Thursday, February 17, 2011


It's been a while since I've posted a book review, and I've been doing a lot of reading over that period, so I've got a lot of stuff to catch up on. I'm tossing up whether to belt out a heap of short reviews or to pick the books I most want to talk about, or whether to keep pushing through the list.

Well, at least at the moment, I think I'm reading more books than I'm buying. I'm still buying a lot of books (I've got five on order at the moment), but I'm getting through the new books while also chipping away at a few that have been sitting on my shelf all too long.

So anyway, the last book that I read that I haven't reviewed yet is D. Harlan Wilson's Peckinpah.

I read Wilson's Blankety Blank right at the start of the year, and instantly found myself drawn to the writing. Now, I've got a few notes worth mentioning here; that I don't watch as many films as I'd like to, and the films of Sam Peckinpah (where the title of this book came from) have eluded me thus far. The symbolic significance of the title, to me, is fleeting. In comparison to Blankety Blank, I think Peckinpah is of similar substance; comical violence, a radical aggression towards suburbia, and chapters shaped in the form of microfictive snapshots (I'm hesitant to use the term "vignette" as my understanding of the word is somewhat vague at the moment), however, I personally prefer Blankety Blank over Peckinpah. Perhaps it's an issue of substance. But I am by no means saying that this is a bad book.

Each page is brimming with Wilson's strange (quite alien) brilliance. I'm wishing I wrote the review for this while the image were still fresh in my mind. Right now, all I can do is thumb through the book and try to remember what that initial reading was like. Peckinpah is subtitled "an ultraviolent romance", and while the book is brimming with ultraviolence, Wilson seems to tackle images of shock violence, blood and gore, with a sort of whimsical nonchalance. As with A Clockwork Orange, the ultraviolence in Peckinpah is extreme. However, A Clockwork Orange shocks its audience, whereas Peckinpah humours it.

I think the key to getting the most out of this book is just to let go of any expectations you may have for it. It's violent and absurd and punchy as fuck. Where else are you going to find a book where characters rip pigs in half just for kicks? And I'm sitting here and looking at the title, and I'm thinking, the only romance that occurs in this book that I can grasp at, would be between the author and Peckinpah. The book is littered with references to filmic techniques. At moments it seems like Wilson has forgotten about a plot and just decided to toss the reader in a completely different direction.

Some people may find this style frustrating. If you flick through the book, it looks like a total clusterfuck. There's one chapter in there that just says "pigshit". But that is precisely why I think D. Harlan Wilson is the shit. It looks like the book is just thrown together while on some sort of drunken bender, but when you sink right into the core of it, you're actually inside a densely constructed chaos. The madness is doing something to you, it's getting inside your head. It's unsettling you. It's making you question what the fuck is going on and why, but it's not hinting at any sort of answer. It's making you laugh at something that's not traditionally considered "humour".

It's wild and sporadic and violent and funny. It's genius. Next up on my D. Harlan Wilson reading list is Dr. Identity, and next up on my reviewing list is The Egg Man, by Carlton Mellick III.

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