DERMAPHORIA by Craig Clevenger


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Gonzo, wired psychodrama from Clevenger (The Contortionist’s Handbook, 2002), who splices and reshuffles reality in prose that reads like something ripped screaming straight out of the unconscious.

The story starts inside the head of the extremely disturbed and confused Eric Ashworth, who’s trying to piece together exactly why and how in the hell he ended up where he is. At the moment, wrists and feet cuffed to a chair, he’s being interrogated by a testy police detective and his defense attorney, neither of whom Ashworth’s convinced are quite human. He can tell they’re quickly running out of patience with him, perhaps understandably, since he’s constantly hallucinating and drifting in and out of fugue states. Out on bail, Ashworth checks into a fleabag hotel that could have dropped straight out of a William Vollman novel and begins to get bits of his memory back. He’s helped, sort of, by the appearance of one Manhattan White, who claims to be an old associate, and psychopathic henchman Toe Tag, described by Ashwort as, “Goddamned Boo Radley with a chloroform rag and a bone saw.” It seems that at some point in the near past, Ashworth was the evil-scientist nerve center for a network of drug labs strung all over the Southwest, constantly synthesizing new drug compounds for all the designer junkies with the attention spans of mayflies. But then the whole operation went up in flames, and Ashworth’s memory gets a bit cloudy after that. Cutting through the buckshot randomness of his recollections, he can at least pick out the girl he must have been in love with: Desiree, whose name “numbs me like an animal dart and drops my thoughts in their tracks.”

Gloriously shifty puzzle-fiction whose resolution is much less important than the kaleidoscopic journey towards it.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 2005
ISBN: 1-931561-75-3
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2005


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