As you may recall, I’ve been keeping myself sane during the trial that is The Man Who Loved Children by reading other books in between 100 page blocks of that piece of crap. I picked up a few books while I was down in Seattle from a place called the Elliott Bay Book Company. It’s a really awesome store, and should you find yourself in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle you should definitely check it out. I spent 3 hours or so browsing the stacks there, and it made me very happy.
Among other things, I ended up grabbing Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul, a historical book by Karen Abbott written with an eye towards fiction-style readability, but the big one I ended up getting was Rick Moody’s The Four Fingers of Death. I just finished this book, and really enjoyed it.
Imagine if Kurt Vonnegut (for whom the book is in memoriam), David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon worked together on the screenplay for Idle Hands. That’s the indicator of what sort of high literary wackiness is at play here. The story is about Montese Crandall (all of the names in the “real world” of the book tend towards the Pynchonian), a down-on-his-luck chess champion and baseball card dealer in the future year of 2025. Montese wins the right to adapt an old ’60s B-movie, The Crawling Hand, into a novelization to go alongside a planned reboot of the film.
The novel within the novel concerns the crew of a doomed mission to Mars, who, upon reaching the Red Planet, learn that they may have been sent there for reasons other than exploration; namely to find and return to the beleaguered United States of America a deadly bacteria that causes peoples’ bodies to fall apart. The fingers of the title are attached to one of the astronauts’ arms, which are the only thing to make it back from the expedition “alive”.
I literally didn’t know until about an hour ago that the film was in fact real, and, not only that, was fodder for one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Mystery Science Theater 3000! Check it out here if you think you can stomach the craziness:
I haven’t actually watched the whole thing yet, but I intend to on the weekend here. So, as I said before, I really enjoyed this book. It combined the metafictional weirdness I liked in things like At Swim-Two-Birds, The Blind Assassin or The French Lieutenant’s Woman with the junky sci-fi of my youth, which, to be honest, I’ve only slightly lost the taste for at this point in my life. Atwood’s book is probably the best comparison here, as both works understand that underneath the technobabble and grotesqueries of pulpy sci-fi, important and vital concepts are constantly being addressed, more so than some other genres, which have to establish their literary bonafides by setting themselves in the super-important real world.
If you’re into the pharmacology and future-speculation found in Infinite Jest, the epic feel mixed with slapstick weirdness found in The Crying of Lot 49 or the human feeling in the midst of some really weird shit found in Slaughterhouse-Five, you should give The Four Fingers of Death a try, it’s really good! And it made me forget, briefly, how much I hate some other books I’ve got lying around right now. Check it out!
Also, I’ve got a Goodreads page now, so everyone should friend me on there so you can judge my taste in ratings. Or not. Whatever.