D. Harlan Wilson’s DIEGESES features two interconnected whirlwind pieces, THE BUREAU OF ME and THE IDAHO REALITY, both of which present a hallucinatory (ir)reality of the self as a performed act caught in the blades of a hyper-Lynchian science-fiction dreamsphere where reality might just be a play. Note: I learned from this book that the act of devouring flesh is one of the last holy vestiges in a world of absolute irreality. May we all feast on what is real or at least gleam the virtual pleasures of doing so.
The inscription at the head of THE BUREAU OF ME, “Arise, devour much flesh,” from the Book of Daniel is taken to heart both literally and metaphorically in the text. Enter Curd. Curd is an alcoholic sex-driven performer caught in a world of perpetual anxiety, confusion and violence, which is what happens when The Bureau of Me pays him a visit. They are everywhere or an illusion (or, everywhere as an illusion). We enter midstream. It appears that he is being stalked, harassed, and, in general, toyed with to some unknowable end. The world becomes a Japanimated carnival as directed by Takashi Miike or Jodorowsky. But don’t worry, dear. Mz. Hennington will always be there to satisfy or quell the confusion before the alcohol sets in. She is “behind” Curd all the way, in the best possible way, unless you count the time she uses his flesh as an appetizer (or aphrodisiac). Is he a cyborg? Do cyborgs phone home? Curd will call his mother. Curd wants help, but the only help he gets is a fist to the chin or a bad breakfast of eggs and beer. Remove the mask, double-check the script. Action. Next stop, Idaho.
Wilson’s prose, constructed through bursts, images, shards and hints, use bizarre Gordon Lishian connections (Antic Behavior) and beautifully rendered dialogue to keep readers turning pages, and don’t expect the normal, for, “Everything was normal, more or less, except on those rare occasions when people imploded, flesh folding into flesh, into a tertiary nodule, then disappearing into a vaporized bead of blood.” I need a drink. You need this book.
We move into “The Idaho Reality,” which “threatens to consume Metaphysical Infinity.” These “disconnected vignettes” serve the purpose of crafting a more rounded character. Curd is there, too, the actor (he plays Seneca Beaulac). From one of the vignettes we are given the aphoristic wisdom, which ties back to the book’s mystical inscription: “Consuming one’s flesh is an underrated act of attrition.” And, of my personal favorites, hearkening me back to the words of E.M. Cioran: “Curd concluded that mankind was little more than a secretion.” I give up. But Cioran is not overtly present in the text. Deleuze and Guattari, on the other hand … if only I had dug deeper into my anti-oedipal studies. Back to the drawing board. Open the book. Time to seek wisdom from The Mothman, The Yellow Menace or how to properly impale a body on Mackinac Island. Watch it fade. I’m a wreck.
Is “The Idaho Reality” a soap opera? If so, it is played out to the most twisted and perverse level, but the characters shine with truth and clarity. And, make no mistake, comedy is here, too. Northern Michigan is here, too. I thank Wilson for that, for shaping a book that is at once haunting, perverse, pornagraphic, ultraviolent, funny, and touching.
If this is Wilson’s “Viole(n)t objective” then let me continue to be baffled at how skillfully he has pulled off an undefinable and gorgeous piece of fiction. If half of the books I read were as tightly wound around the strange tree as this one, I would forsake writing forever, hack off my thumbs, and learn to weep, for, at the end of the day, one thing this book taught me is how much we, confused Cruds that we are, lack selfhood or, at least, misappropriate it, but isn’t that always the case. Now if this is not a sales pitch for a wonderful evening spent reading a book you most likely will never forget, then I don’t know what is. DIEGESIS is Time well spent, Time regained. And, remember kids, “EATING PIGMEAT IS BAD FOR YOU.”