By Zé Burns
I asked three authors what bizarre books and authors they would recommend. Here’s what they had for me:
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Recommended by John Wayne Comunale, author of As Seen on T.V.
Among my favorite bizarre books the one I always recommend is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of non-linear time until I read this book and became enamored with the idea of becoming ‘unstuck in time’. The thought I was being born, living my life, and dying all within a single snap of my fingers was fascinating, and probably the coolest thing I’d ever heard.
The time travel angle of the book presents itself so casually amid the World War Two backdrop, and alien abduction it’s an easy pill to swallow when the idea is introduced. Reading this book prompted me to further research non-linear time, and my hope is that one day I’ll be able to consciously experience myself becoming ‘unstuck in time’ just like Billy Pilgrim.
The Works of Jordan Krall
Recommended by Charles Austin Muir, author of This Is a Horror Book
I wish writers would stop writing prose like a discarded Harlan Ellison title. The abyss, your existential pain, whatever, it’s not so deep. Stop looking for fancier ways to say a man cried while walking his dog.
That said, I recommend Jordan Krall. He earns his philosophical conundrums. In a Jordan Krall story the man walks his dog over and over again, in changing contexts, his grief washing over you gradually until you connect it with the airplane that is perpetually about to hit a building in the first and last chapter (a 9/11 leitmotif… edgy!). I made that up, but you get the idea.
Sure, I know. One reader’s epiphany is another reader’s fart.
Even so—the titles. Tentacle Death Trip. Psychonautics in the Age of Loop Panic. “All Motels are Bastions of Dark Conspiracies.” Fancy word-slinging. Works for me though, because I feel the danger of this world in how Jordan Krall repeats words and images like thoughts of someone who hasn’t slept in days.
I’d start with his False Magic Kingdom cycle.
Long-Form Religious Porn by Laura Lee Bahr
Recommended by Andrew J. Stone, author of All Hail the House Gods
If you’re a fan of bizarro and you’ve yet to read Laura Lee Bahr, what have you been doing with your life? Her second book, Long-Form Religious Porn, is not only one of my favorite bizarro books, but one of my favorite books of all-time. I’ve taught it numerous times for various classes at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and it is always a favorite among my students. The book is about a woman (Mads) who wants to be a famous Hollywood director, but no one recognizes her as the genius she is aside from herself. It is also about a famous Hollywood vampire cult (a thinly veiled scientology metaphor) versus a group of righteous (hipster) Christians. It is also a book that explores nontraditional forms of sexuality, a dominatrix, and serial killers. Long-Form Religious Porn has it all, and while it is one of the most “Los Angeles” books I’ve ever read, readers from all over the world have loved and will continue to love it.
Thank you to these authors for sharing their favorite bizarre books! To find more about them, you can see my reviews and interviews with them here.
To find their own work, check them out on Amazon:
Zé Burns is a Seattle-based author of horror and the surreal, an avid proponent of bizarro fiction, and a lover of all things weird. He is the editor-in-chief and owner of Babou 691. You can find him on Twitter at @ZeBurns or on his site: zeburns.com.