Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review: Gutmouth

He has a mouth in his gut. An obnoxious, toothy, foul-mouthed, pig of a mouth. Luckily, his girlfriend doesn't seem to mind. Marie, the one-legged stripper and cyber-prostitute love of his life is very accepting of it. And then a little too accepting. What would you do if your girlfriend cheated on you with the voracious yapper under your belly button? If you live in Gutmouth's world-a bleak city where gruesome, spontaneous mutations are no big deal, klepto-roaches take anything not tied-down, drugs turn pain into pleasure, consumers are tortured for growing food, and your best friend is a misogynistic rat-man-you might do something crazy. And what if you got caught?


A body horror story asks readers to become hyper-aware of their flesh; we must become attuned to a variety of sensations that will make us feel uncomfortable and disgusting. Combine this philosophy with bizarro sensibilities and a Dystopian setting, and we have the ingredients of a book that languishes in the dismembered, reorganized, and reimagined structure of a human body. Iglesias gives us the consumer-Dystopian nightmare with a population that is obsessed with consuming itself; the body is nothing more than an object that can cause pleasure or pain, a means to an end.

The setting is hardly unreal to our characters, and the presence of a mouth inside the protagonist’s stomach is more inconvenient than horrifying. Here is where Iglesias manages to infuse an original idea into a variety of tropes; what is uncomfortable and appalling to us is nothing more than a way of life. 

Gutmouth’s greatest strength is its relevance. Advertisements for breast augmentation and other surgical enhancements have become acceptable properties of our culture. “Look what my husband bought us/me for Christmas!” a woman might say to her guests while showing them a new pair of boobs. These transformations offer us new opportunities to experience pleasure and pain; we can become young again, perhaps even immortal, if we can purchase new parts as easily as we can order fetishist pornography. 

Theme is irrelevant if the story itself is terrible, but I didn’t care about the characters, because they felt like helpless extensions of the world they lived in. Iglesias has a writing style that is very strong for a new writer; the synonym-adjective storms that made up entire paragraphs were both satirical and vicious. Individual paragraphs became heavy metal lyrics that describe an awful world that everyone has accepted with little complaint. 

The “lack of control” and fetishist tendencies displayed by our inseparable characters provides humor and revulsion; this book is not for the faint. Dismemberment and disfigurement are just as normal as a cement driveway. 

If body horror/bizarro/Dystopian/speculative fiction genres are remotely interesting to you, a combination of them are rolled into one beast that has four arms and six legs, until they’re removed and replaced with mouths or eyes. I’ve interpreted this as a bizarro satire, although this story may just be about a man who has a mouth inside of his gut.