I’m calling it right now: Douglas Hackle is going to be HUGE! And I don’t mean that in the John-Goodman-at-a-Chinese-buffet way. I mean that in the Ga...moreI’m calling it right now: Douglas Hackle is going to be HUGE! And I don’t mean that in the John-Goodman-at-a-Chinese-buffet way. I mean that in the Gangnam Style guy way. Douglas Hackle is a 100% certified Angus all-beef patty genius.
Why do I say this? Because to read Hackle is to be at the butt end of some kind of inside-joke that leaves you baffled, befuddled and awed. It’s like getting a glimpse behind the curtain, seeing the thing that was pulling the strings the whole time was really just a man, and then getting a glimpse behind the man to see the thing that was strumming HIS strings was really an infinitely long-necked businessman/freak who thought he was playing a bass guitar the whole time.
Clown Tear Junkies is a collection of short stories, all of which revolve around some kind of far-out or bizarro theme i.e. haunted graffiti, drinking with sentient paintings, fairy tale bromances where everyone looks like characters from The Thing, and the aforementioned long-necked businessman – and that's barely scratching the surface here. The stories in this collection are populated by all manner of sad caricatures and ugly souls. Yet, most of them remain blissfully ignorant or hopeful in spite of their unfortunate lot in life (that lot being the world they inhabit was dreamt up in the mind of a madman like Douglas Hackle). There is something very melancholy and nuanced about most of the characters in this book; people who are constantly the victims of the ever-escalating absurdities that assault them. But it’s not all tears and Salieri marionettes because this book is also FUCKING HILARIOUS! I’m not exaggerating. Douglas Hackle is one funny motherfucker and all the head-scratching pathos stitched into his words are blasted into your face via a shotgun full of humor. I’m talking LAUGH OUT LOUD kinda funny. A lot of the time, the humor is so spot-on that it supersedes even the pages it’s printed on to start playing jokes on you in real life.
How can a book be playing a joke on you in "real life" you ask?
Shut up and I’ll tell you.
It’s all in the execution. These stories are often set in mirror worlds – places that resemble Earth as we know it, but twisted or bent in some disgusting way. Like a world where you can get murdered, over and over and over again, just as long as you have a faithful friend who’s willing to resurrect you with his trusty D&D-style 20-sided di. Or a world where accidentally dialing 811 instead of 911 can reign down a life-threatening terror of such absurd proportions that it will ruin even the happiest couple’s next lovemaking session. But it’s not the settings that necessarily make this collection shine (although they certainly help!) but rather, it’s the almost deconstructionist glee at which the author himself approaches storytelling. Employing such novelties as narrators who randomly bust out in cartoonish “gangsta” slang, obscure and often bizarre pop-culture references, Hackle even goes so far as to sometimes turn the spotlight back onto his own absurd premises, knowingly having the characters admit that they world they live in is fiction, only to charge ahead full-steam without batting an eyelash. It’s almost like he’s daring you to enjoy such silliness, and when you actually do, he laughs at you, takes it a step EVEN FURTHER than that, and then TRIPLE-DOG DARES you to enjoy it some more. Just like Andy Kaufman, who would read The Great Gatsby onstage if a show was going poorly, or who would wrestle women – willfully taking on the role of the “heel” - or who would dress up like the abrasive Tony Clifton and not let anyone know it was him. It’s the kind of humor that took a lot of people a while to appreciate because Andy was operating on a level much higher than the rest of us mortals. And I have a feeling that’s where Douglas lives too. He sits up there with his pen and paper or word processor or baby seal skin and razor blade (or whatever fucked-up instruments he uses to write stories like this) and he tells us the kind of tales we didn’t even know we were thirsty for in the first place. The kind of tales that matter, in their own weird way. The kind of tales that make reading a joy.
This is certainly the most fun I’ve had with a book in the past year. I highly recommend it. (less)