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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  3,361 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Bailed out of jail and holed up in a low-rent motel, amnesiac Eric Ashworth's only memory is a woman's name: Desiree. With steadily increasing doses of a strange new hallucinogen, Eric finds that the drug allows him to reassemble his past in broken fragments. But as he begins to lose touch with the present, his distinction between truth and fantasy begins to crumble, creat ...more
Trade Paperback, 214 pages
Published September 8th 2006 by Lawson Library (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,361 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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Kol Anderson
I love this man's writing. The words so poetic and the story unfolds like a bad dream, and you get the workings of a man who suffers from amnesia and is starting to get his memory back in chunks, but you can't be certain if any of those flashes are true. Very abstract, like Memento meets Breaking Bad. ...more
Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was going to start this review by comparing Clevenger's writing to that of Chuck Palahniuk and Will Christopher Baer. He's got the pace and acerbic plot-mind of one and the visceral, dizzying prose of the other. Then I flipped to the acknowledgements, and there, on the second paragraph, Clevenger thanks them both. "Well, no wonder," I thought. Fans of either (or both) Palahniuk and Baer are bound to love "Dermaphoria."

Clevenger starts with a classic (and almost trite) premise: a man wakes up i
L.V. Sage
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Just finished reading this book about 20 minutes ago. I have read Craig Clevenger's first novel, "The Contortionist's Handbook" as well and enjoyed them both. I think that "Dermaphoria" was even better than "Contortionist's..." though, which is a good thing because as a writer, you always want to be improving.

What I most enjoyed about this story were 1) the great sensitivity of the main character; 2) the brilliant & concise writing style and 3) Clevenger's mastery of metaphorical writing, which
Derek Dean
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do you like Breaking Bad?
If yes, then read this book, as it is more or less a whole season of breaking bad that was never filmed. Perhaps intentionally perhaps unintentionally. Despite it being a clear parallel there are certain paragraphs in this book that make you smarter for reading them, they make you more interesting, they are instantly copy and highlighted and you hope to say something similar at some point in your life.

There are moments in this okay story where the writing is so pure it m
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book twice now. Clevenger has, with two slim books, become my favorite author, most enjoyable, creative, researched. No negatives, this book'll knock you on your ass. ...more
brian brian
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you want to be disorientated and smitten by good prose then you have to read this. I guess it's a crime novel but not in any formulaic way. I love the interior workings of the main characters mind when swamped by psychotropic drugs and amnesia (poor Eric) and the threat of the character Toe Tag. Think of this book as a pacy magic carpet ride that deals with the black underbelly of society and just go with it. Interesting style of writing that pulls you right under. This author is one I'll fol ...more
Richard  Thomas
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neo-noir
His second book, such rich sensations, a powerful, riveting story, and the questioning of reality abounds. A fantastic read.
Melissa Monster
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
To describe Dermaphoria in the simplest, pop culture references, the story is like Walter White from Breaking Bad starring in a sequel of Memento.
Now that that’s over…
About a year ago, I decided my fiancé and I needed to be better versed on each other’s favorites. I wanted to see, eat, watch and most of all read what she loved. I made her a list of all the great experiences of my life, from the post-modern section of the DIA to Scarlett Thomas’ bewitching novel The End of Mr. Y. Then I relentles
Jason Pettus
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
(The much longer full review can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

Okay, I confess: that of all the different types of underground artists out there, I have a particular affinity for the weird quiet ones on the edge of every scene, who frequently engage in cutting-edge experiments just for the sake of engaging in them. For example, when I was involved with the performance-poetry community of the 1990s, I tended to spend a lot of time with the peopl
Oct 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: bizarros, people who like dark, mysterious fiction
The sentence level writing and descriptions are definitely the highlight of this book, especially the (many) sections about insects. I enjoyed the mysterious beginning though somewhere around the middle the paranoia of the narrator began to get a bit irritating but the book does build to something worth revealing.
Logan Person
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Initially, I didn't lile this one as much as tchb, but after reading it a second time I fou nd it to be a super fun story! Breaking bad meets fear and loathing in LV + a little bit of the sound and the fury. ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dermaphoria feels like a fevered, abstract nightmare. It is gritty, wholly paranoid, and inescapable. Author Craig Clevenger proves himself a master of prose. His words conjure an experience rather than a story, each returning memory of Ashworth overwhelming the senses like few books can. There is no putting it down.
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since a book has left me speechless at the end. The author reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk (mostly known for fight club) The story follows Eric a chemist who makes some awesome drugs but apparently can't remember a whole lot cause his lab blew up mysteriously and he's desperately trying to figure out what happened, while some unscrupulous people are trying to get the formula from his already damaged head. Throw in there he's in major trouble with the law and he's trying to find a ...more
K.P. Kulski
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I read a book and it's the story that stands out, or even the characters, but in Dermaphoria it is the author who stands out and Clevenger is right there on every page. His observations are so damn sharp. I never wanted to read quickly over a sentence in case I missed a brilliant tidbit. For me, this book isn't just about the character, or about what is or is not real, it was about how we all formulate our ideas of reality and then act accordingly and how much power the people around u ...more
Michael Calonne
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thrilling and intriguing mystery. Paranoia filled and captured vividly.
Stephen Toman
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m always astounded when an author pushes their art forward in some way whilst also writing a “ripping yarn”. That’s the holy grail, right? This is one of those.
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good book overall. Hard to follow the fractured "psychedelic" narrative structure at times, though the author makes a heroic attempt to experiment with the very structure of how a story can be told. Clevenger skillfully captures the splintered paranoia of the psychedelic experience. The plot could be described as one long "bad trip" as seen through the eyes of the book's antihero/protagonist Eric; a nightmarish dreamscape rife with legions of insectoid spies working for "them", nefarious silent ...more
Dina Hekal
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, where do i start? Well, this story feels upside down. The writing is crazy like the main character. It feels like a movie more than a novel, the scenes are described vividly. The craziness in the novel comes from Eric the main character, who starts the story with memory loss, and in trial for creating drugs. He seemed to be a very good chemist for his drugs left the city needing more. His memory loss came from being brain dead for eight minutes after overdosing which rendered him in the stat ...more
Joel Rogers
Jan 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love this book, it is from a great new author. The main character is under the influence of a new experimental drug that he has been developing. From what I can tell it is a mash up of meth and acid, so his thoughts are pretty intense and most of the story through passages like this one:

"After my heart has bloomed to the size of the universe and all the love from the big bang to the last whisper has been cycloning through my chest for what feels like days on end, the world is one giant prison
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I started reading this book a couple years ago, got 80 some pages, and stopped. It wasn't sucking me in, and I didn't think I liked it very much. I picked it up again recently, reread those 80 pages and then another 50, and stopped again. Finally I picked it back up, determined to finish it, and plowed through the rest of it in no time flat.

This book is a bit of a tough read, though I didn't really understand that at first. I mistook mystery for a writing style that I simply wasn't enjoying, but
Endless Warner
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book not long after a car accident that gave me amnesia and left me with a month of fragmented memories.
Clevenger's writing style moves with raw class, leaving behind fifty cent words where nickel and dime words work perfectly. The drug chemist culture and search for the woman he's trying to remember sucked me in as I tried to remember the EMT that took my hand when walking to the ambulance.
I admit, I don't remember this book with a clear memory, but one that is within the same fuz
Oct 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
another great one from Clevenger: the chain, the organization, from the point of view of another link (re: Contortionist's Handbook). Rather, another protagonist getting by with intelligence and drugs, wrapped up in the chain, looking for the patterns (equations in CH, chemical compounds in this one) that will explain things. Same great writing, but more lyrical this time. According to his website, a third story is in process: whatever it is, I'll read it. ...more
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Clevenger does a standout job of conveying the main character's paranoia and while there are some far out passages, I didn't get lost too much in his drug induced frenzied paragraphs.

I was paranoid myself reading the book with the various types of insects eating away at my thoughts.

I can't really pinpoint why I liked this book so much, but I did and recommend it if you liked Fight Club or any of Chuck Palahnuik’s work.
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read it because Chuck Palahniuk said it was the best book he'd read in the last few years. He wasn't wrong. The prose is powerful and twisting, the best kind of concrete poetry. Eric is one of the most interesting unreliable narrators I've met in a while. Don't listen to most of the low-ratings reviews: the fragmentation of the narrative isn't in the way of the story--the fragmentation IS the story. Also boasts one of the best last chapters I've ever read. HIGHLY recommended. ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Craig Clevenger is a brilliant writer, and I'm quite excited to read a great follow-up to "The Contortionist's Handbook". "Dermaphoria" just wasn't that "great follow-up"; a fellow reviewer remarked that this book was a classic example of "the sophomore slump", and I'd have to agree.

"Dermaphoria" doesn't break any new ground; it's almost a carbon copy of "Contortionist's..". The protagonist in this one is an intelligent chemist who creates a Wonderdrug called "Derma" and gets high on his own sup
Jan 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2006
Chemist designs a new wildly popular street drug that makes your skin feel really good or something, then he has to win back his girlfriend and not go to jail or get killed by his bosses and stuff. "Hallucinogenic" writing that is not as good as his first novel, "The Contortionist's Handbook." ...more
Nicole Baker
suck bus to suck town.
Trevor Pearson
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
“If I'm still conscious to face the consequences of my actions, then at the very least I will know that my actions were real, they indeed had consequences, though my lone life will amount to less than a single click of static in the symphony of the big bang. If my actions were real, then so were my memories, and if those were real, the things I've done have allowed me to see God and I0m not afraid of following my life down that eight-second black rabbit hole.” 

A new street drug that has app
I'd probably give it a 4.5 if I could. But I can't, so a 4 will have to do. The way it is told--structure, language--is what makes this book, as much as any elements of characterization or plotting, I think. The whole amnesia thing may be something of a cliche, but in this case it made sense, considering the circumstances; and it also allowed for a neat story-within-story structure (and I must admit, I love that kind of thing), episodes of the narrator's recent past interspersed with his present ...more
Phil Sykora
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm going to start with the sentence that would probably piss Clevenger off the most: It's certainly not as good as The Contortionist's Handbook. I liked the cameo from John Dolan Vincent in this one, especially because you get to see how these stories--and therefore the world of Craig Clevenger--intertwine, which is always interesting.

I didn't, however, like how in-your-face John's cameo was. It's hard to believe anyone would notice someone and then immediately label them as "invisible." Even E
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