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Thursday, March 29, 2012

eBook Review: The Traveling Dildo Salesman by Kevin L. Donihe

Bizarro is, as the publishers proudly proclaim, the genre of the weird. It's definitely an acquired taste, and while the more extreme or obscene elements may cause some readers to shy away, the sheer quality of the writing is often excellent, and the cleverness of the more surreal elements is always worth the read.

Kevin L. Donihe's The Traveling Dildo Salesman is a collection that definitely flirts with the boundaries of the genre, but which is deliciously understated in its obscenity. Rather than confronting the reader with his ability to shock and disgust, Donihe seduces you into the surrealism of his tale. The horror here is very cerebral, a creepy sort of hallucinogenic trip on the wings of imagination. That's not to say he doesn't toss in a moment or two of graphic depravity, but the focus is definitely on the weirdness of the experience.

The title story, The Traveling Dildo Salesman, is a very surreal tale of one man's journey through a kind of fetishistic purgatory. Ralph is a tragic hero straight out of Rod Serling's cruelest Twilight Zone episodes, lost in a perverse suburbia that would not be out of place in a Tim Burton film. Equally frustrating and inspiring, it's a story that refuses to play by the rules, and which ends on an oddly ambiguous note.

Milky Agitation is the second-shortest tale of the collection, and one that's strange simply for the sake of being strange. It's remarkable how many oddities Donihe is able to drop in so few pages, and how perversely amusing a shattered glass of milk can be. Two-Way Santa is the collection's nod to the obscene, with a tired, hopeless, homeless drunk restored to the mantle of Santa Claus by the belief of a creepy serial killer. The ending is twisted and dark, and will forever change how you think of candy canes.

In a return to the surreal, The Helen Mower offers us story that's reminiscent of Stephen King's Lawnmower  Man (the gory short story, not the abysmal virtual reality movie), but with a sweet necrophiliac twist. Living Room Zombies is, by far, the funniest entry in the collection, introducing us to the hospitality of two stoners on the night of the zombie apocalypse. The final entry in the collection, Revenge Of The Living Masturbation Rag, is as brief tale of abuse and revenge that ends in a rather chilling suggestion of horror continued beyond the page.

A nice sampling of what Donihe has to offer the Bizarro genre, this is a well-written collection of horror that could almost be called 'literary' were it not so deliberately perverse. Well worth the read.

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