Review: I Like Turtles by G. Arthur Brown (Strange Edge Publications; 2014)

4 Jan

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“When Television Ends”

A woman in a burlap sack. A hickey bestowed by a theatre critic neighbor after a life-size puppet show because the television stopped working. A ludicrous flash of supercilious nonsense drizzled in cheesy effects.

“The Advantages of Smelling Bacon At The Moment of Death”

A truly absurdist bizarro mini western. You will laugh. You will cry. But most all: prepare to be dazzled. Also: the description of a bacon-wrapped limb may cause hunger pains. Be prepared to be estranged from your own instincts.

“A Short Call From Ionesco, Act 1”

An irreverent mini play that offers a flash of Ionesco while barely containing him.

“Funeral Disease”

This one reminded me a bit of “All You Zombies” by Robert E. Heinlein because both stories feature time-travel paradoxes coupled with gender confusion. Although this one appears more outwardly macabre, I found Heinlein’s tale to be more sinister and this one to be more black comedy.

“The Marvelous Marble Midget and The Mites”

A hilarious parody (or celebration of) performance art or the creation of a new type of art that could be deemed ‘living art’–the last line of the story, however, could decidedly alert the more prudish set of the general readership heading for the hills for their pin-striped stockings and ant helmets.

“The World Wasn’t the World Anymore”

While the line regarding the hippie chick being cute enough to overlook the fact that she was a hippy chick might leave SOME rolling in hysterics, others may find a simply devious satirist at work here, underming the very foundations of civility.

“Make a Better Brody”

Referencing both Jaws and ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ in the same short piece, our narrator must have been drinking the intoxitating sea water of dead manatee from the very beginning to have such lucid fever dreams.

“The Rape Cake”

A very disturbing premise with a shocking ending. This is not the sort of party you’d wish to attend.

“Brain Harvest”

Clevery subverting the it-was-all-a-dream cliche ending, this one has an ending with a simply monstous twist.

“Grape Will Be Fine”

An undercurrent of sadness uppercuts this litlle ditty about the depressing sight of inedible food and the complicated requests that can sometimes utter from lairs of senility.

“Holy Olivia Orphanage”

A lot of layers to this one, actually. Multiple ghosts are created from one murder, including a five-headed ghost with distinct voices depending on the speaking head. The last line resounds with pathos.

“A Rest Room İncident Amidst Gripping Conversation”

İf you’ve never been to a women’s restroom or a Genesis concert, this could be the story for you–unless, that is, you don’t like severe and sinister endings.

“His Blind Friend Daniel”

Sort like a proverb with a cryptic message. The spot where the lesson or moral should go is a blurry banner asking you to descend a hallucinated ladder to its opening steps.

“Leg Shopping”

This one was similar to the humor and surreal nature of Daniil Kharms’ work.
It is what it says it’s about, but what he does with the legs once he buys them–that’s the icky part.

“Astounding Adventures of Cyril Bright Ch XI: A Place Beauteous of Which I Dare Not Speak”

Polaroids serve as evidence after mind-altering experiences; however, there are times when you could do without reminders of ALL that has been placed inside your mouth.

“Look Alike”

A man walks into a coffee shop who like–Now wait a second here. Are you expecting me to spoil the surprise, the punchline, and the grand reveal? You must be mad.

“A Phone Call From Ionesco, Act II”

Violence ensues in lieu of true therapist methods, and all because a doctor was unable to take off his lab coat and so alter his profession.

“Diff’rent Stroke Fan Fic #1: The Look-Alikes”

Arnold is mistaken for Barrack Obama by a young girl yet his butler, as it turns out, is even more smitten to keep the lie alive than anyone–with disastrous consequences.

“Band of Bass”

‘Like a Beatles-esque Gang of Four with three basses’ is how our narrator’s friend’s college band is described in this tale, however the sad but cryptic refrain of ‘I pulled your mother’s pork’ serves to beckon this particular Brit’s untimely demise.

“The Weeping Consort”

Turkish men make mechanical cats. The craftsmanship is fine, yet we are strolling down a picture-perfect postcard of a seaside strip known as ‘olden days.’

“Getting Plugged In”

Men able to multiply should be trusted, yet in the future maybe you too will allow one sincere version of a such a man to paint your black patent leather shoes in white-out before plugging an appliance cord into your head.

“The Special Doctor”

There’s a war in your mouth, but the doctor’s mouth remains sealed as if a forbidden dungeon and it still beckons and sings with lock-jawed vengeance.

“Hell Block”

A lone red pubic she discovers in your tightie whities leads to a curse which leads to a store selling faux remedies where our heroic optometrist meets a tranny and they live happily ever after. Oops. Spoiled that one. The synopsis just read too wackily not to spill the beans.

“Wet Land”

When wearing silk garments, always remember to make three faces at once when lazing about in a camp of air mattresses.

“The Missing Edge”

Reading teen magazines in the park, a girl recalls cutting out her sisters’ eyes and her mother’s tongue.

“Cop Boxer”

A dream-like tale about a boxer in the ring with his gloves glued together facing an unsympathetic opponent as an audience of trolls cheer for blood.

“Transexual Meth Addicts With Marshmallow Eyes”

This hilariously titled piece does indeed contain what it promises. This has to be the first time I’ve encountered a death-by-breast scene.

“It Happened By Mistake”

Talking tables are threatened to be sharpened into pencils, but that description makes this sound too goofy. This is surrealism with a sense of terror like Max Ernst’s work.

“The Hare in the Hair”

A hare who wants only to eat hair may get loose in your lawn and call forth the hair from your hare’s fur, follicle by follicle.

“Astounding Adventures of Cyril Bright Ch XXIII: A Meeting With the Chancellor of Mysteria”

Another wacky chapter from a manuscript. The uptight Victorian style of the writing in these uneventful chapters serves as a contrast to some of the darker stories.

“The Russians”

Gogol may be hidden in nesting dolls, and Daniil Kharms appears. I theorized earlier that G. Arthur Brown must be a fan!

“James Franco v. Shea Lebouf”

Two celebrities with bloated egos (hold on, that s redundant) battle it out while nobody watches (for a change).

“The Fellow on the Balcony”

Below nuns converse. Above a yarn is spun, yet the nuns may find its source deplorable due to the looming centerfolds.

“A Public Luncheon”

The question to be or to be answered: will he dine ON a monkey or WITH a monkey.

“Life (The Car Model, Not the Thing You Lead)”

Ill-made chocolate milk rotates onto a scene of philosophical arguments.

“The Trouble With the Bleeding Hearts”

Brown here makes a metaphor literal, puns, and takes us on a magic carpet ride of grotesque absurdity.

“Sorcerer or Genius”

This one has the tone of a lab report, speckled with evil acts that only a sorcerer of the black arts would commit.

“Where Babies Come From”

When paying for somebody else’s bar mitzvah photos with an eighty dollar bill, remember to remind your wife to stir the sauce every 15 seconds or your baby might impregnate itself, grow wings, and fly away before it is to be sacrificed.

“Fat Cat”

Imagine a tale in which your cat losing weight contributes to your own weight loss.

“The New Absurdist”

An Irishman and an African American woman argue about who or what a mystical train might contain.

“Poor November”

November gets personified as a wounded woman trampled over by the greedy December-lovers as our quaint narrator sips eggnog beside the roasting television watching low budget sci fi movies.

“Astounding Adventures of Cyril Bright Ch XXXIII: A Change of Lighting and of Fortune Also”

This chapter would make a great premise for a novel: the sun has gone out and unknown monsters roam the world.

“Blood Poison”

After tattooing names and numbers to his children’s bald heads, a man and his friends make scarecrows come to life and attempt to play baseball with them. This tale then develops into an eerie realm where madness prospers like a field of eager flowers.

“Last Night with Marvel”

Loved the magical realist element of this one. A chinese restaurant that is literally a hole in the wall. Very lucid and characteristically irreverent.

“What It Means To Mow”

A maniacal and funny piece about a man convinced his mowing is a primeval act of great importance and that his client is secretly trying to poison him.

“Bad Days”

A burst of a post-apocalyptic tale told in three dimly synchronous fragments.

“Geordio’s Rooster Flock”

Roosters dislike their eggs even though they can’t lay them. They can lay little golf ball-like things that act as a psychoactive drug on the narrator’s consciousness.

“Sweat Bees”

An unsympathetic but helpful Jesus saves our narrator from an unwholesome fate but fails to notice the poisonous sweat beads zigzagging after him in the sky.

“This Year’s Exhibition”

The Einstein-haired scientists may have had an adverse reaction to sex, but at least the horses end up having a grand dinner of neighing and cavorting because the exhibition did not fulfill the promise of last year’s.

“Barbarous Hellstorm”

A conversation about a way to make a wacky sequel to Braveheart.

“Window in the Wife”

This takes seeing through someone to a whole new level, yet when her glass gets cracked he notices the other men leering in at him.

“Writing in Tongues”

I do wonder what the ancient script on the dead boy’s tongue said.

“A Phone Call From Ionesco, Act III”

We return to the theme of enemies and friends living inside of bodies as the mini play concludes.

“A Vision of the Future”

Several terrifying visions of the future unfold, including a disordered misinterpretation of the Robin Hood franchise and tiny toilet attendants to assist with the eggs .

Overall, a miraculous and astounding collection of bizarre ideas. I preferred the stories that were slightly darker and lucid and contained self-contained worlds of Brown’s unbridled imagination rather than the ones that contained too many pop culture references. The best ones are like glittering hieroglyphics, turning the world inside out through puns and unexpected shifts in logic and reality.

Get I Like Turtles.

Learn more about G. Arthur Brown here at his blog.

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