Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: The Collected Works of Noah Cicero, Vol.1

Read 8/14/14 - 8/20/14
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of minimalist fiction, unsanitary fucking, and Denny's (yup, the restaurant)
Pages: 218
Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press
Released: 2013

I'm a total Noah Cicero nube. To be honest, it's been awhile since I've been introduced to an author this late into their writing career, especially in the small press arena. So, when these situations present themselves, I'd like to think that if I'm going to read some dude's work for the first time, reading the older, less polished stuff would be the place to start. And since The Collected Works of Noah Cicero Vol. 1 contains Cicero's early (mostly out of print) novellas and short stories.. I thought 'boo-yah. Let's get it on'.

The collection kicks off solidly enough with a short story called 'I Clean In Silence'. It's all OCD and self-depreciation and neurotic, written from the perspective of a female, and I really dug it. As I read it, I was all "hell yeah, this is going to be great. A writer after my own heart!"

Next comes 'The Human War' - a political rant that's actually more about our main guy's internalization of how strange it is to think 'war is coming and here I am doing the things I normally do and doesn't that seem fucked up" than it is about whether war is right or wrong. It's stream-of-consciousness, no-thought-is-too-risque, lay-it-all-out-there minimalist literature. And I typically enjoy that kind of writing; that harsh, no-holds-barred, rawness. But oh my god, Noah... after about 10 pages I started getting itchy. After 20, my eyes rolled uncontrollably. I wanted to reach inside the pages and shake our main man out of it. Slap his face while shouting "Stop it! Stop it with all the shit already!" I was only two stories in and I'd already come to the realization that I prefer his short stories to his novellas. (Oh dear.)

And by this point, I hadn't even gotten to the unsanitary and fetishist sex stuff. My lord, this guy gets his dick into all kinds of strange and extremely disgusting situations. I'm no prude. But damn, how our dude's little dude didn't shrivel up and fall off after some of his sexcapades, I'll never know.

You know it's bad when my husband questions what I'm reading after he picks up the book, randomly flips to a page, and sees the following:

I eventually ejaculated.
I came on her ass.
It was so pretty.
My cum lying there on her two little round butt cheeks.

Oh trust me, that's nothing compared to some of the descriptions Cicero treats us to. That's PG-13 when you hold it up against some of the other stuff in here. Prudes and homophobes beware. Noah is open to testing all kinds of waters in this collection when it comes to sexual encounters.

Yeah, ok, OK, I get it. The dude's what, in his early twenties? He's broke as all hell, working dead end jobs in a dead end town, boozing the hell out of his days off, slutting it up in the titties-bars and taking prostitutes to the back alley pay-by-the-hour motels. He's a proud member of the Denny's late-night regulars club. A happy life to him consists of fucking, eating, drinking, and working just long enough to make money to cover the first three. Where's the fun if you aren't taking risks and opening doors that should probably most likely stay closed?

Is this what our Millennial young men have become? Is this the new coming-of-age boy scout badge?

It's white trash at its absolute finest. It's the dark side of love, a bruised and beaten lust, where happily ever after is a nose full of coke and a hooker on your johnson. It's an unhappy mother breaking the boredom by getting stoned out of her mind and beating her kid in the Walmart parking lot for shits, kicks, and giggles. It's babbling about a lot of shit you know nothing about just to pass words around with strangers at the bar.

While Cicero's style works for me in short, terse bites, I just don't have the patience for his longer pieces. His style - one sentence paragraphs, mostly made up of dialogue - lends itself more to flash and micro fiction than it does to a 200 and some odd set of collected works.

The longer the story, the more repetitive he gets. His writing becomes circular and he seems to chew on one thought for an unnecessarily long period of time. He worries at it, like one might worry at a hangnail. I feel this side effect is most obvious in the novellas or lengthier shorts that are made up of multiple vignettes, where the story lines and characters continuously overlap.

Not a collection for the shy or bashful or impatient reader, but most definitely a collection for the more adventurous, experimental ones.

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