“Well, first you need to collect the menses rags of a seven-hundred-year-old witch. Then, you need to stitch them up inside of a dead goat’s urinary bladder on a full moon’s night. From then on, it gets a bit unpleasant.” – from The Cobbler of Buttercup, Based on a True Story, in Rusty Nails and Broken Glass
So, it’s been a while, huh? Blogging remains low on the to do list, but I’ve been drawn out of my cave by the return of bizarro author S.C. Hayden, whose earlier work, American Idol, I glowingly reviewed here, back in May of ’11. Hayden sent me a review copy of his new anthology, Rusty Nails and Broken Glass, a collection of short stories. This was perfect, considering how much of my time lately is spent reading things that could hardly be called “fun” or even “entertaining”, and the short story format really gave me the time to look at it in dribs and drabs, as my schedule allowed.
How to describe it? It’s kinda hard. Reviews often use the word macabre to describe works like this. I think it’s an apt description. The stories vary in the extent of how much they depart from reality as we know it, ranging from the “Holy shit, this is messed up!” variation as seen in the book’s opener, She’s My Everything, where a guy goes for a one-night stand and ends up lovingly taking care of the creature pictured on the book’s cover above, to more conventional (as in “still in this universe”) fare, such as in A Bucket of Laughs, a revenge tale that goes horribly, unforseeably wrong. Revenge, or more specifically, the theme of people getting their comeuppance, is a theme that permeated many of the stories in this tome. And who doesn’t like to see that (well, I could think of a few people, but the hell with them)? When combined with some of the more oddball stuff, such as in The Box, a rather creepy tale about a mysterious, horrifying (and one might say, interdimensional?) carnival attraction, it started to occur to me that this book kind of reads like a collection of some of the best of the old E.C. comic books, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt. If someone ever decided to make another Creepshow movie, they’d have plenty of top-notch source material to work with, here (and a heck of a lot better than what was in Creepshow 2, for that matter). Where else can you read about dominatrixes, sadistic, medieval, multicolored elves, and perpetually-changing magic poo that looks like John Lennon, Fidel Castro, and Jesus, all in one place? (there’s your one-liner for the book, S.C.)
Hayden often gets lumped into the bizarro fiction genre, a rather diverse style with varying qualities that can sometimes be enormously twisted and entertaining, and at other times, rather confusing and a bit too surrealistic (for my tastes, at least). None of the latter here. Strange as the stories may be, the reader doesn’t ever get lost in any surrealism. Hayden’s good like that – you never get the sense you don’t know what’s going on, even though you’re quite often thrown for a very good loop and surprise. So it’s a very accessible book, and the short-story format makes for some great summer reading, too. Get it. Seriously.
Available from the publisher, here.
Or, Amazon, here