Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Brief Thoughts 29

Invisibility: A Manifesto by Audrey Szasz

This chapbook from publisher of transgressive and experimental books Amphetamine Sulphate is a fragmented novelette that's a bit hard to describe, even by the standards of a press as radical as AS.

The plot, if it could be said to have one, follows two characters. Nina is a young girl regularly abused by her Mother and prostituted to older men. Audrey Szasz is a "girl detective," whose story is told through a series of diary entries and documents, that falls in with a group of serial killer cannibals. These two girls may or may not be the same person.

For only being about about 50 pages, this novelette chops up, distorts, and incorporates numerous genres; crime, coming of age tale, horror, erotica, meta-fiction and mystery. The result is a series of stories that are horrifying, engaging, and very funny. Szasz (the author, not the character) has a great dark sense of humor.

The closest things I can compare to this book is Naked Lunch era William S. Burroughs and Atrocity Exhibition era JG Ballard. Both seem to be obvious influences here, especially since one of her other books is about Ballard, but Szasz has a unique voice that stands all on its own.

I highly recommend this book and after finishing this I'm picking up more of her work right away.

Buy Invisibility: A Manifesto by Audrey Szasz here.

Blood on the Moon by James Ellroy 

Lloyd Hopkins is a sergeant in the LAPD  who despises music and can't stop cheating on his wife. When a case involving a man murdering women in a brutal manner comes his way, he dives head first into it between trying to keep his family together, keeping his own fragile mental state together and keeping Internal Affairs off his case for his philandering.

This is one of Ellroy's earlier books. I couldn't help but compare it to his latter ones. For one thing, the prose here is more straightforward rather than the bare bones, telegrammatic sentences of his more recent works. It's also much shorter.

One of the biggest differences is the fact that Lloyd Hopkins is pretty unambiguously the "good guy." In most of his books I've read, even the so-called "good guys" are completely awful people and gleefully corrupt. Here, Hopkins is very flawed, but is without a doubt the hero working to catch a clear villain.

It lacks the dense historical explorations, though the beginning follows Hopkins's response to the Watts Riot. For the most part, however, it takes place in then contemporary early-80's LA. There also isn't much explicit political commentary.

Despite the differences between Ellroy's latter books, it remains a thrilling and engaging crime novel.

Buy Blood on the Moon by James Ellroy here.  
The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
An old man who lives besides a rotting apple orchard, Arthur Ownby, finds himself caught between a young boy named John Rattner and a bootlegger named Marion Slyder, who had killed John's father unbeknownst to him. 
This was Cormac McCarthy's first novel. While it does have many of the themes of his latter books such as crime, biblical references, social outcasts, and decay, it reads as if McCarthy is still developing the voice that he would perfect in his next book, Outer Dark. The prose is far more consistently ornate, where his later ones only occasionally had such passages for emphasis, and the narrative is far more fragmented. 

The novel is compared a lot to Faulkner, and it's easy to see why. He uses a lot of similar devices, such as Ownby constantly going between the past and the present due to his senility. This threw me off some, as I'm far more used to McCarthy being pretty straightforward, and I had a little trouble following the story. I also found the characters far less memorable than his other books, which is saying something, given he often creates great characters who don't even have names. 

I only really recommend this if you're a huge Cormac McCarthy fan who's read his other books. His other books from his Southern Gothic period (Outer Dark, Child of God and Suttree) are much better. It's interesting to see where McCarthy started, but this novel shows he's a writer who came into his own in his later works. 

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