Friday, April 10, 2009

Crit List 7: Let The Parade Of Sleaze Begin -- The Fungus and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Turn your head. Now cough.

Fuck it. I have three short stories to revise, an issue of Swill to start assembling, the next print to make and the one after that and so on, the novel is pleading with me, begging with me...

Fuck it. Internets, I have been away for too long. And it's been too damned long since I just had a little lonesome geek fun.

It's time for the sleaze. Sometimes I want nothing more than a simple, wholesome diet of sex, drugs, and violence -- or, to be depressingly honest and list them in the order of significance in my resume, violence, drugs, and sex a distant third...

Weep for me. But sex moves way up on the list if you include frustration and obsession. I am, after all, a twenty-year veteran of a committed monogamous relationship.

Anyway, let's get down to it. No comics, no movies, and yeah, I've got literary pretensions but sometimes I need to read something fucking sleazy. The following volumes should prove adequately repulsive, and the keen-eyed reader shall find keys to other realms of sleazery.

These books are fucking great. The standard by which all of belles-lettres are to be judged. And if you disagree?

Say it to my face, motherfucker. Go ahead. East Bay, motherfucker.

also published as DEATH SPORE

Film critic John Brosnan wrote a number of horror novels, both by himself and in collaboration with friends of his. These were done under the pen names Sidney Ian Childers = sick and Harry Adams Knight = hack.

These are R-rated B-movies on the page. The clever kind with a wicked subtext -- think Roger Corman or Larry Cohen. Brosnan's great literary innovation lies in his treatment of victims. I mean, if you've got a monster you need some fucking victims. Brosnan had a real knack for developing characters you care about in a couple of pages -- and then he'd kill them in fine gross-out style. The videonasty pattern of cutting from the main story to a victim and then back to the main story is a very useful narrative pattern.

Victim-oriented high points in The Fungus include an obese bartender who suffers explosive fermentation from the yeast in his belly and a lesbian couple, one of whom intentionally infects the other with thrush. They come across as real people, you like them or at least sympathize with them, and they die horribly.

When I say these books are movies on the page, it's not just story structure that I'm talking about. Brosnan has a vivid visual imagination; I see everything in his books. Don't quite get the voiced but I watch his books.

One of the minor pleasures of these works is the sense that Brosnan (or one of his collaborators) spent some time in the library looking things up. The Fungus is willing to toss the occasional scientific name at you. I dig that shit.

Slimer is weak; Tendrils is weak. Every other SIC (Worm) and HAK (Carnosaur, Bedlam) book is great. May I make a particular note of Carnosaur? It came out before Jurassic Park, had pretty much the same idea, was a more entertaining read, and had better science. Funny, that...

A quick aside concerning Tendrils. I picked up a copy at a library sale and was thrilled. Unfortunately, it had a misprint that ran through the whole book and rendered it unreadable. So I had to order another copy from a bookstore in the UK.

Thing is, the two editions have far and away the best Monster As Penis imagery ever.

I am convinced that this painting originally had the penis monster going right into her mouth...
For christ's sake, who the fuck did they think they were kidding with this?

For a while this guy and Aleister Crowley were my main role models...

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

When I was a teenager my buddy Mac Melendez turned me onto this one. I'd previously dipped into The Great Shark Hunt without much real interest; this grabbed me like no other book had up to that point. I read it every day for months -- the book itself got me high a couple of years before I got into drugs.

I read it as fantasy adventure. And I knew -- knew! -- that this was what fun was all about. Recently a friend asked me what drugs I've done...

"Well, I've never done heroin. Never had enough opium to actually get off on it. And there's a whole bunch of psychedelics that came out in the nineties that I never did. Never had an adequate dose of Ecstasy. Came close to ether once. And I haven't had access to most pharmaceutical stuff."

That took less time than it would have taken to talk about what I have done. Fuck it; I'm a Californian who grew up in the Seventies. What the fuck did you expect? Drugs were our rite of passage.

Anyway. As a writer I look at two things -- the headlong flow of action and the use of vivid specific detail. Not to mention the drug-addled logic -- the protagonist sees a giant flying electric snake outside his hotel window. His reaction? "I want to study its habits." Fucking brilliant. And this is all highlit by the casual quality of his prose -- you can tell this was coming off the top of his head.

Got to say, though, I think Thompson would have been a lot better off if he'd copped to the fact that drug abuse was bad for him. So far as I can tell the great tragedy in his creative life was that he never wrote a great novel and I think the drugs had a lot to do with that. You need clarity and focus to work in long forms and being able to toss short pieces out without effort does not help you in that arena -- not that I'm pitching too heavily for sobriety. A lot of people do their best work during their times of maximum intake. But those folks tend towards the mayfly side of the longevity spectrum...

... and not all of their work is what it could have been.

And his stupid tough-guy pose was more than likely the cause of his pussying out at the end. That's what did it to fucking Hemingway as well... There's nothing more vulnerable than someone who can't cop to their vulnerability. Why do you think women live longer than men?

Still, who can read Fear And Loathing and not want to tour Las Vegas with an extensive pharmacopoeia and little interest in self-preservation? Not me, that's for darn sure.



robp said...

Women live longer than men because, for the most part, they live with men. Whereas men live with women. Who did you think was going to survive?

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