HAPPY MUTANT BABY PILLS by Jerry Stahl

HAPPY MUTANT BABY PILLS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Stahl’s (Pain Killers, 2009, etc.) eighth novel trips through the travails of Lloyd, copywriter and heroin junkie.

And what a trip it is: ribald, tumbling through a don’t-look-back narrative, laced with rude, wicked and beyond-the-edge social observations. Lloyd is "[a]nother doomed DeLillo with a day job," a career path spiraling downward from writing sanitized pharmaceutical side effects warnings through Penthouse Forum fake letters to disingenuous shills for Christian Swingles, a dating site. Lloyd is fueled by heroin, his maintenance drug after a career of "Plexiglas-cut crack, questionable E, bathtub crank." It’s only self-destructive until he’s conned into a fake robbery by Swingle cohorts and then exiled by Greyhound from Tulsa to LA. In transit, he meets Nora, a "buxom bad-attitude pixie...and...wanna-martyr." Nora’s paranoia seduces him into murder; her addicting sexuality prompts him to commit another. In LA, Lloyd signs on as a writer specializing in sexual perversion deaths for the CSI franchise. What appears to be a sendup of big pharma, television from Bruckheimer to Oprah, genetically modified organisms, Christian dating, Oral Roberts and the greeting card industry then veers into eco-surrealism. Nora claims pregnancy, the sire, a high-powered CEO, and after a quick segue into the foibles of Occupy-rallying LA hippies, Nora begins ingesting chemicals—"half the sprays and solvents in the household cleaning aisle, along with enough of the Physicians’ Desk Reference to fill the trunk of a Buick." Nora intends to birth a mutant baby—"a message, a global warning, a kind of toxic inoculation of the entire species." No cheers are due Lloyd or Nora, and supporting characters are equally deformed, including former Christian Swingle workmates Jay and Riegle, a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pairing fantasizing about riding Nora’s pregnancy into reality television wealth. A grotesque and lurid allegorical tale, this is not for the faint of heart.  

Bukowski spawned the School of Dirty Realism. Consider this Dirty Surrealism, social satire as aberrant hipster irony.

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-199050-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2013




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