Bizarre Book Club 16: Space Mermaids, Sitcoms, Naked Friends And 20s Paris

Well, hello, glad you could drop in! There’s salsa on the table. OK, no there isn’t, could you pop out and get me some salsa? I’ll…pay you later…

Let’s dive in and look at the weird words that have drifted past my eyeballs the last few weeks.

naked-friends-justin-grimbolNaked Friends by Justin Grimbol. Not only does his surname sound like a crotchety troll living under a fallen log, but his book made me laugh out loud, or ‘lol’ as the unselfconscious say. Sure, it’s sometimes gross, quite juvenile and gamers will be sad at their portrayal (I’m sorry), but it really did tickle my funny bone.

It’s kind of a cross between The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time and Bored To Death in that the main character is an inept wannabe detective who advertises on Craigslist, but it’s definitely got it’s own feel. A feel that includes a layabout rich boy with three half naked girlfriends and a man called Boner who lives in his van.

2. Planet Mermaid by Leza Cantoral. Leza tickles my eyes with poetry and planet-mermaid-leza-cantoralimagination. However don’t let that fool you, this novelette has some pretty shocking things in it and I don’t recommend it unless you’re fairly robust.

I enjoyed the fact that mermaid cliches were turned on their head – the water is icy so their skin and hair is dull, there’s no rainbow colours or tropical seas here. It’s darkly fantastical and very beautiful, and I’m really looking forward to more word magic from her.

3. The Last Girlfriend On Earth by Simon Rich. You might recognise a number of these short stories from a recent sitcom called Man Seeking Woman. Indeed the massively imaginative, humorous pieces on lost love, finding love, unreasonable men and women were strung together to form the story line of a man navigating surreal scenarios on his quest to meet a lady.

The original stories are perhaps even more enjoyable and I can’t believe he’s only 31 with so many credits to his name – several books, a sitcom, written for SNL and Pixar. I mean, does he sleep? Was he birthed pitching ideas to The New Yorker? Either way I really enjoyed his book and already have several others to get my peepers into.

Here’s one that made it into the sitcom, Cupid Intervention:

4. The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein. That’s right, Alice’s autobiography-alice-b-toklas-gertrude-steinautobiography of bohemian Paris was written by her long term partner Gertrude Stein in 1933.

it’s not quite in the modernist, stream of consciousness style favoured by Virginia Woolf but the sentences gallop strangely creating a vivid, dreamlike feel, as if the reader is glancing about and taking note of all he or she sees. The people and events are vivid and mixed together in a memory soup.

An extra layer of oddity is added when Alice describes Gertrude as a genius, only of course it’s not Alice’s words, it’s Gertrude’s. Was it something Alice said to Gertrude or is she guessing, or having a joke?

If you love the art, literature and lifestyle of the bohemian 20s like I do you’ll love it, and you’ll want to go to Paris.

5. Cotton Candy by Kevin Strange. I thoroughly enjoyed this long short story of cotton-candy-kevin-strangeerotic oddity. It reads like a winding Victorian tale told through a letter, only with gang bangs and were-furries.

After his wife dies a professor fills his life with increasing decadence and daring sexual exploits, finding himself in a remote building filled with other men, one woman and large, plushy teddies… large plushy teddies that move when no-one’s looking.

Well, dear readers, there we are! Another bag of weird joy. May we meet again one darkened night, you’ll have to wait till I’ve got my slippers on though.


Bizarre Book Club 11: A Love Letter To Louise Brooks, Pulp Lovecraft And Clowns In The Attic

Today’s pretentious (and frankly quite silly) book club picture is brought to you by a poster of the London Literature Festival.madeleine-swann-bizarre-book-club

Let’s look at what lovely droplets of word wonders we have today.

1. Strange Vs Lovecraft by various. We all know the Lovecraft way: Lots of high strange-vs-lovecraft-madeleine-swann-bizarre-booksminded dialogue and description, a few masterful aliens and a lot of cowering humans, all with a dash of racism thrown in for good measure. Or is it? Lovecraft has spawned a multitude of fan fiction and this is probably the most unusual. These folks love Lovecraft but they’ve taken his ideas to a new place – a trash/pulp/bizarro type place.

Kevin Strange, the editor, says of Lovecraft in the intro: ” I love the pomposity, the snobbery, the feeling of exclusion. No other horror fiction feels like a private clubhouse as much as Lovecraftian fiction. It’s part of the genre’s charm and mystery. But I’m here to crash the party.”

And crash it they do. It’s a very entertaining collection of stories even if some do get a little juvenile (you may argue that that’s the point), and it’s definitely not for the easily offended. However Lovecraft himself could be quite offensive when he wanted to be, so go ahead, have a read and make up your own minds.

2. The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Partly a study in loneliness and partly the exploration of our relationship with big screen performers, who are completely clueless of our existence while we feel we know them so well, this was apparently inspired by the author’s fascination with silent siren Louise Brooks. I don’t blame him, she was a fox.

A man is stuck on a desert island with only a handful of strangers for company, however these strangers don’t acknowledge him. Who are they and why do they repeat the same actions day after day? It’s an intriguing and slightly spooky read which made me think of immersive plays where you wander from room to room watching the performance, and it’s really quite a clever idea.

3. Attic Clowns Volume Four by Jeremy C Shipp. Apparently there are other attic-clowns-four-madeleine-swann-bizarre-book-clubvolumes of clown in attics which I have not read yet, but this includes a standalone novella called The Ascension of Globcow the Foot Eater and a short story called Hobo.

An angel who takes his job far more seriously than his co-workers is asked to help a small demon called Globcow mend his ways and live among the angels, a task that turns out not to be as easy as he thought. Globcow is actually quite a cute story, albeit one that includes murder, dismemberment and a scary clown. In an attic!

Jeremy has an endearing sense of humour which I find very appealing and it was enough to make me want to search out his other stuff too. Which I will.

4. Discouraging At Best by John Lawson. This is an intriguing, sometimes confusing, sometimes funny, occasionally disturbing stream-of-consciousness story that highlights the author’s concern with the state of the world, including it’s views on violence and race.

It’s a barrage in the shape of a narrative but one I feel is worth reading rather than just a simple lecture. It’s unusual and interestingly presented, and it might just tickle your brain.

Well, that’s enough mind licking for now, toodle pip!