book review

Book Review: Sorry, Wrong Country by Konstantine Paradias

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

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

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

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

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