Paranoid fugue? Homage to David Lynch? Or nihilistic bildungsroman? A loud gate-crasher at the experimental-fiction pool party, Mangels can't figure out how to focus his debut, but it's to his credit that he doesn't really try. At the gurgling epicenter of a novel composed mainly of baroque references to pop culture (sentences go on for pages) lives Frank, not so much a character as an unbound Frankenstein's media monster for the 20th century's final, grisly act, ``the sum of everything dark and sticky.'' Frank is born a ``post-human mutant'' and doggedly pursues that birthright through an existence distinguished by vile habits (he scrounges cigarette butts at age five and vomits enthusiastically) and punctuated by withering verbal broadsides against parents, teachers (``corporate burger flippers''), yuppie ``Cogs,'' and unwitting peers. His spiritual comrades are Charles Manson, Hitler, and Walt Disney. A cyberpunk savant negotiating the dulled edge of a decrepit language, Frank never suffers a loss for words and disdains role models (he seems to have sprung fully formed from a TV set) until he chances across Frank Booth, the depraved villain played by Dennis Hopper in the film Blue Velvet. In Booth, Frank finds his guru, big-screen doppelgÑnger, and raison d'àtre: ``Blue Velvet WAS Frank's World...and it unfolded before him like a battle plan.'' With Booth's guidance, Frank can zero in on Viv La France—``Venus in a short skirt''—and father Ooze McSlug, a demonic progeny who terrorizes kittens and subsists on a visual diet of ultraviolent '70s cinema. When Viv takes off with Ooze, the state confines Frank to a Nursing Camp, which he escapes only to confront a Masonic/Miltonic vision of Hell (involving giant winged lizards that consume entrails) before a figure from his past reappears to exact revenge. Burroughs without the implicit foghorn wit, Jay Cantor minus the quicksilver erudition. Sometimes dazzling, but frequently self-indulgent.
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