Tag Archives: D. Harlan Wilson

Cultographies: They Live

I have long been a fan of D. Harlan Wilson‘s distinct brand of Bizarro. Wildly intellectual yet just goofy enough to keep you on your toes. When I was asked to review his volume of the Cultographies series, I said I would. It’s a total dissection of the 1988 cult classic film, They Live, directed by John Carpenter.

The book did its time in my reading pile until the unfortunate passing of wrestling legend and star of They Live, Roddy Piper. I then withdrew it from the stack and dug in.

This is not a book for everyone. It is a serious essay (a long one at that) about the film’s historical, cultural, and social implications. The politics at play in the film and even in the way it was shot. I found the entire book and the concepts jaw-dropping. Sure, it gets a bit dry, but if you weather through you’ll be amazed. The amount of research that had to be done, the days of watching that fucking movie over and over and over… Wilson is a force to be reckoned with. His writing is sharp and academic, but not alienating in any way. If you’re a fan of the subject matter you can easily gobble the book down in a single sitting.

There are several other films tackled in the Cultographies series, from The Evil Dead and Donnie Darko to Bad Taste and Blade Runner. They are all written by different authors and are available through Wallflower Press.

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Primordial: An Abstraction

There really isn’t a lot you can say about the work of D. Harlan Wilson. I know that I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel stupid every time I read something he writes. The man wields words like tools and weapons, goes at you with surgical precision and gets at those wounds with the heavy tools. So heady and wild are his plots (if you can all them such) that by the time I’ve finished, I usually think I may need to start again to figure out what I’ve missed.

He was one of the first of a class and style called Bizarro that I long ago encountered. I have read a lot of the stuff since and I still insist, Wilson is one of the best. While his work does contain some of the oddly goofy, almost cartoonish escapades that his contemporaries often purvey, his is tightly leashed with psycho-intellectual philosophies and down right unwieldy lectures that somehow work and fight like puzzle pieces.

His newest novella is called Primordial: An Abstraction. I shall do my best to interpret for you: A professor is busted for toxic teaching and sent back to redo his Ph.D. Sent to a dorm room that he shares with countless others, he begins a wildly paranoid and claustrophobic nightmare of educational bureaucratic bullshit as well as an epidemic of pornography. He immerses himself in anger, violence, and obsessive weight-training. For every step he seemingly makes towards his beloved degree, he slides back on the blood of those he’s terrorized.

I dug this book. Did I get it? I’d say, maybe a little. But I am a lover of words. Any words. All words. I just like looking at them and saying them and seeing them in strings. Wilson weaves wonderful strings. If you have the resolve to dabble in the real deal of Bizarro, if you’re growing bored of Palahniuk and his edgy-for-edginess’-sake offerings, then maybe it’s time to unhook the training wheels and give Wilson a go.

Available through Anti-Oedipus press.

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I’m no stranger to the deliriously literate bizarro offerings of D. Harlan Wilson. I even had the pleasure of interviewing the man, an interview which proved almost as difficult to navigate as his prose yet is so damned intriguing you can’t give up.

His newest, a short book that is split between a pair of novellas, is called Diegeses, a word that means a style of fiction wherein the narrator is telling or recounting, as opposed to showing and enacting. But you can rest assured that a simple structure like that would be bent and twisted in the capable strong hands of Mr. Wilson.

The first novella is entitled “The Bureau of Me” and concerns the strange plight of a man called Curd. Curd may or may not be entirely human. He likes to drink to excess, to clear his head for thinking and plotting. He likes to fuck his assistant, often, and in strange places. He trudges through a futuristic city where people are eaten, literally and figuratively. He attempts to find the agenda and faces behind the mysterious Bureau of Me, who have been harassing him to join their ranks. During his quest he encounters sex, copious amounts of alcohol, moth men, stuttering and strange realities…and then shit gets really weird.

The second half is the novella “The Idaho Reality.” Our main character is once again Curd, although in this tale he goes by the name and persona of soap star Seneca Beaulac. This second stage is much harder to decipher than the lead in. The words seem to want to leap from the page and gouge the eyes that don’t quite comprehend. A stranger and different animal than its predecessor. Still deftly intriguing.

Diegeses is higher brow than a lot of bizarro. It is a book that must be read and then re-read, some sections multiple times, and even then you may not fully understand what’s going on…but damned if it isn’t entertaining and interesting.

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