Home is Where the Horror Is by C.V. Hunt (Book Excerpt)

by
C.V. Hunt

The house was what one would think of when asked to conjure an image of a farmhouse. It was a white two-story structure with faded and chipped white paint. The house had a covered front porch with two large wooden rocking chairs positioned to look out over the lawn stretching toward the road. The main door was open and through the screen door came the muffled sounds of cheering from a television set. I knocked on the screen door. There was a pregnant silence and I was about to knock a second time when I heard shuffling. I was greeted by an elderly hunchback woman in a cotton dress with a floral pattern and pink slippers that made a scuffing sound when she walked. Her white hair was pulled into a bun and she wore an oversized pair of glasses. A twang of disappointment hit me once I recognized how feeble she was. There was no way this woman, or her husband, could deliver the wood. The old woman pushed open the screen door a few inches to talk to me.

She said, “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I said. I thumbed over my shoulder at the firewood. “I would like to buy some firewood but I don’t have a way to haul it.”

“Oh,” she said. “That’s no problem. My son can deliver for an extra ten dollars.”

“That would be great.”

She pushed the door open farther and said, “He’s at work right now. But if you want I can take down your address and number. He’ll call you to set up a time.”

I nodded and she motioned for me to enter the house. She led me through a darkened living room lined with overstuffed brown leather furniture and brown carpet and cheap imitation wood paneling. The walls were covered with old and worn photos of people I assumed were family members. The room was illuminated by the faint sunlight trickling through the sheer curtains and the glow of a television airing a daytime gameshow. I followed her into a brightly lit kitchen with an old Formica topped table with worn red vinyl covered chairs. A napkin holder sat in the middle of the table along with a small notepad and pen. She handed me the latter two and I wrote down my name, address, and number, being careful to print it neatly so it could be read easily. I was used to scribbling down things only I could decipher. When I was done I handed her the note pad, reached into my back pocket, retrieved my wallet, and thumbed through the bills.

“You never mind that,” she said. She looked at what I’d written, squinted, and simultaneously said, “You pay Charles when he delivers.” Her expression changed into one of surprise as she read the notepad. “Oh!”

“Is there a problem?” I stowed my wallet in my back pocket.

The old woman looked at me. “You moved into Karen’s old cabin?”

“She was my mother.”

Home is Where the Horror Is C.V. HuntShe made a clucking noise and shook her head. “Was a shame to hear about her passing. Your mama was a nice lady. Used to stay and drink a cup of coffee with me when she placed her order.” She waved her hand dismissively at me and smiled with a touch of nostalgia. “We’d gossip about those peculiar characters down the road from her like a couple of school girls.” Continue reading

Unpublished Novelist Daulton Dickey Interviews Failed Novelist Daulton Dickey

transcribed by
Julius M. Henry.

Daulton Dickey is a nobody. No one’s interested in him. Yet he runs around the Internet begging for attention and whinging about how no one will publish his artsy-fartsy novels. In a blatant and unapologetic act of theft, I’ve decided to ripoff Kurt Vonnegut’s interview from the Paris Review and track down Daulton—spoiler: he wasn’t hard to find—to ask him questions about life, writing, philosophy, and whatever else popped into my head. Knowing Daulton, I expect pretentious answers. And bullshit—spoiler: he’s an asshole.

Daulton Dickey [DD]: So. Here we are.

Daulton Dickey [Dd]: Indeed.

DD: I wanted to start by filling the audience in on a few things.20160601-230511.jpg

Dd: What audience?

DD: The audience reading this.

Dd: Are you high? No one reads this.

DD: This blog has had over 18,000 views.

Dd: Maybe so, but no one’s going to read this twaddle.

DD: Let’s agree to disagree. [Pause.] Now why don’t we start by telling the audience a little something about you?

Continue reading

The “Reality” of Literature and the Death of the Avant Garde

by
Daulton Dickey.

If literature were a person, it’d be in a vegetative state. Nothing new is said, nothing new is to be learned, nothing new is offered—the appearances might change but the forms remain the same.

A cliche persists in our culture that if you want to change the system you must first become part of the system. This is an illusion meant to persuade people to embrace the system; it’s designed to inculcate conformity.

Like our culture, literature itself is homogenized while taking on the appearance of heterogeny.

In an image-obsessed culture, appearances are everything.

Another cliche with which we’re familiar warns us to refrain from judging a book by its cover. In reality, we should judge a book by its form. Form should supersede appearances. But in accordance with our species, a peculiar mammal with the cognitive ability to process and model information linearly, the form remains the same while the appearances change.

In an age of movies and television, video games and the internet, things must change. Literature cannot excel at telling linear stories the way visual media can; instead, literature should transcend the simulacrum and represent new and alternate ways to experience simulated or emulated realities.

And that is what literature does: it emulates or simulates realities. Contrary to early Wittgenstein, language does not picture reality; instead, it provides instructions for your brain to construct models. Continue reading

An Excerpt from Bastard Virtues, a Novel

by
Daulton Dickey.

Bastard Virtues is now available for pre-order. Click here to pre-order the paperback. Or here to pre-order the Kindle edition.

 

A thorn bush bloomed in my skull.

Vines sprouted inside my brain.

They spread throughout my body—their thorns, razor-sharp, tore into my muscles and threatened to deglove me—as fragments of light sparkled and devoured me.

Bugs, or, worse, creatures whose existence had eluded us, crawled across my skin and burrowed into my temples. They danced and stretched a rope from temple to temple, and tried to pull them inward, tried to collapse my skull.

I wanted to scream, couldn’t.

I wanted to dig my fingernails into my skull and remove them one by one.

The ropes pulled inward, inward.

I tapped my temple in search of a hole.13516669_258152327885522_3315739699535796428_n

Gummo.

Gummo, inspect my head.

Why hadn’t the words come out?

Why hadn’t I made a sound?

Had my motors skills atrophied?

Where are we?

What the hell is this place?

Why the fuck are we doing this?

Although certain I’d transformed my thoughts into coherent chatter, the expressions from strangers and dealers told me otherwise. Wide or squinted eyes, open mouths or frowns—everyone broadcast a response.

Faces muted confusion or fear. Continue reading

Bastard Virtues Now Available for Pre-Order

6 Tips for Writers Who Want to Break the Mold

by
Daulton Dickey.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step into any bookstore or library and you’re bound to discover at least one book professing to be capital-t the underscored book to learn how to write a book that publishers and agents and readers and Hollywood producers and the Dalai Lama and maybe the Pope or some low-rent Mafioso will recognize and idolize and adore. Fiction, according to the reality in which these writers write, is an algorithm. Replace variables with values and, viola, book is done. Sale is imminent.

And that might work for some people. But if you have any ambition and integrity, then you should buy or borrow that book, tear out each and every page, and use those pages to roll cigarettes or joints. Smoke that inhales the words fermenting on the pages. Those rules are better to inhale and exhale, they’re better as permanent scars on your lungs, than they are to absorb and incorporate into your writing.

Now let’s make a distinction. Some rules are useful, such as word economics or showing in lieu of telling. I’m talking about structure. I’m talking about form. I’m talking about what information is necessary, what isn’t—but I’m modifying it: ambiguity and disconnection constitute important information as well. I’m talking about the algorithms writers and agents and editors and authors of ‘How-to’ books drill into your head. The algorithm of fiction is what we want to avoid. How else are we going to invent new ways of storytelling—and new ways of seeing ourselves—if we stick to the same tired rules?

Which leads to a question: How do we invent new forms of storytelling?

Which leads to Tip #1:

Experiment. Break the mold. Try to write in new ways, try to shake things up, to use a cliché, try to change how sentences and paragraphs and chapters flow. Try to alter what information you find necessary and what information you don’t find necessary. Continue reading

An Excerpt From Another Novel No One Will Publish

by
Daulton Dickey.

The bedroom looks more or less as it did when Sarah’s mother had returned from the hospital, like something out of a 70s Style magazine: khaki colored carpet—shag carpet, mind you—vanilla walls, a beige ceiling. A dresser stands beside the closet door. A bed towers in the center of the room, one of those velvet numbers. It looks old and worn, the bed, like it’s been sitting beneath a pile of scrap metal for years.

As a child, Sarah loved to peel the sheets and blankets off and roll around on it. Complete with a velvet headboard, the bed attracted her; she loved how it felt, adored it, even.

It repulsed her after her mother died. And, as a teenager, it embarrassed her when, on a rare occasion, a friend, rarer still, showed up to the house and peered into the room. The headboard alone belonged in a museum, it was so old; and its color, purple, caught the eye. It never failed to elicit a comment, usually about her father, which further embarrassed her.

Sarah shoves her fist into the mattress. It creaks. She recoils and blurts something like a scream but not quite a scream. More like a yelp. Touching the mattress had raised gooseflesh on her arms, which she now pulls to her chest and massages.

Her mother’s absence lingers, but it’s vague. It reminds Sarah of the feeling she experiences when she leaves her house and forgets something—but not certain if she has, in fact, forgot something. And this evokes pretty much the same sensation, her mother’s absence. Why does she linger? But then does she linger?

After a while, the sensation dims. It dims. The shadows of years gone by darken the signature of her existence.

And but Sarah’s father … His absence is fucking oppressive. Like at any moment, Sarah expects him to call from downstairs or to make an appearance or to ask why she’s in his room. Like it doesn’t even feel like he’s out of town or on vacation or something. It feels like he’s there, right there, alive and well and in the house, maybe in the living room, maybe, or in the basement. And … but … she doesn’t have access to him. Like he’s there but she can’t pinpoint his location; like she knows he’s home but she can’t figure out in which room he’s doing whatever it is he does.

She opens the closet door—inside, it smells like dust—and fumbles for the twine dangling from the light fixture. She flails her arm and pinches her fingers. Then, still flailing her arm, she slaps the twine, catches and pulls it. Photons ping pong around the closet.

Clothes hang from wall to wall. Men’s clothes. Some old, some new, some she’s never seen. She slides her fingers across the sleeve of an old jacket. Goosebumps. The clothes retain his smell, his signature. Tears threaten to assault her. She clears her throat and closes her eyes and pops her neck, slaying the tears before they usurp her.

It’s almost funny. Every suit, every shirt, every pair of paints—everything seems plucked out of the 1970s and 80s, like her father was maybe some secret sitcom star and had saved his wardrobe. As a teenager, of course, she didn’t find it funny, even though his style wasn’t as outdated.

Among blues and whites, and even a pink, among velvet and cardigan, a black suit sticks out. Does it look good? Seams are frayed and, at some twitterheader (2)points, gray dulls black, turning it more or less silver. So no: it doesn’t look good. But then so what? Does it matter what he looks like when he’s buried?

But even in death people tend to appear the way others expect them to appear.

—It’s such bullshit, she says.

More faded clothes. More frayed seams. Did the man own a decent suit? Continue reading

Book Review: Primordial: An Abstraction—D. Harlan Wilson

by
Daulton Dickey.

Primordial: An Abstraction
by D. Harlan Wilson
Anti-Oedipus Press • September 3, 2014
Paperback: 167 pages • 5×8 • $13.95 • ISBN 978-0-9892391-5-8

In “Giles Goat-Boy” (1966), John Barth used universities and academia as the launching pad for an allegory of the cold war. Written in the style of a hero’s journey, and injected with liberal doses of absurdity, Barth’s story stomped across and skewered the cultural expectations, and evaluation, of academic and university life—which in his case doubled as the factionalism and jingoism of competing ideological and military powers.

Where Barth’s novel was a comic, absurd, metafictional romp through a city-sized university, author D. Harlan Wilson’s “Primordial: An Abstraction” is a more visceral—though equally absurd and darkly funny—evisceration of academia and college life, and the strangeness of life in general. It is unrelenting in its absurdity, it’s vitriol, it’s energyprimordialfront—and it’s also a meditation on the redundancies of life, of academia, and of intellectual and individualistic pursuits.

“Repetition is just as good as karma,” the narrator tells us. “Once you embrace it, once you ingest it—you’re bound to wallow in it.” (Wilson: 151)

The story is relayed in the first person by an unnamed professor and academic whose Ph.D. has been revoked. He had been “practicing a questionable mode of pedagogy […] writing a toxic strain of theory.” (Wilson: 11) Without his degree, without his work, he has admittedly lost his identity, so he must return to university to regain both.

This is the coil around which the story is wound, and from it springs humor, farce, and social and cultural commentary, and even brief didactic and philosophical asides. It is a short, minimalist novel told in deceptively simple yet beautifully rendered and subtly complex prose.

From his tyrannical control of his roommates, to his dismissal of his professors, the narrator flows from one facet of college life to the next. But this isn’t your average novel, and it’s not a detailed account of the ins-and-outs of college life. Instead, it is, in a way, an evisceration of academia-as-bureaucracy.

It’s also a book willing to take jabs at boring or uninterested—probably tenured—professors. And it takes a few pot shots at the sexually promiscuous culture, too, in which the students at this university forego casual sex in lieu of making pornos—in the library, the cafeteria, everywhere; a logical progression of sex obsessed, and sexually explicit, youth culture.

“Primordial: An Abstraction” is, in some ways, a Kafkaesque jab at bureaucracy where the acquisition of knowledge, even trivia, becomes the narrator’s castle. Through inquiring about details of his courses and his curriculum, the narrator is confronted with confusion and scorn without getting the answers he requires. Like Kafka’s doomed K., the narrator here can’t even get a straight answer when seeking trivia, in this case about a long dead pop star:

I say, “Did Mama Cass really choke to death on a hamburger?”

The grad student looks at the Professor. The Professor looks at the Dean. The Dean looks at another Dean. The other Dean looks at another Dean. That Dean looks at the Provost. The Provost looks at the President. The President looks at his mom.

His mom shrugs.

I say, “Well what good are you people? What good is any of this?” I gesticulate at the University. (Wilson: 94)

One subtext that sticks out is the juxtaposition of violence and academia, as if Wilson—or the narrator—is lobbing complaints against the diminished cultural stature of intellectualism and academia in favor of violence and war. The violence is also what you might expect when you force a brute—whether it’s a homo sapien or a simian—into a rationalized, institutional setting.

But in “Primordial: An Abstraction,” the violence largely springs from the once-and-future academic himself: the unnamed narrator. Muscular, he can bench 300 pounds, and he sticks to strict exercise and dietary habits. He also possesses the temper of a banshee on meth.

In many ways, he’s like a cross between Raoul Duke, Henry Rollins, and Jacques Lacan. He possesses a fiery intellect and an inability to refrain from ridiculing—or even assaulting—those he feels worthy. He is, in a sense, the muscular, short-tempered incarnation of Ignatius J. Reilly—if Sam Peckinpah had directed an adaptation of “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

But despite its aggression, the book is funny, with dialogue veering into Marx Brothers, Monty Python, and Donald Barthelme-esque territory—but devoid of puns or other cheap humor. It’s farcical but not whimsical or—the dread of all dreads—zany. It’s funny the way Hunter S. Thompson was funny: vicious, cruel, aggressive. But this book possess the spirit of farce absent fdharlanwilsonrom the works of a writer like Thompson.

Also, like the works of a writer like Thompson, or even Anthony Burgess, much of the humor is born out of a combination of the situation and the character of the narrator himself:

Sometimes, when I am revising my manuscripts, I forget to breath. My roommates have to remind me. I don’t like it. I don’t like them to talk at all. But they see my face go red and then gray and finally purple and despite how much they hate me they can’t shoulder the burden of my potential death. Stockholm Syndrome.

Some of them enjoy it when I flog them.

One of them asks for it.

I don’t enjoy flogging people. Not for any reason. But the Law is the Law and somebody must uphold it.

I use a cat o’ nine tails that I purchased as a Boy Scout. I can’t remember where I purchased it. But I had my uniform on when I gave the cashier my bills and coins.

I never stop flogging my roommates until I draw blood and they are sufficiently terrorized, i.e., happy. (Wilson: 73)

School life and the rigors of academic pursuits are presented vaguely—an abstraction. Work is never mentioned in detail. Classes are never mentioned in detail. This vagueness is possibly a commentary on the routine—the redundancy—of college life; or, perhaps the narrator is too narcissistic or solipsistic to dwell on anything other than himself: this is a fiercely subjective narrative.

Classrooms, although presented vaguely, are still presented as farcical—where the farce is the product of the narrator’s aggressive personality and the professors’ tired routines. He beats and bullies teachers, he dismisses or bullies students; and when he gets on with students, he ignores everything around him in lieu of conversation, even if it disrupts class. Also throughout the novel, there’s an underlying shot at the state of the hierarchy of modern, corporate-influenced universities.

In the hands of a lesser writer, a book like this might be bloated and long winded and tangential. But in Wilson’s hands, it’s navigated brilliantly and smoothly by Wilson’s mastery of the craft and his sparse, concise prose.

None of the faculty retire. They work until they die, often in the middle of lectures, barely able to articulate a coherent sentence or even stand up straight.

Administrators typically retire after two or three years, at which point they generally become fulltime Rotarians, spend more time on the golf course and the tennis court, and live forever.

This is not the case with the President, Provost, and several other kakistocrats.

They never retire.

They remain in office until somebody shoots them and claims their thrones.

I don’t know what happens to the staff. They lack one of two vital ontological components: the power of capital or the awareness of intelligence. Hence nobody at the University cares about them. (Wilson: 130)

Through its jabs at university life, through its invocations of violence, through its didactic tangents, brief as they may be, something close to humanity punches through every now and then, and the narrator is cast as more than an aggressive bully.

At its core, the novel is an existential examination of life, knowledge, and the pursuit of what once seemed graspable. Memories pop into the narrator’s mind, and they tend to show him as vulnerable, naive, uncertain. On the rare occasion he lets down his guard, he reveals himself as confused and as vulnerable as everyone else. “I write because I’m weak!” he shouts at one point.

And though, like K. in Kafka’s “The Castle,” or like George Giles in Barth’s magnum opus, the narrator continues to pursue a goal not likely attainable, and although his anger and aggression more often than not defines him, he continues his quest. For, in the end, the quest is all he has. It defines him. After losing his Ph.D., his identity, what does he have left?

“Most of adult life is spent discovering the mystery of how very little you matter,” he says early in the novel. And it’s a profound line smuggled into a fierce, aggressive, and philosophical gem of a novel, which is one of the best books of the year.

Click here to buy the book (and you should buy it here; this is an indie publisher; support them directly)

Jacopo Della Quercia: The Proust Questionnaire

 by
Daulton Dickey.

The Proust Questionnaire is a notorious questionnaire meant to gain insight into a person’s psychological makeup. Although the writer Marcel Proust didn’t invent it, he is purported to have provided the greatest answers to it on two separate occasions, which is why it now bears his name.

The first subject to answer the Proust Questionnaire on Lost in the Funhouse is—drumroll please—Jacopo Della Quercia.

Jacopo Della Quercia is ajacopo writer and scholar. His writings have appeared most notably on cracked.com. As a scholar, his field of interested is in the medieval and renaissance periods. Recently, his debut novel, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy was released by St. Martina’s Griffin.

To find out more about his novel, check out its official website here.

And click here if you want to follow him on Twitter
(You should definitely follow him on Twitter. I mean, seriously, why wouldn’t you?)

1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being so overwhelmed with beauty that I can’t even describe it.

2.What is your greatest fear?
I don’t know! It changes every day. I guess a solar flare destroying the planet. That would be lame.

3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am pretty hard on myself when I don’t need to be.

4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Selfishness in all its forms.

5.Which living person do you most admire?
My cousin Evan. She travels the world like a superhero doing incredible things and refugee work. She’s also one of the most talented writers I know. Watch out for her!

6.What is your greatest extravagance?
Much like Ron Burgundy, I have many leather-bound books.

7.What is your current state of mind?
Active. And kinda hungry.

8.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Oh, they’re all overrated in the grand scheme of things.

9.On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t like lying. Being honest with people makes your life so much easier.

10.What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Oh, don’t be so vain.

11.Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t really despise people. I’m too busy.

12.What is the quality you most like in a man?
Generosity.

13.What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Generosity.

14.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
#PopQuizHotShot, but it’s all in good fun.

15.What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What are you trying to do? Get me in trouble!

16.When and where were you happiest?
Outdoors when without any worries.

17.Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could play guitar as well as my brother.

18.If you could change one thing about yourself, w20140809-222925.jpghat would it be?
I tend to procrastinate.

19.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy. It is definitely the best thing I have done with myself so far.

20.If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I’d definitely want to come back as a woman to see what I’ve been missing out on. I think I’d also like to try things out as a different race just for my own betterment.

21.Where would you most like to live?
Florence, Italy.

22.What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t have one. I try not to get too attached to materials around me.

23.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Damn, that’s a deep question…

24.What is your favorite occupation?
I am loving life as a novelist! However, I also enjoy teaching quite a lot.

25.What is your most marked characteristic?
I do tend to talk about history quite a lot.

26.What do you most value in your friends?
Reliability.

27.Who are your favorite writers?
I have too many to list!

28.Who is your hero of fiction?
Again, there are too many!

29.Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I’d like to say Machiavelli, but I don’t think I’m a fair person to judge that.

30.Who are your heroes in real life?
I have a pretty cool family.

31.What are your favorite names?
Hercules Rockefeller and Rembrandt Q. Einstein.

32.What is it that you most dislike?
Pettiness.

33.What is your greatest regret?
I don’t remember. Besides, I try not to get hung up on regrets. Life offers countless opportunities you’d never expect.

34.How would you like to die?
Peacefully?

35.What is your motto?
“The secret to getting things done is to act!” – Dante