Review: Abortion Arcade

book reviews

Abortion ArcadeAbortion Arcade by Cameron Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve spent the afternoon trying my damnedest to figure out what the title of this book means in relation to the stories contained within. I refuse to believe that it’s to be taken literally (which I think would mean a fun place to miscarry fetuses). Here’s what I came up with:

abortion: the willful termination of a pregnancy (which I am tying directly into the metaphorical concept of quickening, and not limiting to biological functions)

arcade: a passageway; an establishment established for the purpose of playing games for a fee

More than any bizarro I’ve ever read, these stories fit neatly into the category of absurdism. You’ve got three different tales of a protagonist attempting to find meaning in a meaningless world only to be beaten to a fucking pulp by said meaninglessness. There’s the werewolf who seeks acceptance in the world that rejects him, the guy who stakes his live on the existence of incorporeal strings sprouting from everything, and the gent who fights to break out of a zombie ruled post-apocalyptic world in order to make it to the wasteland on the other side. You’ve got these people with good intentions who are just obviously spending their lives fucking themselves over. It’s goddamned painful to watch.

So I think that the "abortion" part refers to the destruction of an idea. Each character experiences a quickening of his own: a means of popularity, escape, or survival. But the uncooperative world decimates that idea, striking it down almost as soon as the epiphany is felt. This seems familiar….where have I experienced this before…. Oh! Yes! Ass Goblins of Auschwitz! And who wrote that again?…. Oh yeah…..

It seems as if Cameron Pierce is actually trying to say something

But is he saying that it’s really the fault of the unforgiving universe? There is that sad theme of self-sabotage. The willful destruction of the love letter. The willful eating of the face. The willful cutting of the strings.* It’s all about these guys destroying their own dreams. Aborting them, if you will.

But that’s the easy part, isn’t it? It doesn’t take a philosophical heavyweight to argue that one can abort oneself or one’s ideas. The arcade, I think, is the thing. The obvious answer (the house of fun and frivolity) is misleading. Why? Because this book may be bizarro, but it isn’t fun. At least not in a funny way. Even hitting sloths with a bicycle can be given an air of solemnity.** It’s got to be more. Of course, that also has to be part of it, or the joke would be in absentia. And that wouldn’t be fair at all.

I think the "arcade" refers to a passageway. Something like the passage of time, but less measurable. The passage of a life, perhaps, or an idea. Because the pain doesn’t come with what happens at the end of each story. They’re all pretty goddamned fucked up (don’t get me wrong), but it’s the sense of loss we experience as readers. We’ve traveled a ways with these characters an, on some level, we wished them the best. Because they’re not characters to be loathed. They’re you and me. They have dreams, but, unfortunately for them (and us) they live in a fucked up world completely devoid of purpose. So their pain is our pain. Those cut strings are your divorce. That missing face belonged to your high school boyfriend. That love letter was what could have been, but wasn’t.

Because, folks, our collective experience is the abortion arcade. It’s the details that don’t make one bit of difference.

*These things might possibly be construed as spoilers if only you had any idea what the fuck I was talking about. Muahahahahahaha!

**See previous footnote.

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Muscle Memory by Steve Lowe – 5 stars

book reviews

Muscle MemoryMuscle Memory by Steve Lowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the ending. It was like a slap in the face at the close of a pleasant conversation. But that’s all life is, anyway. Isn’t it?

Quick plot break down: A bunch of people wake up in the wrong bodies. The protagonist and his wife are switched; the neighbor and his sheep are switched. Everyone’s baffled. But no one more so than Billy, who, after waking up in his wife’s lactating body, finds that she poisoned him the night before. Tina’s dead, trapped in Billy’s body.

Is that some serious existentialist shit or what?

What Billy is put through is absurd and cruel. Not only does he have to respond to biological urges he doesn’t understand, he also has to come to terms with the fact that his wife offed him. Billy’s not the most hyper-aware guy on the planet, but he’s getting hit with a rush of reality at a head-spinning rate. It quickly becomes apparent to him what is important in his life and how it all fits together- only it’s too late. You can’t bring back the dead. You don’t get a do-over.

Oh, shit. I’m depressing myself here. My problem, I guess, was that I could really identify with Billy. There were somethings he said and did that were just textbook Caris. It was painful seeing those things laid out in front of me, perfectly fitting pieces to a puzzle of absurdity. But that’s helpful, right? Just because Billy’s fucked doesn’t mean I have to be, too.

Ick. On to the funny bits. There are a lot of funny bits. In fact, this book made me laugh more in its whopping 57 pages than any other book I’ve read in recent memory. Or extended memory, for that matter. The set up and delivery of each situation was done beautifully and made for an extremely satisfying experience.

My favorite part was near the beginning. Billy (in Tina’s body), his pal Tucker (in Julia’s body), and Edgar (in his sheep’s body) all go down to the neighborhood bar to see the extent of the body switching damage. While there, they learn a great deal about the nocturnal habits of their buddies. Where the bar would usually be filled with grown men, it’s now filled with women- including a couple of teenage girls. What I enjoyed the most was how surprised and impressed the guys were with some of their peers. And when the body switches meant certain death (by the hand of spouse or teenage girl’s father) for the fellas. I can’t possibly articulate it, but it was fucking hilarious.

Steve Lowe is the shit. I am looking forward to reading his other book Wolves Dressed as Men as soon as humanly possible.

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The cover has been unveiled!

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A little bit about it: As you may have guessed (if your brain is, in fact, functional) the cover image is a parody of the iconic “American Gothic” painting by Grant Wood. This subject of this piece is often believed to be a man and his wife, when, in reality, it is of a man and his daughter. I chose this particular image because it documents (among other things) the traditional roles of men and women in American society. One of the predominant themes in The Egg Said Nothing is change. While our society has experienced a lot of change over the last century, there’s no denying that many of our ingrained perceptions ring true. Mindless acceptance of such beliefs forges us into idiots, with nothing in our heads worth mentioning. Can we change? Should we? Is there a point?

The Magnificent Seven

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The next generation of bizarro has arrived. Meet the authors of Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author Series.

Called The Magnificent Seven by adoring fans across the globe, these assholes are bringing you what you didn’t know you were missing. There’s a whole lotta weird shit going on here, so check it out:

Muscle MemorySteve Lowe

Billy Gillespie wakes up one morning to discover his junk is gone. In its place is his wife’s junk. Billy is now Tina, and Tina is dead. That’s because Billy’s dead. His lifeless body is still in bed and empty beer bottles and a container of antifreeze litter the kitchen counter. Over the next 24 hours, Billy and an odd assortment of neighbors, all experiencing their own bouts of body switcheroo, try to figure out what happened and why. Can they do it before the Feds find Billy’s body? Was it aliens that caused this, or God, or the government? And did Edgar Winter really sleep with his sheep? Pro football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw has those answers in a story that asks, What Would Kirk Cameron Do?

How to Eat Fried FurriesNicole Cushing

Furries-you know, people in animal costumes. You may love them. You may hate them. But chances are, you have not considered eating them…until now! Not since the early days of Monty Python has dark satire so subversive reared its ugly head! From the Hellmouth of the Heartland, Nicole Cushing brings you How To Eat Fried Furries-your guide on how to raise furries as livestock and cook ’em up tender and tasty. The cast of characters is as motley and grotesque as one would imagine given such a premise. There’s the misshapen, proto-furry cast of the ’70s action-adventure show, Ferret Force Five. Extraterrestrial Squirrels. The Amish and the even more despicable Pseudo-Amish. Whether an avid Bizarro fan or a newcomer to this wave of weird fiction, you’re bound to be satisfied once you take a bite out of How To Eat Fried Furries.

Love in the Time of DinosaursKirsten Alene

DINOSAURS! LOVE! WAR! MONASTIC LIVING! Three days after his partner is bitten in half by a brachiosaur, a nameless monk meets the love of his life. Her name is Petunia. She is a dinosaur. But a twenty-year war between their species is about to come to a head, and only one will survive. To be together, the monk and the dinosaur must fight their way through hordes of pterodactyl samurai, anti-aircraft stegosaurs, gigantic kamikaze moths, and machine gun-wielding tyrannosaurs. Love in the Time of Dinosaurs is a surreal war tale of forbidden love, betrayal, and magic kung-fu. Forget Jurassic Park, this is the greatest dinosaur story ever told.

Felix and the Sacred ThorJames Steele

HUMANITY’S FATE IS IN THE HANDS OF HE WHO WIELDS THE SACRED THOR! “Epic quests don’t involve the internet or TV! They involve sex toys and manly, hard-bodied, larger-than-life heroes defying physics, logic and insurmountable odds, spitting out quotable, highly marketable catchphrases all the while!” -The Sacred Horse Felix might not quite fit this description, but he’s trying. After retrieving the most powerful weapon in the world from the Sacred Horse and proving himself a pervert of the purest heart, he sets upon an epic quest to destroy the kamikaze alien invaders poised to eliminate the entire human race. Invaders have implanted themselves in the college graduates standing in unemployment lines-the very backbone of the nation’s economy. They’ve positioned themselves in the city’s grease transmission system, without which America will starve to death in minutes. They threaten the digital children, who cannot survive without their Internet connections. They even threaten Bob. College taught Felix how to please a horse. It didn’t prepare him for the challenge of using an upgradeable horse dildo as a weapon to free himself from his tyrannical bosses at work and become a warrior for humanity.

Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating InanimalsKirk Jones

Reborn as an oozing humanoid composed of vitreous humor after a sudden death via a disembodied hand and a wood chipper, Gary Olstrom found no difficulty in saying goodbye to the life he once knew. After all, he had become quite adept at saying goodbye, to his right arm in a hardware store accident at eight, to his parents in a fiery car crash, to his right leg in a factory mishap, and to the only person who ever tried to help him in an untimely bus collision. What he never prepared for was saying goodbye to misfortune, until he found Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating Inanimals. Therein, Gary finds refuge training furniture to copulate before spectators who vomit in applause. But while Gary’s luck shifts for the better, cities left in the wake of the carnival’s visits disappear; many are murdered. With his pet desk Akimbo and his empty-socketed girlfriend-turned-futon, Liberty, Gary attempts to unravel this mystery, culminating in a re-imagining of America to rival that of Benedict Anderson’s! Well, not quite…but there is furniture porn.

Bucket of FaceEric Hendrixson

Thirteen years after a police officer searching a suspected child
molester’s home spilled a vial of silver pollen, America is still
struggling with how to recognize its sentient fruit population.
Charles is just a normal guy working at a doughnut shop until an apple
and a banana shoot each other in a mafia dispute, leaving a briefcase
full of foreign currency and a specimen bucket at the corner booth.
When Charles turns the wiseguys into doughnuts and steals their
luggage, hoping for a better life for himself and his kiwi fruit
girlfriend, he finds himself in the middle of a mafia war. As his
girlfriend travels the DC metro area, selling off the contents of the
bucket, Charles finds he is the target of a seasoned hit-tomato, who
happens to be the biggest Michael Jackson fan who ever lived.

The Egg Said NothingCaris O’Malley

Meet Manny. He’s your average shut-in with a penchant for late night television and looting local fountains for coins. With eight locks on his door and newspapers covering his windows, he’s a more than a bit paranoid, too. His wasn’t a great life, but it was comfortable-at least it was until the morning he awoke with an egg between his legs. But what might have been a curse becomes a charm as this unlikely event leads him to all night diner, where he finds inedible pie, undrinkable coffee, and the girl of his dreams. But can this unexpected chance at love survive after the egg cracks and time itself turns against him, dead-set on rerouting history and putting a shovel to the face of the one person who could bring real and lasting change to Manny’s world?