Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Fistful of Meth

Frank Bill
FSG Originals (2012)
Anthony Vacca's rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Is this book about the horrors of  crystal meth and how a drug such as this, one that is synthetic in nature, acts as an analogy for the growing resentment as well as and dependency of the industrialization of corporatization and the effects therein on rural communities, that, in turn,  are more or less becoming the raw resources for the next financial high of some select group of men and women with fifty dollar haircuts and the killer suits to match, the elite group of  tha less than 1 % of tycoon royalty in the United States, those white men and women who have never set foot in one patch of these aforementioned rural communities—like the drug dealer and the lives of the people he ruins with his mind-rotting wares—because they live in towers made of glass ivy where they  count finger by finger every dollar made, every dollar saved, and frown at every finger/dollar lost?

No, this book isn’t about that.

Then, is it about poverty and the way it pushes people—people who have been no further than twenty miles down the road from the house where they was born; boys and girls who grew up short-sighted in dreams and do by rote the same as their daddies and mommies did before; people who fell in love or made those easy mistakes early on, thinking about love and now they got themselves a little one to have to think about, but don’t worry ‘cause a man is gonna do what a man has gotta do, just like his daddy taught him, and where’s the girl gonna go anyhow with a little mouth to feed, and she sure as shit can’t finish high school what with tending to the baby and all, and the boy tells her don’t worry he’s gonna drop out hisself and get that job at the company mine and make eleven hunnerd dollar a week easy, as long he’s strong and able; people who  pretty soon see that that kid’s getting older with more and more costs tagging along with each inch they grow, and also, what do you know the boy and girl who ain’t looking much like their own age these days because trying at being an adult ages you fast, what do you know when there’s childs two and three and four and it’s like they never seemed to quite figure it out how it is that these kids keep popping out, but daddy can’t even say don’t worry about it on account, I got work, because the mine’s getting shut down and they’re looking at a mountain they can rearrange like a face with a pair of fists and won’t even need as near many backs to break to fet that coal they want, and besides, that leg of daddy’s aint ever been what it once was since that you can barely even call it a cave-in happened and damn near sent him straight to God;  and God, God, God, who’s gonna hire me now and how am I gonna feed these little ones, and how am I gonna make sure not a one of my sons looks in the mirror one day and sees me—and that’s the way it pushes people to commit acts of violence, all for the desperate dream on having enough, having more, having something they were promised called America and there’s no way to get around it without heavy hands; and is this book about that dream and what any man or woman you meet is willing to do, acts that most men and women never knew they were capable of committing, to seize hold of it?

No. It isn’t about that.

Then what?

Well, plain and simple, Donnybrook is about is people fucking up other people. And there all doing it in southern Indiana.

There doing it at Donnybrook, an annual bare-fisted brawl with a thousand dollar entry fee and a 100,000 cash payout if you’re still alive and standing. But the men and women of this novel—each with their own hankering for that prize—have to manage to get themselves there first. And that means they’re going to have to fuck up a lot of people along the way.

Have I been crass so far in this review? Cynical? Careless in grammar and dialect? Well, guess what: that’s exactly the way Frank Bill writes out this fast-moving hick lit of apocalyptic proportions. On nearly every page of the book there is an act of violence. Someone getting a bone shattered. A body part severed. In general, a lot of blood spilt out of their insides.

And Frank Bill gives it all to us with the hypnotic glee of some madman ringside announcer. He gives each opponent that steps onto his pages have as much personality as one of those steroid-crazed freaks in a TV wrestling match. There’s a guy who used to have a face before a chainsaw took care of that. There is a Chinese kung-fu expert of some super-secret and super-deadly school of fighting. There is a woman with a body made of and for sinning. There is brawler with as much love for violence as meth. There is a cop with a lot of dirty secrets and the notion to put people in the ground as a means of coping with them. There is a shotgun-wielding prophet with visions of the apocalypse, of those bad, bad days to come to Indiana, and maybe even the world? And there is the underdog, our good enough for a hero, our fighter who is just trying to do what he has to do to get that cash prize so he can feed his family.

And that last character is as much of a moral compass as you’re going to find in the story. Also, that’s about all the depth you’ll find in these characters. There is no time for introspection or subtlety. Fuck restraint. There’s no time for shit like that with the amount of mayhem that Frank Bill crams onto the page. Hell, it’s all the characters can do to fight off one person, before the next threat’s coming their way. So what we end up having here is a book that, most of the time, feels like an extended fight scene.

Not that this isn’t awesome in its own thrill-a-minute way; and it’s not like Frank Bill doesn’t know what he is doing: there’s a lot of writing pyrotechnics going on that’ll jar your eyes right out of your skull.

But there was a reason I made such a gratuitous mess of those two introductory sentences. Because, unlike most books that are being categorized as “hick lit” these days, this book does not really deal with the human travails of low income lives of desperation. This book does not deal with the potentials of ecological despair and how that reflects the very psyche of an increasingly commoditized human race. And this book is not about violence as a result of external or existential factors. No, this book is purely about pure violence; in a way, it as if the author is experimenting in making a novel that is nothing but violence—a book as an act of violence. Which is interesting in and of its self, but if you are come here looking for much more than that, then look elsewhere.

But if you want to speed-read your way through a blood-sharp knife of a book about grotesque, drug-fueled rednecks, then here’s your book.

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