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“IN HEAVEN, EVERYTHING IS FINE: FICTION INSPIRED BY DAVID LYNCH” (Book Review)

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Let’s take meat, mayhem, and monsters out of the equation for a second, and talk about the terror of the soul. That nightmare place from which we cannot run. The bad dream from which we can not awaken.

This is David Lynch land: and for 35 years, he has defined it like no one else. Yanking dread from our deepest unconscious. Finding fear in the tremulous gulf between what we think we know — who we think we are — and the barely-glimpsed forces that churn us from within.

As editor Cameron Pierce pointed out in a recent Reddit AMA, “There’s not always a lot of crossover in the influences cited by authors from different scenes. But no matter where you turn – literary fiction, crime, horror, bizarro, poetry – Lynch’s name pops up. I don’t know if there’s a filmmaker out there whose work resonates with a more diverse range of writers. A different element in Lynch’s work speaks to each of them, but that it’s speaking to so many people with divergent interests and creative concerns speaks volumes.”

And that is certainly the case with IN HEAVEN, EVERYTHING IS FINE, the extraordinary anthology Pierce has just released through Eraserhead Press: the flagship of modern Bizarro fiction, which took its name from Lynch’s first feature, and which has devoted itself to genre- mutating outsider madness from the fucking word go.

If you want weird, provocative, disturbing shit that shifts your insides and makes your skin feel strange, you’ve come to the right place. Starting with Matthew Revert’s brilliant “Finding Yourself As Someone Else”, the MULHOLLAND DR/LOST HIGHWAY/INLAND EMPIRE vibe is established in powerhouse fashion. This is Lynch turf, impeccably dialed.

Cody Goodfellow’s “Population: 2″ mates THE MUSIC MAN (“Trouble right here in River City!”) with animate mannequins overriding a Mojave desert ghost town into a surrealist fuck-you face-off of mind-blowing proportions. Jeremy C. Shipp’s “Nubs” packs it all into a dollhouse that may or may not exist. “The Class of Edun High” by Matty Byloos features an old man presiding over a miniature high school encased in glass, like a snow-globe full of people who never get to graduate, while he lives on and on. Amazing, all.

My flat-out favorite is Garrett Cook’s “Beast With Two Backs”, a delirious carnival freakshow meditation on how sexual obsession can overwhelm love, overwhelm life, overwhelm everything in conjoined-twin mania. It’s both the most painful and beautiful story in the batch. Color me blown away.

Close on its heels is “Blue Velvet Cake”, by Laura Lee Bahr: a story whose title scared me with its nail-on-the-head Lynch invocation, but wound up being anything but. Instead, it delves multi-layered into the true Hollywood horror of wannabes, has-beens, and never-weres. The underside of the dream, exquisitely rendered, replete with a Robert Blake-style bullet in the face.

Other personal faves include Thomas Ligotti’s classic “Teatro Grottesco”, which features the most elegantly-haunted writing in the batch; the high-revved suburban kleptomaniac noir of Jeremy Robert Johnson’s “Persistence Hunting”; New Yorker and NPR-vetted literary weirdo Ben Loory’s “Hadley”, which cannily pinpoints the juncture of Kafka and Lynch; and Amelia Gray’s “These Are the Fables”, which favors the WILD AT HEART end of Lynch’s spectrum, with a pair of loser lovers on the run through a deeply strange world.

But there are 42 stories packed into this book, every one of them thoughtfully chosen. (Violet LeVoit, Nick Mamatas, J David Osborne, and David J of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets fame also leap to mind.) That’s a lot of weird bang for your goddam buck.

Full disclosure: I have a story in here, too. And I like it, but it’s far from the main attraction. And as weird as I feel about reviewing a book I’m in, I’d feel even weirder about neglecting this important anthology, just because I have a fairly interesting story buried deep within it.

Bottom line: if you love David Lynch, and where his art takes you, you’re probably gonna find much to love. It drips with brilliance. There is no other book like it.

And as such, I cannot recommend it more highly.

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About the author
John Skipp
John Skipp is a New York Times bestselling author/editor/filmmaker, zombie godfather, compulsive collaborator, musical pornographer, black-humored optimist and all-around Renaissance mutant. His early novels from the 1980s and 90s pioneered the graphic, subversive, high-energy form known as splatterpunk. His anthology Book of the Dead was the beginning of modern post-Romero zombie literature. His work ranges from hardcore horror to whacked-out Bizarro to scathing social satire, all brought together with his trademark cinematic pace and intimate, unflinching, unmistakable voice. From young agitator to hilarious elder statesman, Skipp remains one of genre fiction's most colorful characters. Visit him at Facebook, or on Twitter @YerPalSkipp
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