The GarbagemanThe Garbageman by Juan Butler
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

fans of jan karon are hereby warned: this book is not for you.

stuart ross recommended this book to me and bill thompson plucked it out of canada and sent it my way. so two canadians are to blame for my current dark thoughts. and this song, also from canada, may as well be the soundtrack for this book:

i am not too proud to admit that this book confused me. oftentimes the “shove the reader into the mind of a lunatic” literature is fascinating. the contrast between thought and deed can be handled so well—the precision of the impulse and the splatter of the effect. usually these narratives are presented in a way that explains what someone like this is thinking—the reasoning behind their crimes—their personal manifesto about “who upsets me and what i do to them and why.”

it started out fine—boy-man wakes up, has various violent hallucinations/fantasies—many involving a cat, eats toast, feel persecuted but also omnipotent. fine. but then the action shiiiiifts and we are in spain for some drunken con and murder games. is this the same character? are we in a more protracted fantasy now? the thoughts seem more lucid, less paranoid, but who knows what that means; since we don’t know where we are in the character’s life, temporally. i assume it is the same character because small details recur, but it could just as easily be a pastiche of some kind. and this shifting occurs several more times throughout the book, and many acts of violence are spread all over the page and the world. but where?? when?? and ultimately, “why??” because i need a reason for my violence—i was raised on law and ordergive me a motive. don’t give me some lame “daddy didn’t love me” or “mommy touched me” backstory, but give me something, yeah? this was technicolor violence interspersed with half-baked philosophy and social criticism and historical atrocities with no origin story. i refuse to enjoy a book about blind evil loosed upon the world—evil for evil’s sake is boring; take your mere anarchy and shove it.

this is how i often feel watching hoity toity art cinema. don’t just give me disjointed imagery, no matter how visually compelling—tell me a motherfucking story, yo! this intrigues me enough to make me want to read one more book by him, but if it is another masturbatory bloodbath with political tints, i will send it back to canada and say good riddance to it.

garbageman seems to be an echo of the literature of robbe-grillet or gide—where the violence is a result of cultural alienation or emasculation but the violence is not muted and classy like in those, so it seems more gratuitous. i know there must be a purpose to it, but it is opaque to me.

i know i have probably talked about this to (your, collective) boredom, but nick cave managed an incredible feat with the creation of euchrid eucrow. that character was a perfect example of rage and insanity brewing out of extreme repression: born mute but full of a cumbersome intelligence to poor white trash drunken abusers, he accepts what he sees as his divine mission to rule and exterminate. simple. tidy. gruesome. genius.

and say what you will about american psycho, at least the violence in that was necessary, in strictly character development and plot escalation criteria.

and the ever inescapable fact of butler’s having hanged himself in an asylum before he was 40—does something like this, arising from a supremely troubled mind, need to have literary merit, or can it be read simply as lurid curiosity, like a crime scene photograph?? do the same standards of criticism apply?

i have no answers. i read it, i will read another; he only wrote three, so maybe someday i will have something more enlightening for y’all.

back to holiday baking!

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