Saturday, October 20, 2012
Review: A Pretty Mouth
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who enjoy sick twists on classic lit
Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press
Lazy Fascist Press brings it again. And this should not come as a surprise to anyone. They've brought it before and will continue to bring it, forever and ever, amen. I've reviewed enough of their quirky, accessibly bizarre fiction to know that whatever they put out, I'm going to want - no, need - to get my greedy little hands on it.
This time I was wowed and cowed by Molly Tanzer's A Pretty Mouth. In this collection of interconnected stories, we are forced to bear witness to the dark and twisted history of the high-class Calipash family. Black magic and treachery abound in these creatively manipulative tales. Beginning at the end and working their way backwards through time, each story introduces us to a new generation of Lord Calipash's and slowly pieces together the curse that has dogged their bloodline for generations.
Let me start by saying that the more you know about the literature for each time period Molly visits, the more fun you'll find yourself having and the more sting her satire will carry. For example, the opening story, "Dolor-on-the-Downs", pairs its current (and financially floundering) Lord Calipash with, of all people, Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. Now, promise you won't laugh when I confess that I had no clue this was a sick twist on the ACTUAL Wodehouse stories. How could I possibly know that when I'd never read one before? I just assumed Molly was poking fun at it by naming the valet after the famous savant manservant. But as I read on, and confessed my confusion to @booksexyreview, the story began to come into sharper focus and I quickly caught a whiff of what Molly was cooking up. And once I knew it was the actual Wodehouse men, the story took on a whole different meaning for me!
So we've got Jeeves helping our twenty-seventh Lord Calipash to solve the perplexing problem of the strange sea creature that lives in the bowels of the hotel in which they are relaxing. Then we've got the Bronte-like " The Hour of the Tortoise", a creepy Gothic Victorian tale of a young lady called back to the residence of a dying Calipash, who finds herself in possession of a strange trinket that binds her to the family mausoleum in the most unexpected way. A school aged Calipash and his band of bad-ass buddies appear in the title story, in which mad-scientist experiments and bawdy displays of power determine the fate of their hopeful classmate Henry. And the final story finds us knee-deep in Roman times where it all begins with the earliest Calipash, who has been shipwrecked on an island populated with strange barbarians, becoming the unfortunate recipient of this unshakable curse.
If you think A Pretty Mouth sounds like a lot of fun, it is. Molly's got a style unlike any other's. It's one that doesn't take itself too seriously while at the same time impressing upon the reader not to take it too lightly. Beware the enemy, even when it turns out to be you.
This goodreads review, by SP Miskowski, sums the collection up better than I could ever hope.
Many thanks to Lazy Fascist Press for constantly feeding my addiction for challenging indie fiction. Keep fighting the good fight and putting kick-ass literature out in front of our faces.