Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Book Review: Lonely Men Club by Mike Kleine

Created a cipher and sent it to the Vallejo Times Herald. Zodiac = 18, SFPD: 0. Wrote a poem about Delaware. Mailed it to Dave Toschi. Received a bill for $337.41. It was from the government. It had been a long day. Wrote my thoughts concerninggeodisc philosophies in a little book. I feel better when the sky is white.”

To say that Lonely Men Club has a plot is a bit of a stretch. To call it a character study is more accurate, but it looks at the character in the strangest way possible. That's not even just because the character is a time-traveling Zodiac Killer with magic powers who prays, writes, and travels in between committing murders and assaults and taunting the press and police. If I had to describe this book to someone, I'd say it's like a mix between American Psycho and House of Leaves.

Kleine wrote this book, which is over 700 pages and 100,000 words, in five days with the help of various computer programs, making the text partially procedurally generated. As radically different as this is from his other work, even the very experimental Arafat Mountain, there are still a lot of recognizable themes that Kleine comes back to. Travel, pop culture, and empty consumerism drowning out higher truths all run through the book.

I read this book from the beginning of it to the end. That seems like it should go without saying, but as Kleine points out in the introduction and the publisher points out in the afterword, this is not really a book to be read that way. The publisher even states it's the kind of book you never finish reading.

There's a lot of repetition in the book. I had to pace myself reading it to keep from getting annoyed by it, which I think was the right move. It's not so repetitive it kept me from coming back, though. Every few pages there will be something unexpected like a page blank but for a period or text over other text, making it unreadable. It's like the Zodiac Killer's time-traveling and powers are destroying the book itself.

The book has several places where words aren't spaced, creating strange neologisms such as “destroyedomlette” and “fuckedprayer.” Most of the prose is mundane and staccato, with the occasional burst of a strange question or a poetic phrase. Tying into the Zodiac Killer mythos, he's often praying for power and slaves in the afterlife. Despite the fact he aspires for such things, all that he can do with the power he already possesses is kill people, taunt the cops, and wander aimlessly. The book does throw curve balls at some points, in a book that is a curve ball itself, that does end up making very close reading of the text rewarding, despite the fact it the way its written encourages skimming.

Lonely Men Club is a radical book, even by the standards of experimental fiction. A lot of people will be very quickly turned off by it. However, Kleine has created an unquestionably unique book and a piece of text that works as piece of visual art as well. As of writing this, the publisher has this available for free as an e-book on their website. However, I very much encourage anyone interested in this to get the physical book as it loses something without being an object one can hold and flip through. 

No comments: