Matthew Revert's Reviews > Fistful of Feet

Fistful of Feet by Jordan Krall
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Dec 07, 09

Read in December, 2009

I went into Jordan Krall’s latest novel, Fistful of Feet, with a certain bias. I am an avid fan of the Western, be it the traditional Hollywood kind or the Spaghetti kind. This same bias could have ultimately worked against it however, if it wasn’t pulled off very well. It might have fallen into a Western pastiche, stealing the associated aesthetics and bastardising them superficially. Fistful of Feet doesn’t do this. It is a triumph and clearly written by someone with a deep respect for everything a Western stands for. The characters one would expect to populate a Western abound; the mysterious stranger, the busty brothel owner, the town crazies, a corrupt sheriff, hardened cowboys, gamblers, whores and storeowners. They’re all touched upon, and touched upon beautifully. Wrap this up in a gooey, Bizarro shell and it makes for a wild, touching and unforgettable ride through the dusty landscapes of a surrealist hell.

Set in the nothing town of Screwhorse, Fistful of Feet begins with our hero, Calamaro, dragging his wooden donkey into the story. His reasons for being there aren’t clear. He’s looked upon with an equal amount of suspicion and lust from the townsfolk. He quickly makes an impression, busting up Nix, one of Screwhorse’s troublemakers. This earns him respect from some and vengeance from others. From this situation, Fistful of Feet unfolds in a cornucopia of oddity, violence, sex and death. The narrative jumps from character to character, almost reaching Robert Altman levels of interplay and complexity. What could be a fine mess is wrangled brilliantly into shape by Krall, who never once lets the story get away from him. Special mention should be made about The Hard Candy Kid, who in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest characters to appear in any medium. This psychopathic man-child is an unpredictable town pariah, taking bites out of horses and sending fear into the hearts of even the most hardened criminal. He has one vice, hard candy, and if you want to escape an encounter with your life in tact, you better damn well have some on you. It’s a brilliant character. I could read an entire book on The Hard Candy Kid’s exploits alone.

Beyond the violence, sex and oddity lays a genuinely compelling story. You come to care about Calamaro deeply, as well as the many periphery characters you meet along the way. His journey is an emotional one and you feel it from the page. Krall transcends the cliché of the Western and produces something fantastic. This story would still be damn entertaining without the depth, but it’s a much better story for it being there. For every bizarre, unpleasant sexual act, there’s a moment of tenderness and a contextual base for everything existing. It’s obvious that Krall has a love for his characters and subject matter.

So well done Mr. Krall. The way you’ve developed as a writer in such a short time is inspiring. Squid Pulp Blues was a fantastic book, but Fistful of Feet takes it to a whole new level. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and could very well be the best Bizarro novel I’ve ever read.
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