Thor Garcia - By turns defiant, paranoid, brooding, absurd and knock-down funny. Like Hunter S. Thompson meets Russ Meyer’s Under the Valley of the Supervixens meets Daft Punk – wearing a press pass and a smiley badge to a San Francisco gangbang

Thor Garcia, Only Fools Die of Heartbreak: Stories, Equus Press, 2013. 

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From Thor Garcia, author of the monumental The News Clown—whose “flashy, satirical style keeps the narrative fresh, entertaining and eminently readable throughout” (Publishers Weekly)—comes a compelling collection of interlocking stories, Only Fools Die of Heartbreak.
The hellraising, nightmarish genius of Thor Garcia has returned in this explosive collection of sordid, hilarious, gut-twisting tales.
Meet the infamous Lenka, the mournful cripple who never met a penis she didn’t want to chop.
Or Cleo Blump, beaten and raped from an early age, who rises to lead the Blond Revolution.
There’s father Ernie, the athletic standout who never did care much for being a man. And George P., the poet and ex-boxer who finds it all floating out of his grasp.
Meet Halingwhorst, the drunk, once-scorned writer, as he edges toward unimaginable triumph. And the anonymous man ruined by divorce, who runs into a dangerously un-smooth criminal on the day Michael Jackson died.
Jump on and let Thor Garcia take you on a hard-drinking, hard-living drive. It’s a no-holes-barred assassination of our world today.
The horror, madness and humor – along with the impeccable dialogue and fast-moving prose – of Only Fools Die of Heartbreak will leave you breathless.


If Thor Garcia’s Only Fools Die of Heartbreak, his latest short fiction collection, had somehow been published in the 19th Century, it would have given Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn a run for their money as the most controversial and banned book in the nation. Even as recently as the 1960’s, the book would have undoubtedly joined D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover as one of the pornographic tomes that brought about the passing of obscenity laws in many countries. Luckily for readers, Garcia is alive and writing today, and his prose takes full advantage of the everything-goes nature of indie publishing.
Only Fools Die of Heartbreak kicks off with the first part of The Apocalypse of St. Cleo. The six-part novella follows Cleo Blump, a young woman from a poor family who is beaten and raped from an early age and eventually becomes the leader of the Blond Revolution. Each portion of the tale both complements and competes with the previous one, almost as if Garcia was trying to see if he could come up with stranger situations, weirder names, and more outlandish sexual antics. From the beginning, the narrative resembles what a sexploitation dramedy teeming with drunken pirates might be like:
“Here, here,” said one sympathetic woman, Yahnice, coming forward to comfort Cleo. “Tis no crime to suckle the odd spare cock and testicle in the interests of the family economy, my sweet darling. ‘Tis the way of the world nowaday, for food, yes. Verily, it is done the world over, ‘tis the way of the species…”
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo would be a great novella even if published alone. Constantly dancing between misery and mirth, the fragmented account of Cleo’s life is a strange tale because it’s simultaneously depressive, hypersexual, and very funny. The writing, which seems to have been created to defy time and geographical space, is also so varied that it brings to mind a wide range of literary and film genres that go from comedy to exploitation and from pirate movies to drama.
If the first story left any doubts about it, the second tale, “San Diego Weekend,” quickly establishes the elements that will fuel the entire collection:
At some point in the 1980s, I got mixed up in a drinking, drugs and sex racket down around the San Diego area.
Besides helping readers understand that sex, drugs, and booze will permeate the collection, “San Diego Weekend” also demonstrates that Garcia can radically switch his approach, voice, and styles from one story to the next. From the humor and raunchiness to the informative footnotes and great dialog, Garcia’s writing is a hyperkinetic animal that constantly moves forward at a frenetic pace and without the burden of filters.
One of the standouts in Only Fools Die of Heartbreak is “The Day Michael Jackson Died.” It tells the story of the relationship between a recently divorced unnamed American man living in Europe and Liliya, a Ukranian woman who responded to his ad on a dating site. While the narrative recounts how they met, offers glimpses of their high and low points, and deals with the man running into a very harsh and violent criminal on the day Michael Jackson died, the story shines because it embodies the dychotomous character of Garcia’s prose. On one hand, the memory of a pornographic video seen on the internet repeatedly intrudes into the narration, and its vivid description is as dirty as it gets:
The girl bent down on all fours. The penis entering and exiting her butthole. The guy removing his penis, putting it in the mouth of the second girl.
So while these sexual antics are enough to consider “The Day Michael Jackson Died” obscene, the author balances this out with a sharp critique of American culture. The nameless protagonist treats his Americanism like “a small, annoying dog” that he’s somewhat ashamed of and bothered by but not ready to get rid of just yet. This feeling comes from what he considers the average “meatheaded and preposterous” American mindset:
America’s the greatest! Don’t fuck around, we’ll bomb you! Most freedom of any country ever! Greatest country of all time! Why do you hate us so much? Your shit country is fucked up! Soccer sucks! Just dunked on you! French are fags! Sand niggers! Niggers niggers! ‘No’ means ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ means ‘anal’! If you don’t like it, go live somewhere else!
The balance, however, is shaky at times due to the repetition of the pornographic passages. While the first two times the recollection appears can be easily explained away as a smart critique of the violence, crudeness, and objectification that defines most contemporary pornography and its effect on the male psyche, having the same scene, which is much longer than the few lines quoted above, appear four times in such a short narrative forces the reader to question Garcia’s intentions. While a single appearance would have clearly fallen in line with the author’s obvious and relentless critical discourse, the reappearance of the sex scene, along with a few of the passages in the other stories (The Apocalypse of St. Cleo and “The Ballad of Yeltsin Rape Abortion” being prime examples with their rapes and almost scatological nature), place Garcia’s work dangerously close to the realm of for-shock literature, and that is never a good thing when trying to push forward an intelligent critique.
Besides the sex, the lack of strong female characters also hurts this collection. Garcia is clear and very direct in his denunciation of the major flaws in mainstream American culture, but the majority of his characters are white males. While this is a sharp collection that clearly showcases its author’s intellect, suggesting the absence of stronger female or non-white characters is some sort of meta-criticism is ludicrous.
Between the six parts of The Apocalypse of St. Cleo and the ten stand-alone tales, Only Fools Die of Heartbreak comes in at 338 pages. However, it feels like a shorter read because the descriptions flow easily and the dialogue is never bogged down. Despite the fast-moving prose and superb mix of comedy and vulgarity, what makes this collection worth a read is the fact that Garcia’s wit and scathing social commentary shine even when covered by a thick layer of alcohol, broken individuals, late night drama, and X-rated sex. The stories here beg to be read because they are collages of great genres: they contain enough weirdness to be considered bizarro fiction, enough illegal actions to be called crime, and enough lewd behavior to ensure the absolute indignation of prudish readers everywhere.- Gabino Iglesias


Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: Singular infinitesimal Variations on Thor Garcia’s Only Fools Die of Heartbreak By Jim Chaffee:


People try to tell you what can and can’t be written, what can and can’t be published. It’s a battle to enforce a way of seeing the world. Thank heavens, there’s always been a few who’ve been willing to spit in the face of that thinking…
—A Sun in Every Lake Drunk, you stagger through a late night downpour to a bar where a group of people you’ve never met sit talking and drinking. You enter the bar and sit with the strangers, misinterpreting their every move as you flirt with one of the women. Without warning, one of the men beats you to an oblivion beyond your alcohol induced stupor. The bartender throws you out.
In the post-Manson Los Angeles days of Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, of the John Holmes murder trial and McMartin Preschool sexual mass hysteria witch trial, of the Night Stalker, your best friend lives a life of contrast to yours. His family is stable; they live in a big house in the better part of town. He attends a military academy and graduates from West Point. Later he tells you that his sister, who had initiated you to petting, performs fellatio on groups of his classmates, that his parents divorced and his father had a sex change and lives as a woman in the house which has become a ruin in a slum. Your friend goes off to Somalia.
Experiential landmines litter the treacherous dreamscape of Thor Garcia’s collection of short stories, Only Fools Die of Heartache. In its minutiae it is reminiscent of a Bosch post apocalyptic vision, a society that self-destructed sometime in the 1970s or 1980s but still stands like a zombie, lifelessly animated without an inner core, able to infect living nations with the propaganda of its pop culture, a self-parodying celebration of mediocrity, of unimaginative, derivative cliché considered high art. It is, of course, the US, viewed at times from within but most often through the Kafkaesque lens of expatriate life in Prague.
Most of the bizarre characters inhabiting Thor Garcia’s world are American, though plenty of Eastern Europeans add chromatic variation. The Eastern Europeans seem to realize they live in a ruin, most especially the Czech, but the Americans are the unaware denizens of the zombie society, the smoking ruins of an inevitable dead zone given their worshipful cult of the Founding Fathers, canonized mythical figures based on a group of lying white supremacists proclaiming liberty and equality for all even as they embraced slavery and set up a plutocracy that lasted until Andrew Jackson broke the political hegemony in the election of 1828. The canonized saints such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and most of the others were at best ambitious liars and mediocre intellects, clear from their writings which most citizens revere and few read with care, if at all. There were a handful of exceptional intellects. Hamilton, for one, who set up the first central bank, and especially Franklin, a petty asshole whose wife died alone of a stroke while he courted younger women in France and who only joined the American revolution after the British mocked his attempt to become a member of their minor royalty. Jefferson was so inept he died bankrupt on his deathbed, depending on friends to buy his concubine out of slavery. A racist who did not believe blacks were equal to whites, Jefferson did believe they might be human. Of course, he is famous for penning the hypocritical public relations piece known as the Declaration of Independence, often mistaken by Americans (including Congressmen) as the Constitution. The benevolent slaveholder Madison was more understanding of the plight of the slaves he held; he thought it best that they be sent “back” to Africa. Washington’s ambition to steal and sell the land of indigenous peoples, which were protected by treaties with the British government, was assuaged by marrying a wealthy widow.
Reality is that the US was the place where the religiously insane were sent. This is evident in the history of witch trials in the US which began before the famous Salem trials (before the existence of the US as a nation) and continued into the 1980s with the outbreak of the sexual hysteria “daycare” witch trials that swept the United States and then leapt to a few other countries (outside Europe and Asia) which were quick to quash the irrational exercise in religious insanity. The US continues to export its cultish organized superstitions along with its childish culture, contaminating the world. The country remains a museum and an incubator of organized superstitions.
Garcia, however, is not a political writer. He is more a reflecting parabolic antenna objectively focusing the signals he perceives. He illustrates the nature of the US with character profiles and events unblemished by the political and economic superstitions that are labeled ideologies, though he does at least once state the opinion that judges and politicians are "not bothering anymore with the Constitution," which begs the question that they ever did, a fallacy easily remedied by reading uncensored US history. Of course, the Constitution and other writings of the Holy Founding Fathers are much like the Bible, which is to say malleable. Such lapses on Garcia’s part not frequent.
What Garcia reflects is the inherent instability of the nation socially, in its political institutions, and in its anti-reasoning culture. These themes are more pronounced in The News Clown. The New York Times and Washington Post as semi-official state media, for example, which list can be augmented with Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC as well as the less partisan media outlets that all entertain select audiences with censored versions of news from within the box.
On food: "I knew they were eating badly in America, chemicals and hormones and toxicity and fecal matter in almost all the food products." One can surmise that soon shit sandwiches will be more than a metaphor in the land of outrageous food cults.
In The Day Michael Jackson Died, while the protagonist tries to get into the pants of an openly anti-Semitic Russian woman, he watches a group of drunken Americans calling black immigrants from Africa who are barkers for whore houses "niggers." He writes, "Over the past decade or so he had begun to treat his Americanism like a small, annoying dog that would not stop following him around — neither proud nor particularly ashamed of it, yet not ready to kick it to the curb once and for all." Of course, when the blacks respond to the racist jibes, the Americans come back with trash talk from within the national box in the tradition of "my dad can beat up your dad," befitting of their mental ages. "America’s the greatest. Don’t fuck around, we’ll bomb you. Most freedom of any country ever." Aping their buffoon politicians and news clowns with meaningless words like "freedom." For example, Ted Cruz speaking to a group of "conservatives" said, "There are two things I have unabiding faith in: One is a benevolent God who loves each and every one of us, and Number 2 is the American people who love liberty and opportunity unlike any nation, any people in the history of this world." When people like Cruz say shit like that, what you can be sure of is that "freedom" means their freedom to keep you from doing what they don’t want you to do. The "conservative" movement is mostly scared white people who want to impose on their fellow citizens the Old Testament proscriptions of a perverse monstrosity of a deity, an intolerant mass murderer and genocidal maniac. The monstrosity of the Old Testament deity was pointed out by Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers who was excommunicated for his sin of heresy.
What travel teaches is that Americans are among the least free people on the planet, by their own choice of dogmatic morality (from both the "left" and the "right"). The US is a commercial prison nation (a useful history to learn regards the practice of debt slavery, peonage and convict leasing in the US until 1955 as de facto slavery, leading to the question whether it continues with the criminal-justice system supporting for-profit prisons) cemented by individual debt. It also teaches how poorly educated Americans are. As Garcia puts it, "It could not be denied that the American people had changed. They had been systematically strangled by fear, and the result was that they were now stupider, meaner and more cowardly than before."
But then consider that Bush the Younger had an ivy league education at the graduate and undergraduate levels and was unable to speak or write coherently. Quite likely he was a functional illiterate. Ted Cruz illustrates the old saw, "You can educate a damned fool but you can’t make him smart," which is more properly translated as ceremonial certification does not imply education. The US is a nation of uneducable, functional illiterates who are dangerous because they have been duped as ceremonially-certified educated. Most labor in the US requiring the ability to read, think and reason, to understand science and engineering and to do even basic arithmetic, is performed by immigrants.
Thor introduces us to some Americans who are at least educable. The budding CPA More Pot II who besides dope is into what she calls "fire-up fucks," very little foreplay and six or seven minutes of frenzied in and out for which activity she keeps boxes of condoms under her bed. The brown baby, daughter of a black US soldier and German mother, is a former model with a graduate degree in chemistry from the Ivy League. She is also a former coke and crank whore who was busted for producing and distributing crank. She has a son who is a twisted heroin addict.
Garcia does make some comments about the capitalist economic system of the US, though it is not clear that he is clear as to what is capitalism. He is not alone in that. I have yet to meet or read anyone who can provide an operational definition of capitalism other than something about private financing. But what is it if the state owns the means of production and sells shares to the public? Beyond the words private financing, they string together more or less syntactically correctly symbols without semantic content involving words like free and market or enterprise, which they are unable to make operationally precise. It doesn’t take empirical observation to see there is little competition in a nation dominated by large corporations, but that is what is sometimes called "advanced capitalism" by Marxists. Garcia does see the US as a murderous thug nation. That is an objective judgment. He fears approaching doom looming on the horizon from financial bankruptcy due to national profligacy. That vague foreboding seems to grip many in the US, but there is no coherent, meaningful expression of it. Some seem haunted by detached snippets of the anti-scientific quasi-religious "philosophy" of Ludwig von Mises and his follower Murray Rothbard.
There is a basis of truth in the fear. The real source is the fact, noticed by most people in the US, that there is no there, there. Almost no one in the US contributes anything pertinent; listen to the commodities guru Jim Rogers to hear this plaintiff cry. What exists there is a financial industry that grew up funding the "economy of production" that was the basis of wealth for the US from the time Americans learned to turn European science and engineering into products via labor. In 1995, the US stopped making its living by producing goods and began to live on sales of intangibles, selling to one another real estate, insurance and financial products. By 2000, the intangible sector led the manufacturing sector in profit. People sense this, but they don’t get it. I recommend reading "Can Numbers Ensure Honesty" by Mary Poovey, a talk she presented in 2002 to the International Congress of Mathematicians, published in the Notices of the AMS, January 2003 (available free online from the American Mathematical Society).
The sad truth is that there are few Americans who have the ability to comprehend Poovey’s article. This applies especially to politicians and journalists, two of the more ignorant classes of "educated" people in the country. They not only have little to no understanding of science or mathematics or technology, they are completely ignorant of the history of science and technology. That is as disquieting as their ignorance of the unofficial history of their own nation, both recent and going back to before the Revolutionary War, of European history, and of the writings of the "founding fathers" they worship. They throw around words whose meaning they have never analyzed, strings of meaningless symbols.
In The News Clown Garcia painted journalists with the disdain they deserve. In these stories, they play a more peripheral role. However, I offer the example of a black journalist who the "conservative" media holds as a sort of final word on Obama, a form of racism oblique to that particular segment of clowns. When asked why he hates the President in an interview, Mychal Massie said that the President was taking the country Communist. The fact is, Obama is a fascist militarist in the classical post-WWII tradition of both the Democratic and Republican Parties; fascist in the classical sense of intertwining corporations and government and of promoting policy with the requisite propaganda through semi-official media; militarist in building a bloated and policy-ineffectual military machine as a tool of fear through threat of destruction, a bully tactic that has yet to accomplish a single policy goal since the Korean War. The march to fascist militarism was given a giant boost by Reagan when he handed over the DOD budget to the so-called "defense industry" as part of his fiscal stimulus program, which also made for an expensive, ineffective military machine since most of the largess went to defense contractors for a permanent make-work jobs program. Bush the Elder tried to bring it to heel with the imaginary "peace dividend," but Clinton co-opted and expanded it, though he was timid for a militarist. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Garcia. It is background noise.
Massie would have made a useful foil in The News Clown by exploiting what was most pathetic in the interview. Like most news clowns, the interviewer didn’t ask his fellow clown just what the fuck he meant by Communism. Nor did he ask for reference to any point by point analysis by Massie or anyone else of precisely how it is that the President’s policies are or promote Communism. I suppose such is unnecessary as we are all educated, so we’ve all read Das Kapital, as well as the amended variations of Lenin and Trotsky and can wax poetic on dialectical materialism, right? So of course we all understand the Hegelian mystical gibberish that Marx inverted for his historical imperative, along with the differences between Marx’s theory of value and labor and that of Adam Smith, given we have all read An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, as well as understand the effect that Newton’s theory of gravity’s power to predict accurately had on Smith who was unable to predict anything with his own "theory," a common issue with Economics. The word Communist is likely used by Massie in a purely pejorative, that is to say emotive, sense. I doubt the guy has even the vaguest notion of the objective structural tenants of Communism, but I await his technical essay spelling it out in detail.
This would be a singularly pathetic example were it not for the black Senator Tim Scott who claims that lowering taxes raises revenues, a bit of horseshit falsified by both Reagan and Bush the Younger. It shows that blacks can be every bit as ignorant as their white counterparts in the news world and in politics: ignorance is an equal opportunity malady, black and white, "liberal" and "conservative," whatever those two ridiculous labels might signify. Diversity in everything but stupidity, which is uniform. I have heard all sorts of news clowns and political buffoons go on about socialism without the foggiest notion of what it might actually entail. As a hint, social welfare programs are not socialism. What might qualify as socialized medicine in the US? Not Medicare or Obamacare, but certainly the military hospitals and the Veteran’s Administration hospitals. The idea that handing over medical care to a government-insurance industry coalition run by a cartel of insurance companies will control medical inflation is not only ludicrous, it is fascist, not socialist or Communist.
In the face of the not surprising information that diversity does not inflate education or awareness, Garcia’s apolitical observations can be quite refreshing, though believers in the ideology of America as world savior would not find it so. But take, "It’s a con, man — get it through your head. Always has been. Lies and endless 'America the great' talk over the decades, but Uncle Sam is always turning to the cheap stuff when things get the slightest bit tough. It’s just basic criminality, really. Gangsterism at the highest level."
You can’t get much more direct than that, and this despite the fact that Garcia is himself a news clown. In that quote his character is talking to your basic "liberal." "Ollie was pretending to be completely flipped. He was apparently still hoping for meaningful change within the political-economic framework as it existed. You know — a little tweaking and recalibration, with more attention paid to the 'moral element' and 'doing the right thing,' and a more appropriate and fair redistribution of the wealth and and and…'
The US is a thug nation, an international bully populated and governed by delusional militarists who are turning ever more tribal, going after each other. It is a pathological liar that believes its own lies. Watching the US self-destruct is not pretty, but it is amusing. How long can the citizens continue to scam each other and the rest of the world? The answer depends in part on how much the rest of the world longs to be scammed. Hopefully the instability of tribalism will kill the monstrosity once and for all on the international stage, but that does leave the question of who will fill the vacuum. Garcia shows we ought not want any nation to fill the gap, certainly not the Eastern Europeans and most especially not the Russians.
One thing that Garcia does hold up to the reader is the US’ inability to blatantly loot third world nations as it once did, as when the Marines looted the Haitian treasury or supported direct US corporate intervention in the politics of third world nations to steal resources as with the Marines fighting for United Fruit in Central America or the Navy aiding Panama in secession from Columbia. Now the US must proceed sanguinely in its efforts to steer events and cash flow its way, more subtle given it wants the world to see its military as a “global force for good.” This is in part why it has become so feckless with its military interventions in which a fast first strike becomes a bogged down insurgency that does not go its way. For example, the US handing the nation of Iraq over to enemy Iran, a trick on Cheney and Bush who were duped by Iranian intelligence agents. It is also why overtly militarist factions in the US want out of the UN.
There is an anti-militarist wing within the Republican Party tied to a splinter party. Within the Republican Party it was headed by Ron Paul. It is called the Libertarian Party, a misnomer given that Paul’s brand is nothing more than old fashioned gold-standard states’-rightism. Libertarians don’t believe in a need for any government. The closest thing to American Libertarianism would be the Posse Comitatus, a loosely affiliated movement (any affiliation but loose would be inconsistent with classical libertarianism) that accepts no authority higher than the county sheriff. The old Posse Comitatus seemed to have no idea of the economic underpinnings associated with classical libertarianism, namely that the “free market” is sufficient for civilized human interaction, a quasi-religious belief. Ron Paul hopes to pass the mantle to his son Rand, named after one of the silliest weavers of adult fantasy of the twentieth century, a woman who developed a “philosophy” of inverted Soviet Communism that demanded a belief in atheism, holding the mutually exclusive positions that the world is as we sense it and that science is ultimate truth. Though there are those who consider her a libertarian, her dogma that society must be controlled by censoring the arts as a propaganda tool, a notion borrowed from Soviet Communism, puts that mistake to bed.
At any rate Ron Paul believes that gold is a holy metal, a natural currency for The True Economy chosen by The Market. This belief is a superstitious reaction to the fear of impending financial doom discussed earlier. Paul claims to follow both von Mises and Hayek, a logically impossible position. Hayek was a monarchist who believed that democracy was antithetical to freedom, that libertarianism (not the state’s-rightism of Paul) was impossible and that the only guarantee of freedom is an economically liberal monarchy. Von Mises was a mystic who believed he had a direct connection to absolute truth and that therefore empirical verification of his “theories” was not only irrelevant but wrongheaded, since falsification is impossible no matter how far reality dares vary from his proscriptive writings. His follower Rothbard carried this to a logical absurdity, claiming that that the only possible monopoly is government, that it is impossible for corporations to create monopolies.
What Ron Paul doesn’t know is that the true successor of Economist von Mises is Economist Lambert O'Cu. If you haven't heard of him, it is because he writes in Portuguese. It is through him that Austrian economics has moved beyond the unnecessary pseudo-rational argumentation of the likes of the false Economist Rothbard. The truth is that not all gold is a natural currency for the True Economy. Only pure gold is true currency. Pure gold has never been in contact with any other element. In particular, pure gold cannot be refined. Nor is there is a scientific approach to determine whether gold is pure or obtained by refining, a consequence of the coarseness of atomic and molecular physics which is bullshit subject to falsification. Truth is not subject to empirical reality, as Ron Paul knows from reading von Mises. The work of O’Cu is based on text represented on pure gold plates (thought by crypto-linguists to be a pre-Latin form of what became the medieval Österreichische Kanzleisprache, a fact disputed by linguists who use more formal methods) that were translated using scrying glasses. Once translated, the tablets were removed by the marginal angel who had revealed them to O'Cu. The content of the tablets is a method for determining whether the gold is pure or refined, deemed to be alchemical from the middle ages.
Not all new clowns wear blindfolds. Garcia is aware. So is Glenn Greenwald, another expat. From Greenwald’s reporting we have learned that the most important revelation about US spying on other nations is that it is not about terrorism but is in good measure industrial espionage. That is what the US accuses China of doing, but the reality is that almost every other nation, China included, is more advanced technically and the US needs to steal their industrial secrets. One of the biggest secrets of the US is its incompetence in most areas of high technology (social networks are not high technology). The reason is that US citizens are backward in education, semiliterate and unable to reason. So it imports foreigners to do the heavy mental-lifting, in graduate schools, as professors, and in industry. However, the US does have the best propaganda (marketing) machine on the planet. That is something the Soviets never learned: having marvels of technology is worthless without the propaganda and finance. You don’t need to develop the most advanced technology, but technology that sells. The mediocre technological innovations rise to the top of the consumer heap for reasons having nothing to do with rational choice and everything to do with irrationality guided by well-financed propaganda. Grand sales pitches and ruthless destruction of competition are the lynchpin of western "advanced capitalism," not "free markets" (whatever those might be) and competition. The US learned that lesson by watching the Soviets defeat Hitler (at great cost: around twenty-two million Soviet dead) while it slipped in and saved Western Europe from the Soviets, claiming it was freeing them from the Germans. It seems that Eastern Europe has not learned that lesson.
There is serious writing in these pieces. In it’s savage satire, it sometimes reminds me of Gilbert Sorrentino, especially the story A Sun in Every Lake which is as good a send up of writing, writers and the publishing industry as I have read. The interview with Peter B. Haling in the story is extravagantly loony in a style reminiscent of the best of Thomas Wolfe. Energetically hilarious to the point of frantic exuberance. I wish I could quote the whole interview here, but I will only give this example, with LLF the interviewer and PBH the interviewee.
LLF: Let’s move on to your critics. Surely you’ve seen some of it — the complaints about the vulgarity, the Manichaeism, the non-conformism to the prevailing approved trends, the misogyny, the misanthropy, the ambiguity, the hedonism, the pro-substance-abusism, the stubborn refusal to bring matters to a tidy, easily understood conclusion…
PBH: Sounds pretty good to me. Yes, I am happy if I have written a book that inspires feelings of the kind you describe. Most of these mealy-mouthed soft boys can only digest what’s already been pre-chewed. They don’t know how to read, and they don’t know what’s in front of them. They want someone to get married and fall in love, or get pregnant or go to rehab. The world, love and laughter is saved — a new hope prevails. If you deviate, they pout and cry and lash out like babies with a load of diarrhea in their trousers. They want punchlines — easily understandable, heartwarming baloney. In sum, they want you to die as a writer. It’s the curse of our times — of every time, I suppose.
Garcia scatters the serialized story The Apocalypse of Saint Cleo through the collection like the continuo in a set of Bach variations, amplified like the bass in the sort of cacophony he considers music. The book is a contrapuntal study in the variational calculus on themes of the US as a thug nation in a world of ghettoes. Czech are proclaimed the Mexicans of Europe. Apocalypse is a caricature of the world as trashy trailer park, amped up on a dystopian vision that makes Mad Max seem like the suburbs.
I think this book ought to be adopted as a text in every high school civics classroom in the US. At least it would be one non-propaganda piece.
I do have one quibble with Garcia. In one story, he goes through every football game he considers significant. But he leaves out the only football game I ever sat through, the 1970 Super Bowl in which Kansas City defeated Joe Kapp and the Minnesota Vikings. Who could forget the defensive line led by the superhero Buck Buchanan? It almost made me forget that the game of American football, like professional wrestling, is a masturbatory fantasia that might be more interesting were it to leave the closet.
As Peter B. Haling says, "Just stop me when you think I’ve started lying."



Thor Garcia, The News Clown: A Novel, BookBaby, 2013.


“Like Hunter S. Thompson meets Russ Meyer’s Under the Valley of the Supervixens meets Daft Punk – wearing a press pass and a smiley badge to a San Francisco gangbang” – Goodreads

An incendiary, high-velocity masterwork of unparalleled ambition hailed as the Book of the Century, THE NEWS CLOWN tells the story of Thor, a young man whose dreams of a literary career have been sidetracked into an undemanding job as a “news clown” for a small wire service in the crime-infested back alleys of Bay City.
As Thor struggles with his inner demons, the national news clowns are cheering on President Wolfgang G. Mnung as he threatens a Middle Eastern dictator who may have stockpiled as many as 4,000 PlayStation video game units from which, according to sources, he might fashion a crude supercomputer to control weapons of untold devastation.
Amid the struggle for fame and the big story, Thor falls for the wealthy attorney Chrissy, whose craving for booze and the high life are matched only by Thor’s own. Heather, meanwhile, is dying, and Jerry thinks Christianity and Narcotics Anonymous might be the next cure for his failed rock career. Hank’s high on killing Muslims and utopia, while Toby thinks his wife has turned to cottage cheese and is gunning to join the Marines. Kate, for her part, would like a baby. And Thor must suddenly deal with his father, who has been arrested and forced into rehab.
THE NEWS CLOWN is punchy, raw, written in the tight, sinewy fashion of classic news wire service feed. Tension abounds between self-promotion and self-awareness. And it is funny as hell.
THE NEWS CLOWN – a story of the smells, the sounds, the fears and petty triumphs in the life of the street reporter.
THE NEWS CLOWN – a darkly-lit portrait of the USA during the War On Terror, from the bloodstained ghetto street to the celebrity ball, from the White House to the glass super-cathedral and the death-row execution chamber.
Finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.


“It’s hard to imagine writing more energetic than this!” The Prague Post


“Fueled by prodigious amounts of alcohol and tobacco, sex and drugs, this narrative skips along from one bizarre episode to the next in the tortuous life of Thor, a young man whose dreams of a literary career have been sidetracked into an undemanding job as a ‘news clown’ for a small wire service in the crime-infested back alleys of Bay City. Meanwhile, as Thor struggles with his inner demons, the national news clowns are cheering on President Wolfgang G. Mnung as he threatens a Middle Eastern dictator who may have stockpiled ‘as many as 4,000 PlayStation video game units’ from which, according to sources, he might fashion a crude supercomputer to control weapons of untold devastation. A flashy, satirical style keeps the narrative fresh, entertaining and eminently readable throughout” - Publishers Weekly

Reading Thor Garcia’s first novel The News Clown on the metro from Jiřího z Poděbrad to Skalka last week, I realized three things. The first was that I had been reading nonstop since my journey from work began at far off Nové Butovice. The second was that I had been snorting laughter through my nose the whole way. The third was that the old lady sitting opposite was now staring at me like I was dribbling and drinking Jelzin vodka from the bottle.
Thor Garcia has written a satirical novel that brings to mind the best bits of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces; the novels and short stories of Charles Bukowski; Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, all made to feel at home within the unique, effortless likeability of Garcia’s own literary persona.
The main character is the writer’s namesake, a hard-drinking, lady-loving, young and hungry protagonist named Thor Garcia who has joined Cities News Services as a reporter and, for his sins, gets to cover the bloodiest scoops on the streets of Bay City.
Garcia laces the main events of his protagonist’s personal life together with mad sprints to horrific crime scenes, news articles full of political obfuscation over the war in the Middle East, misinformation, senseless murders, oddities and social tragedies – all set against the backdrop of the wider world going to hell. Bizarre characters with bizarre names (think The Goon Show or a Peter Sellers’ character) slouch through the pages of The News Clown, including the president of the United States, one Wolfgang G. Mnung whose efforts to stop a despot from building a supercomputer from a stockpile of 4, 000 playstations is central to Garcia’s tale. Some of the snippets of news and interviews, liberally mixed through the book, lean toward the heavily sarcastic. Here, a studio clown goes live with an embedded news correspondent:
“CLOWN: Dr. Assistant Undersecretary, Reverend Samuelly, sir…if we can, for fairness’ sake, talk a little bit about, perhaps – oh, some of the criticisms of this war, particularly from the minority in this country who, well – they say this is the wrong war at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, for example. That we should not be provoking war and invading foreign countries many miles from our shore who do not threaten us. Are they mistaken?
“CLOWN: I would say so, Flip…if you oppose freedom, you are clearly mistaken. If you oppose hunting down this dictator’s deadly weapons and defending civilization from terrorists you are certainly mistaken…
“CLOWN: Reverend Samuelly, sir, another potential criticism – that this war is about, say, stealing resources from another country… That, you know, well, these really aren’t the same folks that attacked us on September 11, 2001, and they don’t really threaten us, but rather- that it’s about, say – oh, I don’t know, quantities of oil they may possess…
“CLOWN: …Whatever this war is about, it is absolutely not about seizing control of vast oil reserves so such reserves can be used as a lever to exert decisive regional and global influence, as we see fit…
Garcia’s human interest news items, interspersed throughout the narrative, reveal the ephemeral and ridiculous nature of tragedy:
“HOMELESS MAN LOSES LEGS IN TRASH TRUCK
BAY CITY (CNS) – Bay City police said a homeless man lost both his legs early Wednesday when the Dumpster he was sleeping in was emptied into a city sanitation truck…”

“SEVERED HANDS FOUND DURING TRAFFIC
SAN MARTINO (CNS) – San Martino police said three pairs of severed hands and one ear were found in the car of two men who were stopped for a traffic safety check…”
Elsewhere in the book various people fall asleep next to other people’s assholes, fall in love with gorgeous lawyers, become mildly jealous of Val Kilmer and, importantly, ask the questions that need to be asked.
Garcia’s Garcia is the ultimate man about town, morally bankrupt yet pure of faith, one eye on the ladies and booze, the other on the bullshit.
The News Clown is a portrait of a society falling in on itself from top to bottom and vice versa: a serious novel full of laughs that  makes its points effectively without hatred or spite. Highly recommended. - Christopher Crawford


This is a coming of age novel. Its protagonist Thor ascends to manhood not by battling Don Cossacks, Bashkirs and Kazakhs along the Russian steppes like Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov or by following the way of the picaro as does Augie March during the Great Contraction, but instead as a cub reporter, pursuing his dream of ascension to literary lionhood from one of society's lower rungs, that of a news clown gathering actual events, the accounts of which are sold to the parasitic plagiarists known as the major media.
Thor's coming of age is not set against an adolescent nation establishing borders or growing through hard times to become a major power, but rather against a decaying and degenerate nation populated with inbred, narcissistic adolescents long past their second decades. A tapestry of a post-apocalyptic society whose debt-bound, clueless denizens are so anaesthetized from noise, shopping and drugs, prescription or otherwise, that they are unaware the calamity they fear as bogyman has already overtaken them. It is the United States of America, coast to coast third-world intellectual trailer park of violent, superstitious, uneducable functional illiterate turds-in-a-punch bowl, smoking ruin of an air-conditioned nightmare. The ambient background is portrayed through news articles, many written by Thor who exists in a limbo of squalor equivalent to Ferdinand, protagonist of the hilarious picaresque coming of age novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Death on the Installment Plan. However, unlike Ferdinand, Thor seems not angry and bitter but resigned to the senseless brutality of his fellow primates, which gives him as well a different approach to survival amongst them, more amenable to and inviting of their punishment from behind a veil woven of alcohol and other drugs.
Also unlike Grinyov, Thor does not save from marauding Cossacks a virginal blushing ingénue to whom he has professed love and who later returns the favor by saving him from false imprisonment. He does not even manage successful liaisons with a string of lovable dingbats as does Augie, and he never learns the secret of surviving the female human favored by Ferdinand, to strangle his dick rather than let it weep in yearning. Instead he falls for a wealthy, man-eating lawyer who collects testes. After emasculation, he becomes as bewitched as the crew of Ulysses by Circe, a pig never learning the lesson of Ferdinand: "Cock that wets will suck eggs…". He does however gain enough sense to not repeat an encounter with a chubby, promiscuous tattooed and pierced Asian college student who, like his enchantress, has a predilection for dicks up her butthole but whose nates are infested with acne.
It is unfair to compare turn of the millennium America with eighteenth century Russia or with turn of twentieth century France. Nor is Saul Bellow the one to honestly depict US social milieu, given he was after all a student of sociology and anthropology and hence wore a filter regarding the society of the human primate, a conceit that seems finally to be lifting from anthropology.
The reader will point to Gilbert Sorrentino, a more astute observer of modern human behavior than Bellow, and to his novel Steelwork, the protagonist of which is a neighborhood of Brooklyn during the period 1935 through 1951 when America began its path to global empire, feudal corporate dominance of society and government with a citizenry in indebted servitude, and built a constant war culture around a mythical enemy from which the US is required as knight-errant to save the world. Perhaps this path was forged when the US conquered Western Europe by liberating it. After waiting for the Soviet Red Army to exhaust itself demolishing Hitler's military before invading against minimal resistance, intercession to prevent the Soviets from liberating Western Europe was a clever, though perhaps only fortuitous, move on the path to hegemony. Certainly the US had shown imperial ambitions for many decades, though it had previously exercised them locally, but more than half a century after the respite resulting from its Civil War the power of the US industrial juggernaut manifested itself by causing a global depression when its own financial and industrial base collapsed. Awareness of this growing global financial power likely awakened the slumbering ogre. After the second world war, Hollywood promulgated the myth that the US defeated Hitler (no one speaks of the reality that the US and British allies faced four German divisions while the Soviets faced 140), cementing an unholy alliance of Hollywood as mythmaker for US government and corporate propaganda purposes, becoming a model for what was to follow: television, pop music, the internet, all major commercial media replacing education as socializing force and becoming commercial propaganda arm of the corporate fiefdoms interwoven within the fabric of government.
Moving into Western Europe after Hitler had been neutered and the Soviets heavily bled was a brilliant and bold stroke that has paid dividends as the US took advantage of the "iron curtain" and the "cold war" to create its first convenient dangerous enemy. Middle eastern terrorists are more of a stretch, though with the help of Hollywood and major news outlets the indebted consumer class (no longer really citizens in any meaningful way) are terrified and duped into submission. With this propaganda assist, the ragtag band of terrorists suffice to justify the money printing machine in the name of "small wars, big defense" as constant fiscal stimulus and jobs program, stepped up a notch by Reagan and institutionalized by Bush the Younger after his father had tried to rein it in by taking advantage of the so-called "peace dividend."
At any rate, Sorrentino approaches the portrait locally, studying the transformations of a neighborhood in Brooklyn with vignettes woven into a montage across time. Garcia presents his global study juxtaposing news stories against the quotidian existence of Thor the gatherer. The news grows more surreal as time elapses and events progress, but never becomes more outlandish than what appears literally in the US press on a daily basis.
I cannot think of comparable bridges from the end of the Korean War and beginning of the so-called Cold War to the beginning of Garcia's narrative, but likely due to my ignorance. This is my own period, being a child of the "cold war" who served in Vietnam, was a GI Bill student in the 70s and worked in the jobs program otherwise known as the "defense" industry through the eighties and nineties. Many of the events around which Garcia builds his narrative have remained in my memory, given that I became a careful observer of events as reported versus as they happened, the discrepancy sometimes recounted in buried retractions. I learned to be especially observant after surviving up close the reality behind bogus news reports while in Vietnam.
This was the period when the CIA began to run drugs into the US as part of national security, beginning with heroin in Vietnam. This continued with cocaine from Latin America during the Reagan presidency as a means of supplementing the clandestine income "earned" by selling weapons to "terrorist" nations like Iran as a means of funding the war in Nicaragua, legitimate funding for which had been cut off by Congress. CIA drug running becomes a major background story for Garcia documented by Thor's friend, a crack investigative journalist who is destroyed with a smear campaign run by the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times most likely managed by the CIA which (another news theme Garcia explores) had been planting agents within the major media for decades (remember Judith Miller who filled the New York Times with Bush administration lies and propaganda to support the ill-fated invasion of Iraq?). In the real world, Gary Webb's livelihood as a journalist and his family life were destroyed exactly as Garcia recounts. Webb committed suicide with two gun shots to his brain, a fate worthy of a bearer of bad news in imperial Rome. It should be noted that in the case of Webb, the CIA later admitted to nearly all the crimes he uncovered and reported; the major media followed this partial admission with the obligatory late, buried stories after most of the few citizens who had paid attention forgot about it. The collateral damage was a crack cocaine infestation of mainly ghetto neighborhoods that some believed was intentional, though that would never be admitted if true. The fuller confessions of the CIA were made behind closed doors to special committees of Congress that published reports censored by the CIA after the committees negotiated with it what could be made public.
The news stories that establish the ambient field of background noise are akin to the excursions of a Brownian motion generated by a manic depressive skew Laplacian lurking unseen in the recesses of twisted fibers. Not an explicit thread woven into anything in particular except for the CIA drug running story, these excursions intrude nonetheless via the deterioration of Thor's mental condition, especially after hooking up with the shark of a lawyer. They build the sort of flow of random coincidences one gets from taking too much acid. Thor sets out to drink himself to death, a true booze-head living in a worm-infested apartment in the heart of a ghetto, alienating most of the women he encounters if given enough time, spurning the rest, often beaten up and otherwise brutalized while somehow carrying more than his load at work and rising to byline level yet never realizing enough money to escape his environs, though it is not always clear he wants to escape.
This drinking is not the joyful rebelliousness of Hunter Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas while amidst the law enforcement convention as a reporter. Anyone who mistakes this joyless banging on the head with booze with Thompson's drug excesses misses the point. It is brutalizing the self; bludgeoning consciousness, not enhancing it.
One of the striking differences between the time painted by Sorrentino and that of Garcia is the obsession with constant audio and visual noise as distraction from self in Garcia's world. In Sorrentino, music is something mostly listened to, as in the introductory vignette when Charlie Parker's Koko comes on as revelation. Television is not a factor. It seems quaint that one character can disturb the quiet of a neighborhood by playing a tenor sax at the window of his apartment, rousing indignant calls to quit his adoration of first Lester Young and then Arnette Cobb. In Thor's world, no one would notice. People silence their thoughts with the dual bludgeon of blaring television and music, often simultaneous benumbing noises, while they imbibe alcohol along with other drugs. This behavior cuts across characters and is indicative of the present where one cannot escape pumped-in noise except in the home or by wearing silencing headphones. Americans hate to be alone with their thoughts. But then that is no wonder, given the dark place they inhabit.
This is a dark novel, though not painted as such. Less irascible than Celine, it nonetheless portrays a sick society. Sicker than what Celine presents, for certain, but then the world is sicker now than in Celine's day by any rational measure. The sickness festers in Thor, erupting again and again as he submits to brutality or even conjures it against himself. This is how it ends, in fact, with Thor daring more violence against himself even as his companions move away from him, seeing it coming.
In a single news article, Garcia captures the US as a society: "In tune with an increasingly mentally-ill society, America's leaders are demonstrably the most warmongering on the planet. They appear bent on a course of foreign policy blundering and fiscal mismanagement that is almost certain to lead to bankruptcy and the irreversible decline, if not total impoverishment, of the nation and its people. The U.S. population, crippled by its mental illness and made impotent by conglomerate control of the mass media, appears incapable of offering any meaningful resistance when their politicians nonsensically announce the start of another oversees war in the ‘interests of peace and free markets,' but which only serves to further endanger the future livelihood of the average American citizen."
Amen. - Jim Chaffee





Thor Garcia, TUND, BookBaby, 2001. 

By turns defiant, paranoid, brooding, absurd and knock-down funny, TUND, from Prague-based writer Thor Garcia, is a startling creation. Peopled by a galaxy of fringe operators and hoodlums, tattered no-hopers and doom-drenched true believers, sadistic children and tormented hooch hounds, TUND is a swirling landscape of meltdowns, terrifying visions and punch-drunk epiphanies. Brimming with riotous panache, anarchic soul and sinewy, exultant writing, TUND probes the desolation and cruelties, desperation and contradictions, the hazards and hoopla, of life in an unstable and emotionally crippled age. The English-language Prague Post newspaper said of TUND: “Free-wheeling, word-slinging, experiential and accessible.”
(The paper edition of TUND was published by Litteraria Pragensia Books, an independent imprint published in cooperation with the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Charles University, Prague.)

By turns defiant, paranoid, brooding, absurd and knock-down funny, Thor Garcia's TUND is a startling creation. Peopled by a galaxy of fringe operators and hoodlums, tattered no-hopers and doom-drenched true believers, sadistic children and tormented hooch hounds -- and not least, a girl called Spoogeface -- TUND is a swirling landscape of meltdowns, terrifying visions and punch-drunk epiphanies. Irreverent and iconoclastic, it probes the desolation and cruelties, desperation and contradictions, the hazards and hoopla, of life in an unstable and emotionally crippled age. Brimming with riotous panache, anarchic soul and sinewy, exultant writing, TUND is sure to stimulate and dazzle.
“I don’t think I read a stranger collection of short stories all year than Tund. Its author is a bit of a mystery. He’s from Long Beach but has lived in Prague since the mid-’90s. This makes for a peculiar worldview, which probably should be expected from someone with a name like Thor Garcia. Quote: ‘We idled languid, fragrant afternoons in hilly, statue-studded parks; munched flaky pastry at umbrella-shrouded pavilions along the river; stared in mute wonder at elaborate iron lamp posts and exquisite carved wooden door panels; floated across expansive sun-dashed cobblestone mezzanines, fawned over fabulously fusty friezes, frontispieces and fandulas; and roamed a seemingly endless cavalcade of crumbling castles, moss-drenched cemeteries, monstrous vaulted churches, time-encrusted bridges, dusty, decaying monasteries, graceful galleries… Yes, it was Europe–Eastern Europe, to be exact, in the time following what were popularly called revolutions.’ - Jim Ruland 

There is a voice, predominant in these stories, always at some distance to itself. Not numbed, maybe, so much as slightly disassociated, tingling, like hands on the verge of sleep. Experiences slide by, then there is some odd prickling. Objects and events are studied, sometimes in detail, but the focus, narrowing in, verges on the absurd. The newspaper, for instance, reports “The economic indicators were open to differing interpretations, but some of the executives were quoted as saying the cycle could be near an end. The Semites were haggling over land. In athletics, one of the teams had won.” And of a girl, far from unattractive, we learn that “while her hips were rather wide, they didn’t quite protrude. Her buttocks did, however—just slightly more than was perhaps too far. The twin insane globes of that device heaved, they quivered and juked. They jiggled and jimmied independently, but also in supernal, near preternatural concord.” Wandering, dazed, through a world at once blurred and hyper-detailed, of vague Semite struggles and asses analyzed with everything but a physics equation. This is the straight face of TUND, to which time happens, events happen, and the actor, as if passive, presents himself as merely on the receiving end of events in which he plays, in fact, a vigorous, even initiating role: “And so I was hard again. I flipped her over. I had to work to make the third time happen. It was long strokes, then short stabbing ones, and sucking on her earrings, her hair, her neck. Finally it happened.” Yes, even that just happens, as the arousal happens, as the situation happens, as the relationship happens and as the collapse, gradually and then all of a sudden, happens, just comes to pass. “So suddenly everything was falling apart. It’ll happen like that. You know, things slipping right by you in one big flux—and there you are, trying to make sense of it. This was me.”
Some of these stories are set in Europe—“Eastern Europe, to be exact, in the time following what were popularly called revolutions,” a place presented as perhaps especially suitable to this sort of detachment, this approach to history as something that rolls in and over, then breaks for a little picnic weather. Narrators find themselves in places, with people, as if they are waking up or becoming aware of their existence, as a passive player, in a dream. Alcohol gets drunk; dreams get discussed. A mother, a castration, the size of the severed penis, its smoothness—all of this happens in proximity to a sauna scene, two men, wrestling, one “half-observ[ing]” the other’s “flaccid penis and heat-engorged scrotal sac, resting on the tiled slick floor.” It’s like a scene out of Saint Augustine, only it ain’t, quite, for while the Bishop seeks, in his prose, to cut to that which can be known, to express his visceral emotions and wrangle through the complexities of his own mental life, here a group of somewhat friends try to get high and take turns talking. Everyone and everything is disassociated, like pool balls after a break, sliding farther and farther apart. Here’s one friend on his companions:
He looked at the flesh, the flesh vaguely glistening in the low-watted light. Ugly flesh casting invisible rays, nipples casting shadows, deep crevasses in the fat like expired sausages bundled in twine. He concentrated on shriveled ghostly penises, saw gaping, dripping vaginas—layer upon layer of them, piled on one another, hairy and shaven, blurring into a single folding, receding, bifurcating, suffocating pink-red sludge, and scabs and little holes, dozens of them, woven into the red-pink walls themselves. And new noises came to him, the crunching and cracking and grinding of bones, and scalps tearing from heads, skulls smashing against stone, faces grimacing in howl.
Such a paranoid trip is, in TUND, our world, more or less. The folks here don’t always know whether to ralph or jackoff, to cite some parlance used.
Meanwhile—as with those Semites and their “haggling”—mayhem happens, and murder, mischief of various sorts. There are dog deaths, dog surgeries, dog torture, dog love (dogs predominate, like that detached voice). People watch porn, or make porn, or worry, aloud, about their sperm count. Meals are served, “tasting more like a recipe looks than a meal is supposed to taste” and artists endure “years of surviving on ketchup soup and kool-aid” until they are hailed as geniuses, become rich, and indulge peculiar habits like making a “handmade stone pornographic chess set.” To cite a somewhat similar writer, it is difficult to merge in these places. Here’s how a relationship falls apart, while waiting for a second opinion on the test results:
There were difficulties. I began to be troubled by some of her characteristics, which included drinking coffee from a cup the size of a small bowl. She was always making pasta dishes, which she would never throw out but leave sitting in the refrigerator, sometimes for a week or more. / We never went out together in public, and never once did I see her lay a brush on her paints. She had slender hips, a beautiful long back, hardly any breasts at all. I answered a great many questions, mostly of a technical, mechanical nature. Sometimes she smelled. She said it was infections and viruses, of the kind exclusive to women.
And here’s how another narrator feels about coming, finally, to the big city, to live the dream imbibed via advertising: “Bay City, I sneered. You bitch. You lying whore sack of come. You four-on-the-floor mother-cunt. Come on, you filthy bitch. You cheap whore. You dirty lying two-dollar strumpet.” But soon, despite his desire to rape and dominate the city, our hungry young narrator finds himself fantasizing about his own assault, the urban promise simultaneously a threat:
He would knife me first, surely, then drag me off and rape away at me frenziedly in some alleyway. I would beg him NO PLEASE NO. But it would mean nothing, to him. He would slap angrily at the back of my neck, as if I were some loose red-headed woman—his loose red-headed woman. I would shriek and cower as he pulled my shirt from my back and lashed me with enraged swipes. Onlookers would hoot down from the apartment blocks, giggling and turning up the television as my assailant pounded away, clubbing away into oblivion all my tender beliefs and chivalrous instincts.
Better, in such a world, to just give up, have another beer. Or so that narrator decides. And another. Then another after that.
I’d figured this out before, it was so damn obvious, but sometimes you’d forget. But it was always good to remember:
The first step was to surrender.
The second was to give up.
The third was to toss in the towel.
The fourth was to relinquish all hope.
The fifth was to forget any of it had ever happened.
The voices and happenings of TUND are not quickly forgettable. The panoramas may mesh together, the paranoias and detachments of the various characters may echo each other, but the overall result is a seductive, disturbing vision of life and one way of relating to it, as spectator to spectacle, as victim to one’s own agency, actions and inactions.- Spencer Dew


Thor Garcia, Smell, Adam Moss Group, 1998.


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