Sunday, August 21, 2011
100 Books 45 - James Curcio and Jason Stackhouse's FALLEN NATION: PARTY AT THE WORLD'S END (Volume 1)
Stop me if you've heard this one: Jesus, Dionysus and Loki walk into a bar... except wait, they don't walk into a bar, they escape from a mental hospital and Jesus is a purple-haired shemale and...
Thanks for stopping me. I suspect that I suck at telling jokes. And I suspect that a joke is not exactly what the authors are going for in this trippy little novel, the first in a series of I-don't-know-how-many, though bits of it are awfully funny.
As I said, though, I don't think Curcio and Stackhouse are out just to amuse me. Like Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy before it, Fallen Nation has more than a little bit of a didactic/allegorical bent amidst the wildness. The sense that the authors are in some sense trying to program, or at least awaken, readers to some non-apparent truths about the world is that strong; an unmistakable pulse of urgency beating through the cacophony. Sometimes too urgently; Curcio has claimed to me that he only knows how to write non-fiction, which meta-knowledge only strengthens my impression that Fallen Nation is meant as an allegory. But for what?
Well, I'm not sure. But I find hints, like an observation early on that on 9/11 "the terrorists didn't just fly planes into buildings. Somewhere in that twisted rubble lies the shattered remains of this country's sense of humor," and later "Ground Zero is just ground" -- observations that I can only share as I ponder the rise of the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, the ongoing advance of CCTV cameras, your own gnawing annoyance here. As a society we've gotten extraordinarily uptight and rigid; we need, Curcio and Stackhouse think, another Ken Kesey busload of pranksters to take us Furthur.
The narrative itself mimics this, of course. After Jesus, Dionysus and Loki escape from the mental hospital -- due largely to Loki's craftiness; he seems more a personification of ingenuity than mischief/evil in Fallen Nation's pantheon -- they somehow come across one Lilith, who appears to be a descendant of Crowleyite superstar Jack Parsons and does indeed have scarlet hair, and before the crazies know what's happening next they have formed a rock band and are on tour with some groupies in the ultimate magic bus, Furthur, Hunter Thompson's White Whale, Arky Mavranos' suburban and Hagbard Celine's submarine all rolled into one. Hijinks in the real world and the world between death and birth ensue. Hot tub orgies. Traffic stops. Concerts. And a police investigation, for you'd better believe the law is on these maybe-demigods' trail, with, well, the kind of results you'd expect; demigods always have it rough.
At bottom, what Curcio and Stackhouse are trying to do is write modern myth - mythology in the modern world is their obsession, as anyone who has ever visited Curcio's website knows (and, by the way, this book has me looking forward to Curcio's upcoming nonfiction compilation on The Immanence of Myth even more than I was already). I'm not 100% convinced that they have succeeded in this, here.
But I'm mighty glad they tried.