As I mentioned in my review for Madeleine Swann’s brilliant Fortune Box, (which you can read below), I wanted to read more titles within the Bizarro/Weird genre. Rather than just pick titles blindly, I thought I’d ask the person that has triggered my interest in the genre and made me hungry for more. So, it’s with great pleasure I welcome the brilliant Madeleine Swann back to Kendall Reviews.
Maddie’s Favourite Bizarro Books
Bizarro! It’s weird and it’s disgusting, it’s silly and disturbing (to the tune of The Addams Family). It’s difficult to define sometimes but I tend to think of it as an umbrella term for (very) modern weird fiction of all varieties from the beautiful to the gross to the downright daft. Apparently I’m one, which is nice, so allow me to share with you some bizarro books that have made me a happy rainbow lady.
There are writers attached to the genre whom I adore, such as Laura Lee Bahr, Tiffany Scandal, Rios de la Luz and Jennifer Robin, but I haven’t read their bizarro offerings so thought I’d do an honorary mention here instead.
Who Cares Nothing Matters by Julia Platz Holter
I met this person on twitter and knew nothing about her (?) other than her saying funny things that make me laugh. One day she tweeted something like “I suppose I might as well share my book link” and I replied “I didn’t know you were a writer” and she said “yes I am” and I said “I’m getting that book now” and I did, and am I glad!
The actual plot is genius: growths appear each night on people that relate to whatever they’ve got up to during the day, and if you’ve been doing anything bad it’s right there for everyone to see, although no-one knows how to decipher them. It’s only when a few individuals learn how that the trouble begins.
I was laughing out loud from the first page and continued all the way through. It’s very imaginative and kind of gross and I really liked it.
Gutmouth by Gabino Iglesias
I like noir, I like bizarro, and I sometimes like post apocalyptic stories, and this is a mix of all three! What’s not to like?
The plot cuts through like a shark (?), there’s no extraneous wiffle here. There’s a one legged stripper, cyber prostitution, mutated people, a really disgusting sounding prison, and lower folks than you’d find in a forties crime movie set in downtown LA.
By Aerostat To Hooting Yard by Frank Key
I first heard of Frank Key on the Drabblecast podcast and instantly knew this was a kindred spirit. If such a thing as outsider authors exist, I think Frank is one of them.
His British eccentricity unleashes a whirligig of flappers and socialites and sophisticated cocktail parties marred by suppurating boils and herds of marauding geese. He writes a single draft of absurdity and does very little editing, each flash fiction a tiny gem of ridiculousness. As well as appearing on the Drabblecast he reads personally on Resonance FM, and Guardian writer Sam Jordison has described him as “one of the most prolific living writers of literary nonsense.” He’s also put a quote of mine on the back of Obsequies For Lars Talc, Struck By Lightning, which made me very happy.
Cartoons In The Suicide Forest by Leza Cantoral
This book of short stories really got my brain crackling like popping candy, which is how I know the imagination key has been turned in my head.
The stories, which range from a girl in a relationship with a heroin addict to a woman made of cotton candy (or candy floss, if you’re from the UK), are darkly sensual and magickally cool. Some are quite disturbing, such as one about a sex show, and some beautifully strange. I loved the heroin story particularly, which seemed very real and raw, and absolutely devoid of the usual cliches you see about the subject. One of my favourite books!
Berzerkoids by Emma Johnson (MP Johnson)
I thought this collection of Wonderland award winning short stories was really fun. I’m not a huge fan of punk, which runs as a theme throughout, but I enjoyed the mischievous tone. There was a lot of humour and imagination and unexpectedly touching moments, particularly the idea of friends banding together to cast their dead friend into the sea to be eaten by sharks, because it’s what she would have wanted. I may not relate to punk, but I can relate to oddball misfits and gross monsters.
The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III
Why not end with a classic? Despite it’s attention grabbing title, this is a really sweet book with genuine insight into relationships and why they sometimes go wrong. It was a completely different story to the one I expected – I’d braced myself for an extreme B movie in print – but it was very strange and pretty, the mixture of introspection and surrealism giving it a very dreamlike quality. I felt sad for the character, because it hurts to have your heart broken.
Plus it’s called The Haunted Vagina.
Well, there we are, a few of my favourites. I hope you enjoy them if you decide to read them and, if not, well, I don’t know really. Have a nice day?
You can follow Madeleine on Twitter @MadeleineSwann
To find out more about Madeleine please visit her official website www.madeleineswann.com
Please visit Madeleine’s YouTube channel here
You can check out Madeleine’s author page here
Madeleine Swann: Fortune Box (Kendall Review).
When Fortune Box (a collection of 9 bizarro/weird tales) arrived at Kendall Reviews, the first thing that struck me was how gorgeous this little book published by Eraserhead Press is. The sweet girl with a flower in her hat hides some incredibly dark, gross, weird and bizarre stories behind those gorgeous big eyes.
Each story tells the tale of a recipient of a parcel from Tower Ltd Surprise Packages, the contents of which will change their lives forever. I will briefly talk about my favourite but in all honesty, the stories are so short and easy to spoil I’d rather you have the same experience I did with Fortune Box. The less you know the better.
Parcel 1 was my favourite tale, it features a young girl who is desperate to find her perfect date. She’s so desperate that after yet another failed date, she has the opportunity, thanks to Tower Ltd, to ‘grow her own’. What I loved about this tale was how it was written, it was so charming, an elegant wonderful style that danced off the page. I can’t quite put my finger on how Madeleine has managed so successfully to blend the witty and sweet with such dark horrors. Imagine Enid Blyton channeling Clive Barker.
Written in a slightly more direct style, the additional 8 parcels are all a joy, offering a consistent level of quality and enough shocks to please even the most hardened of horror fans. Bizarro/Weird is a new genre for me and thanks to Madeleine Swann its a genre I’ll be reading a lot more of, starting with some of her other books, like the wonderfully titled Rainbows Suck and The Filing Cabinet Of Doom.
Switching from the light-hearted to disturbing darkness with skillful ease Fortune Box is a beautiful little book that deserves to be read.
Star Rating (out of 5): 4****
No one knows where or what Tower Ltd Surprise Packages is or why it’s sending gifts to complete strangers across The City. All they know is that each package is the best thing that’s ever happened to them…or the worst.
In one box is a packet of seeds that allows you to grow your perfect date. In another there’s a cupcake that causes anyone who eats it to grow eyeballs all over their skin. There’s also a parcel with a mousetrap that turns all your enemies tiny. Or you could receive your autobiography, which when signed, makes your every thought famous. Or maybe even a key to a secret door that leads to another dimension where all your unfinished and abandoned projects exist. But with each package received comes both fortune and misfortune that will surely result in unexpected consequences.
Like a season of episodes from The Twilight Zone or Friday the 13th The Series, comes a collection of dark and humorous stories from the premier British female author of bizarro fiction.