Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: DIE YOU DOUGHNUT BASTARDS by Cameron Pierce

In Die You Doughnut Bastards, amputees, lonely young people, and talking animals struggle for survival against the freakish whims of nature. A typewriter made of fetuses is the source of woe for an expecting couple. A girl with a glass jaw hides an otherworldly secret. A demonic loner goes to a birthday party in Hell. You'll encounter a killer in a marsupial mask, a prison for anorexics, haunted pancakes, and a songwriter with a cult following.


I love reading a book and deciding that I have found an author whose work I need more of RIGHT NOW, and I’m thankful they’ve written a lot more stuff. 

I think some of these stories are good enough to stand on their own, but the composition of the entire collection enhances the overall experience. There is a sense of poetic unity among the pieces, and the little illustrations between stories enhanced the sense of loneliness and longing that I felt pervaded throughout the book. There are unifying thoughts and concepts which indicate this is not a haphazard book full of an author’s stories, but rather a book that is supposed to represent a concept. I couldn’t help but keep thinking about Max Booth III’s They Might Be Demons; both authors use flash fiction in a methodical demonstration of theme and a strange progression of plot (I would argue that Pierce’s collection has something of a progressive plot); however, Pierce approaches his work with a schoolboy charm that accepts our perception of madness as nothing more than natural occurrences in thought and action. 

My biggest problem with bizarro is that a lot of stories seem to include a bunch of random things that just “happen”, and while that’s usually okay, it sometimes just feels, well, random and contrived. Pierce makes bizarro work as a contextual element; he has infused his stories with a sense of heart and humanity that reflect the poetic elements that seem to either answer questions or provide new ones, with a sense of finality. Pierce did not include random elements, nor did he just throw things into his stories to give readers “more weird” because the book is “bizarro.” I read the majority of this book in one sitting because I wanted to see how Pierce would continue to use his collection as a vehicle for discussing similar themes, but with different symbols and characters. By the time I finished the book, I felt deprived of an awesome discussion that compares Alien to The Metamorphosis. I hope Pierce wrote an essay on it somewhere. But this deprivation is similar to the deprivation the characters felt; I wanted Pierce to give me something his characters wanted, something absolute and definite that I can take with me forever, but Pierce didn’t surrender. He remained consistent. 

The opening story demonstrates everything you will discover in the book, which makes me think the design is intentional; or I’m just over-analyzing Pierce’s work. Food and animal references, in addition to that Zen-like observation on loneliness are threads that are woven throughout the entire book, which concludes with enough of a connection to the whole damn thing to make me believe Pierce really meant to design this collection as an isolationist wonderland. I will never forget “Lantern Jaws,” or “Mitchell Farnsworth.” “Disappear” also happened to be a favorite of mine, thought that’s because I dislike Stephen King so much. 

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.