Bizarro Blursday: Cassie-la Reviews “Editorial” by Arthur Graham

Editorial by Arthur Graham (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, apocalypse, satire, experimental, David Lynch in prose
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary: A cyclical tale about nature, life, and the world, told in constantly flowing narrative shifts. Set throughout time, from the beginning of humanity to a world ravaged by global cooling and into the distant future where the human race has evolved into something wholly different. Editorial is nothing and everything, told from every perspective in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person with every conceivable narrator. It is the only book like it you will ever read.

This is the first time I have ever read a book that I considered to be a complete mind fuck. David Lynch in prose. No clear genre. I finished not exactly sure what I had read or what I was meant to learn when I reached the last page. Like the ouroboros on its cover, the narrative was cyclical with a similar story being written and retold in a constantly shifting narrative. When I finished I felt like I had read a book within a book within a book. Is it the Inception of books? Almost.

The initial story opens with our nameless narrator, recently having become an orphan and forced to live with his horrid aunt and uncle after his parents died in a horrific car accident that he inexplicably survived. He spends his days eating, reading, and masturbating until one day he is ejected from their home and wanders through the desert. At which point he sheds his skin and turns into a snake. What what what?

What follows is a series of narrators, from the orphan boy to a traveling salesman, an editor who is writing a similar story about the orphan boy but set in the future, someone who is hired by the possible orphan boy to write his life story which becomes the content of this book (who may or may not be the editor), all of whom write in leather bound black books, the list goes on and on. As if the changing narrators wasn’t enough, the point of view also changes from 1st to 3rd person and occasionally in 2nd. There’s even some breaking of the 4th wall/glorious meta-fiction when Graham writes, “My editor is telling me…” Is it still called the 4th wall in literature, or would it be breaking the 3rd page?

A great deal of the novel is set in the year 2483, with the first female president, who is essentially the best president of all time in the public eye. Girl power! She has cut carbon emissions, unemployment, crime rates, prison overcrowding, and has legalized weed and used the extra tax money earned off it to fund universal healthcare. I’d definitely do that last bit if I were president, it would probably get us out of our economic slump.

However, the lowered carbon emissions somehow results in a worldwide global cooling, with the increased frozen water dropping sea levels thousands of feet, turning beaches into giant cliffs and revealing the long lost city of Atlantis. As we are told, “Predictably, this turn of events resulted in much jubilation and declarations of ‘told ya so’ amongst those whose forefathers had somehow managed to remain skeptical of global warming, even as dead polar bears floated through their backyards on the flooded banks of the Mississippi.” Hysterical satire like this pervades the pages, and makes the glimpse into the future even more ridiculous. Not to mention the dolphin rape and the government created Ark Force One.

Even farther into the future, all the books are stricken with a disease which makes them come to life with an appetite for human flesh. Literally, killer books. There is a hierarchy in the book food chain with hardcovers at the very top. Obviously. The narrator recalls a time when some people, “Couldn’t be troubled at all to pick up a book in earlier times (at least one that wasn’t about vampires, celebrities, or chicken soup)”. Oh humanity, you are such easy fodder, you and your hatred for the written word and the delicious smell of a new book. Although I wouldn’t attempt to smell a ravenous book from the future.

Throughout the narrative shifts it becomes increasingly apparent that we are dealing with an untrustworthy narrator, one who allows others to write his history as they see fit, who alters his own history, and who even claims to be immortal. Or an immortal snake. Whichever way you read it. Speaking of, the snake is a constant them throughout the text, from the one on the cover, the snake eating itself (AKA the ouroboros), references to slithering, people devouring one another whole, and plenty of biblical references. As expected, there is even a retelling of Adam and Eve which plays into the rest of the story here and there.

One of the things I love about Graham’s writing is the way in which he plays with vocabulary. For once I actually needed to use my Kindle to look up words, and that’s just fine by me. From vittles/victuals, which means food or provisions to onanistic oeuvre, a kenning for a collection of masturbatory materials, and even podiatric parts in place of feet, it quickly became apparent that Graham is one smart fellow. No awkward out of place thesaurus use here, just bold, intelligent prose.

Editorial is incredibly ambitious, with multiple narratives, retellings, connective elements, interweaving timelines, and a plot that reads like a moebius strip. However, this is also its downfall for some, and certain readers might be thrown off by the confusing plot and immense scope. Regardless of these tiny qualms, the novella is incredibly well written and Graham has a pitch perfect sense of humor. It’s my first foray into a Bizarro Press selection and will not be my last.

THE GOOD:
-Well written, full of thought provoking content
-Like nothing I’ve ever read before
-Great and exciting vocabulary that had me putting my Kindle dictionary to use
-Extreme sense of humor and satire throughout

THE BAD:
-Experimental nature makes it confusing at times

I have often heard it said that bizarro fiction is, “The literary equivalent of a David Lynch”, but I can honestly say this is the most Lynchian prose I have ever read, and not just because it reminds me of Lost Highway. It’s probably the desert, and the idea of time as cyclical. Or the fact that the nameless narrator is now and will always be Bill Pullman in my mind.

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