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4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  667 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
Fiction. "It is curious that a reprint could be heroic. It is more curious that a book this good could go out of print so quickly. And it is most curious that an introduction would even be required for a novel that, if you examine it carefully in the right kind oflight, might actually be seen to be steaming. MOTORMAN is a central work, pulsing with mythology, created by a ...more
Paperback, 137 pages
Published January 30th 2004 by Calamari Press (first published 1972)
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77th out of 314 books — 36 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,955)
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Mike Puma
Dec 10, 2012 Mike Puma rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: men and/or women
Shelves: 2012

What do you say about a novel that you’ve liked, but didn’t particularly like?

Let me try that again: what can one say when you’ve enjoyed reading a novel, but didn’t especially like it?

Again, I need to try that again. Beginning with a question (you know, the way we often begin reading novels, or, perhaps, anything else) wasn’t the best way to get going.

Reading Ohle’s Motorman was fun, period. (channeling Cock Roberta, there; read the novel—you’ll see). It’s not that I liked the story, such as

When I tried to write a review of this book, I kept wanting to make a drawing instead, and given the dream-like quality, or should I say nightmarish quality of Moldenke’s world, such a drawing would have to have a 'trompe l’oeil' feature built in as in that Escher drawing of a hand drawing itself, so I looked up Escher and found this animated version of his Relativity picture and, for those of you who’ve read Motorman, it comes with its very own jellyhead!
I couldn’t resist posting it in lieu of
Jun 26, 2013 knig rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Ben Marcus is suitably impressed in the intro to this ‘experimental’ post-beatniky stream of something or other, and his mewling noises of approval loosely translate into a (I’m sure subconscious) emulation in the creation of in his ‘Flame Alphabet’’s Murphy, with more than a passing nod to Mr Buncy: an omnipresent morphological creature with megalomaniacal tendencies and a ‘centralised’ mode of operandi.

Theres absolutely no telling whats going on in this clusterfuck: and this type of whimsy ei
Nate D
Jun 13, 2011 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: jellyheads
Recommended to Nate D by: misleading weather reports
Weird, messy, cryptic, and totally entertaining. In Ben Marcus' intro he refers to a rumor that David Ohle worked for William Burroughs, typing out his dreams each morning. Which is a great angle on this book regardless of veracity. This is sci-fi like Naked Lunch is, mostly by shear weirdness. But Motorman is actually far more coherent, and far more capable of pulling me in and making me care where we're headed. Trapped in his appartment under uncertain terms and uncertain-ter context (somethin ...more
Bizarre science fiction mumblings(if Beckett wrote sci fi) that is cartoonish, creepy and despairing in a comic way. It resembles a more abstract George Saunders(or Matthew Derby) or a more accessible Ben Marcus(who provides an enthusiastic intro) and would be probably be considered derivative of those writers if it hadn’t been written in 1972! So Ohle probably inspired by Beckett and Burroughs(and 60’s Avant Garde,) produced this weird child on his own and inspired a group of writers.
Jul 30, 2013 Kinga rated it liked it
Someone told me that it was the best book he has ever read. I’d never heard of it. Is it possible that this is somehow the world’s best kept secret?

‘Motorman’ was out of print for decades until a few years ago a small publisher from New York brought it back to life. Or semi-life, should I say, because they still don’t want you to know. The cover is minimalistic; except for a bizarre illustration, it only tells you the name of the book and its author, all in a very small font. The back is absolut
Kyle Muntz
Mar 26, 2016 Kyle Muntz rated it really liked it
I didn't know I liked books like this anymore. The introduction by Ben Markus, which I read just after finishing it, is a great survey of the book's strengths (even if it's a bit obnoxious, with its long meditation on canonization and respect as a work of literature), so I'm not sure how much of that I'd like to restate here aside from how much I enjoyed it. The prose is this perfect tightness, shot through with imagination from sentence to sentence that reminds me of In Watermelon Sugar by Rich ...more
Sep 18, 2014 Emrys rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: very different and pensive adults ya
Recommended to Emrys by: my creative writing instructor
Having only just finished Motorman, I really have little idea as to what was actually going on in it. The world of Motorman seems to be a dark future seemingly of our own world. Rather than be ruled by a government, the world seems fairly anarchic with the majority of the power being held by capitalistic monopolies. This earth seems to have been so heavily polluted that people appear to refrain from going out of doors and instead essential menial tasks are performed by an android sort of species ...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 31, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
Motorman is an acid trip in a post-apocalyptic world of many artificial suns and moons where the mutants of many implanted hearts sordidly exist.
“He experienced a shortened boyhood, a small degree of youth and carelessness,” – that’s a complete biography of the main hero…
“He knew that vertical activity invited dazzling exposure, and that to seek is to be sucked. He recognized loneliness as the mother of virtues and sat in her lap whenever he could. He practiced linear existence and sidewise mov
May 19, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Noone!
Recommended to Chris by: I have no fucking idea, but I'll strangle them.
Look, you're not going to like this. Don't even try. You'll pick it up, start reading, maybe get a few chapters in, at which point that itch running along your brainstem will begin to try to figure out what the hell is going on. Hesitating on the corner, looking around, you'll feel as though you're missing something. It's like that time you were in the art museum and wandered into the contemporary section. After a few minutes you cursed yourself for paying to look at all this crap. You've been b ...more
Oct 15, 2007 Derek rated it it was amazing
In the introduction to Motorman by David Ohle, Ben Marcus says that for a long time he was scared to read it--"It's existence bothered me, and I grew leery of being artistically paralyzed by its reported high oddity and invention, its completely unexampled decimation of fiction-as-we-have-come-to-know-it." After reading the introduction I was scared to read it. Could anything live up to the hype, causing you to float into the air or render you "gummy and mute"?

Some novels you read to nostalgica
May 11, 2016 Sean rated it really liked it

In its reflection of certain aspects of current times (e.g., human isolation and emotional numbness; preponderance of the artificial, in part to replace the natural; ignorance of history and loss of collective societal memory; self-centered nature of the power elite to the detriment of the powerless; and so much more), this still resonates as much today as it presumably did in 1972, though could stand a slight revision to include even more jellyheads. An impressive blend of horror, humor, and pr
Sabra Embury
Feb 27, 2010 Sabra Embury rated it really liked it
Chugging through the get-go, the more I tried to find sense the less there was, triple-reading lines and letters, insects as meals, trenchpants, loudspeakers broadcasting airbursts, cat cranks, banana flowers, Featherfighter opening a door.

C-minus, son. C-minus; the ski lift, brown cigars, pig hearts, sheep hearts, calf hearts, the weather report as opera, government moons. "Is that you, Bunce? Mr. Bunce?"

Eventually from a third to end autopilot gleaned the rest of the analysis, weight applied
Jul 30, 2014 Keith rated it did not like it
This was recommended to me as a must-read by two people whose opinions I respect, and who assured me I would love it. I did not love it. In his opening, Ben Marcus builds up the work so much that it almost seems unfair -- I'm not sure any book could live up to the wild praise that precedes this text.

I'd like to at least argue that Motorman seems like an important book, even if it's one I don't enjoy. As Marcus says, it does seem to cast a shadow over literary science-fiction, one that encapsulat
Mar 29, 2016 Borbality rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read, favorites
Kind of what I wish the Blade Runner book was like. (I know the name I just didn't feel like typing it all out.) Weird, cool, short.

it's definitely post-modern, right in the height of it in 1971, which means it won't make a lot of sense. I mean, just look at the cover art. Awesome.

Thankfully it's not that really wordy, 1000-page Po-mo nonsense. it does even have a weird (almost) sex scene, so I guess that counts.

Really neat world, set up with just enough to let your mind fill in the blanks and
Michael Seidel
Feb 27, 2011 Michael Seidel rated it it was amazing
Fucking astounding. Will need to revisit.
Oct 19, 2009 M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, fiction
Can I get something out of the way first? Ohle's use of the "n-word," despite being in a fairly alternate universe where we can see words often take on an entirely different meaning, still found me uncomfortable. Is that the point? Am I supposed to consider the word as word, realigning my entire historical interpretation, packed meaning? It happens with other words. It happens better with other words. But here the word is still referred to a marginalize group of people, though they are entirely ...more
Peter Zuppardo
Jan 04, 2013 Peter Zuppardo rated it it was amazing
In 2010, I was driving across country alone and for the first time. I stopped to camp in a place called Gunnison National Park, in Gunnison, Colorado. The place was basically deserted. The only other people in the campsite were these three older women. After a little while they saw I was alone and one of the women asked if I wanted to have some wine with them. We all sat around a fire and drank wine from coffee cups. Anyway, one woman mentioned that a long time ago she had been married to a nove ...more
Joe Hunt
Jun 09, 2009 Joe Hunt rated it it was amazing
I read this while I was at UMass. I really liked it!

[I read some of the sequel, though. Not near as good or fun.:]

[And the guy even came to talk to us, and he seemed okay. Maybe somehow different than what I would have imagined, but who knows.:]

But, so, it's pretty spacey and futuristic. But actually not that abstract or ludicrously sci-fi or unintelligible, hard to read. [So the opposite: pretty easy to read, and fun.]

Maybe it's almost a little simplistic. Like, not too much action. Only one o
Dec 08, 2009 Evan rated it really liked it
Don't know why this book made such an impact on me: I wasn't stunned when I read it but images and the antagonist's voice (which, sometimes literally, hovers around the protagonist as he squats in a dark building in the dystopian future hoping someday to escape into the country) keep coming back to me. If someone can explain what sets this apart from the works it's influenced (Ben Marcus, most obviously, but David Means and a buncha others), I will bake that person lemon bars.
Luke Wilson
Mar 10, 2016 Luke Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: metafiction
This book was very good, but it was a little too weird. Even for me, and I pride myself on reading almost exclusively weird books. It apparently has a cult following, of which I don't think I'll be apart of, despite the fact that I did enjoy it. It's important to note while reading this novel that it was written during the height of the absurdist movement--and then was subsequently out-of-print for over 20 years. Some may argue that it was ahead of its time, but frankly I just think the antics a ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
good lord, it kind of puts me in a blind panic that there are books out there this incredible that I have never heard of before. big ups to MPO for sending this to me. 4 instead of 5 because I wanted 200 more pages...
Dec 29, 2013 Ravi rated it it was amazing
I don't know what planet Ohle is from, but I'd sure like to visit.
Alex Helberg
Jan 02, 2014 Alex Helberg rated it really liked it
I read this book in under 24 hours. It’s super short – only 137 pages – but it packs a very odd kind of punch. The universe of Ohle’s narrative is some bizarrely parallel dimension to our own (taking into consideration that the book was written in the early 70’s), in which people eat crickets and other bugs in place of animals, which humans consistently harvest for organs to keep themselves alive in this polluted dystopia. Humans are an ever-diminishing population - being replaced by the barely- ...more
Jun 06, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like Borges or Brautigan
Ohle creates his own universe with this book. Though the setting is fantastic, the heartbreak is very real.

A dystopian fantasy of the highest caliber! Hazaa!
May 13, 2008 Wallace rated it it was amazing
I want after the jellyheads and continue. This book is like if P.K. Dick could write well and fully.
Jun 16, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
Absolutely brilliant -- just not my kind of brilliant.
Nov 19, 2015 Brandi rated it it was amazing
Reread this and still love it very much.
Rachel Kowal
Mar 23, 2015 Rachel Kowal rated it liked it
3.27 stars

What a weird little book. Kleinzeit on acid with solar system of unaccounted moons and suns. Ohle's mad, disintegrating "mock" world has its own set of rules that seems to constantly be swirling and shifting, much to the narrator, Moldenke's, (and at times, this reader's) dismay. It's inventive, sure, particularly in its formatting, but is it filled with seven wildly beating hearts or nothing but jelly? Hmm.

Whst are we to make of this?
Li'l Vishnu
"Remember the rubber tomato? To doubt Eagleman is to build a cistern in the desert." -- chap 71.

I bought this one at an army navy surplus store. In it, an adventure is detailed.

The adventure reads: You are wandering high above their surplus, in the beams. They give you a measuring stick and you are able to collect all the numbers you need. Many of the formulas don't work out; most do not. You feel hesitant, but there is a cord you can pull. In time, you reach a final number. It's not great, but
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From cult to future classic? 1 22 Mar 28, 2008 02:04AM  
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David Ohle is an American writer, novelist, and a lecturer at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. After receiving his M.A. from KU, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin from 1975 to 1984. In 2002 he began teaching fiction writing and screenwriting as a part-time lecturer at the University of Kansas. His short fiction has appeared in Esquire, the Transatlantic Review, Paris Review, and Ha ...more
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“You sit in your chair and ignore it, Moldenke. You remain. Evolution continues, Moldenke remains. You remind me of pi, Moldenke -- ever constant. Do something! Sitting there, gassing the paper weeks away, caring not.” 1 likes
“May I suggest a set of booster hearts?” 1 likes
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