Book Reviews
Sep 26, 2005, 18:52

DERMAPHORIA / THE CONTORTIONIST'S HANDBOOK by Craig Clevenger; Anchor Canada, 2006 / Harper Perennial, 2003

Christ he's HOT. Two beautifully written novels about loss, fraud, forgery, memory and intoxication. Clevenger's genius is in tackling transgressive behaviours with such sexy poetry. “I PANICKED AND SWALLOWED A HANDFUL OF FIREFLIES AND BLACK WIDOWS the inferno had not.”  So opens his second novel Dermaphoria. Badly burned and suffering amnesia Eric Ashworth wakes up to be released from jail and attempts to comprehend the fragments of his shattered memory. Musing on want and man's insatiable nature “Everything in the universe is everything else. A man is a killer is a saint is a monkey is a cockroach is a goldfish is a whale, and the Devil is just the angel who asked for More.” Clevenger breaks my fucking heart.

In The Contortionist's Handbook “I can count my overdoses on one hand.” I can empathize. A few painkillers too many might wipe out the migraine or might land your ass in a county hospital trying to sweet talk your way out of the psyche ward. Young master forger dabbles in drugs, strippers, low level hoods, has a bleeding need to disappear and constantly re-invent himself, stirs up a shit-storm of trouble, which in spite of “Drowning man's promise. Junkie-gambler's promise: I'm going to get better, find help” just ain't gonna happen. Adrenaline is the most addictive substance known to man. Supping on Dermaphoria and The Contortionist's Handbook... man, I mainline. And just like that dirty angel the Devil... if I had Clevenger's ear to my lips I'd be whispering MORE MORE MORE.

-Lydia Lunch

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