If I had to describe Mike Kleine's Mastodon Farm in a snappy blurb, I'd probably say it's what you get if you threw Less Than Zero, Bright Lights, Big City and a teaspoon of surrealism in a blender. That probably doesn't really give it the credit it's due, though.
Mastodon Farm is written in the second person. The main character is rich and famous, implied to be a movie star (though this is never explicitly stated), hangs out with celebrities and listens to music all the time.
The constant music is one of the more interesting details. The main character rarely goes anywhere without some music playing on a stereo somewhere. In one of the few moments of silence, it is described as being like electricity. It's ambiguous to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
In spite of the bare bones writing style, this book is full of detail. Celebrities are constantly name dropped. Names of books, movies and bands are meticulously listed. Brand names are always pointed out.
One of the things I like about this book is how many of the details are just ...off. There are brief moments of full blown surrealism, like when the sky turns purple and rains cum. But for the most part, Kleine describes the world of Mastodon Farm in subtly weird ways. New York City and Los Angeles are apparently the same city. Seattle and Miami can be reached in a few hours by car. It seems to take place in modern day, yet VHS tapes are still the format movies are watched on.
There isn't really a plot here to describe. The main character goes to parties, drives around in a red Ferrari, watches movies and listens to music. As the novel progresses, the main character seems to take less of an interest in brand names and buying expensive things. They seem to realize how empty their life is and how shallow their relationships with all these other celebrities are. In the end, they can't figure out how to be happy, but at least they seem to know they need to try something different.
Have you ever woken up and gotten out of bed then went about your day, not really noticing you just passed a cartoon character on the street and the dollar store next to your apartment building is now a military base and then woke up? That kind of dream is how I would describe the experience of reading Mastodon Farm.
I highly recommend this book. Mike Kleine's debut is a strong one.
Buy Mastodon Farm by Mike Kleine here.