transformation and metamorphosis,” and they sum up the theme of the book—as well as the trajectory of Jodorowsky’s eclectic career.Albina+and+the+Dog-Men,+by+Alejandro+Jodorowsky+-+9781632060549

A self-styled mystic and founder of a form of mysticism he dubbed Psychomagic, Jodorowsky is a modern day polymath: playwright and filmmaker, comic book writer and novelist, memoirist and Tarot expert. As his film career fizzled, he turned his attention to writing comic books, such as The Metabarons, a groundbreaking masterpiece of graphic fiction. In the latter part of his life, he’s devoted considerable time and effort on books, both fiction and non-fiction. He isn’t one person; instead, he’s an aggregate of many people residing in the body of one man. Each person transforms as they encounter different aspects of life.

And the same can be said of his characters. Throughout Albina and the Dog-Men, we encounter women and men whose bodies are vessels to many kinds of people, not simply a singular persona. Antagonists and protagonists receive the Jodorowsky treatment: in lieu of displaying fluctuating personalities, they undergo emotional and physical metamorphoses. An ugly woman becomes beautiful, a deformed man becomes a dog, then a handsome princely-type figure.

It’s hard to categorize this novel: a surreal Huckleberry Finn, an absurdist adventure story, a foundation myth rooted in magical realism, as most foundation myths are—all could apply to the novel. In a sense, Albina and the Dog-Men is a fable centered on the magical properties of human companionship. When Crabby, a hunchbacked and volatile bearded woman meets the mysterious Albina, a childlike woman whom she must teach to speak, her life expands outward, from the confines of her isolated town to a broader world populated with pygmy men, dog-men, and Godlike aliens.

After an incident in their small town forces Crabby and Albina to flee in search of a more inclusive haven, they meet Amado, a short man—not a dwarf; a pygmy—who embraces the perpetually shunned Crabby. Amado, smitten, allows them to run a surreal strip club out of his hat shop. But when they discover that Albina’s cursed with an ability to transform into a dog, and who transforms men into dogs, they flee Amado’s hometown in search of a cure.

We could keep summarizing the novel, but it would reveal too many spoilers, and, given the breadth of Jodorowsky’s imagination and the unexpected roads this story takes us, we’ll bracket summarizing Albina and the Dog-Men in its entirety.

originalIf you’re familiar with Jodorowsky’s works in other media, you’re aware of the scope of his knowledge and imagination, but if you’re a newcomer, then you’re in for a treat: without question, Alejandro Jodorowsky possesses one of the most—if not the most—fertile imagination of anyone you’re likely to encounter. He fires one amazing idea or image after the other, then bombards you with more, tossing them aside to replace them with greater or more outlandish concepts or imagery.

Surrealism has long been a staple of his oeuvre; in his films it sometimes jars you; in his comics it disrupts your notion of what the media could be; but here, it introduces fantastical elements to the story, which mimic the mood and temperament of a fable.

From chameleonic birds to a grotesque protagonist—aptly named Drumfoot after a disproportioned and grotesque appendage—to a lost South American tribe to an Incan God, Albina and the Dog-Men possesses elements that cement its status as a modern day fable, a story about love and acceptance, the transformative powers of companionship and belief in the fantastic. And, as with most fables, it leaves itself open to interpretation, but, most importantly, it dazzles and inspires you.

Albina and the Dog-Men
Alejandro Jodorowsky
Restless Books
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016
LIST PRICE: $15.99 USD (ebook: $14.99 USD)
ISBN-13: 978-1632060549
Visit the Restless Books page for Albina and the Dog-Men