Review: Nothing Will Save You

by SF

deanstrom.jpgThere is a buoyancy to this book which redeems it from hostile criticism. For the reader who has no objection to writing that stands on its edge this will be a very desirable book.
Reviewed by Bob Williams

by Dean Strom
PretendGeniusPress 2004, ISBN 0-9747-2611-7, $14.95, 181 pages

PretendGeniusPress is the co-operative publishing venture of a group of writers who produce serious work but decline to be serious about it. The back cover of Nothing Will Save You, for example, has the usual blurbs but they are by Hernando Cortez (conquistador), Ferdinand Magellan (explorer), Bloog Mandrake (editor) and Mohammad Saeed al-Sahaf (public relations). All of these were or are actual earthlings with the possible exception of Bloog Mandrake.

The immensity of the United States prompts perpetual restlessness and the ubiquity of motorized vehicles exists to satisfy insatiable – if often pointless – curiosity. Strom takes us on the road but it is no road that you would ever find or easily imagine for it is often less a physical road than an imagined highway through the quirkier recesses of the mind and spirit. Pate, the narrator, quasi-dedicated to a sketchily described form of salvation on the Internet, travels in an automobile that is sometimes of one make and sometimes of another. His traveling companions vary and may not always be real. Strom’s style matches all this waywardness and careens from gnomic to comically literary. He uses typographic tricks to prevent all this from dissolving.

But he adopts an everyday mode about midway through and in midpage at that. Moe, the hitchhiker that Pate has picked up, along with some of Moe’s friends, beat Pate into unconsciousness and abandon him. Having learned his lesson, Pate almost immediately picks up another hitchhiker. This is Jennie Strom and she and Pate tumble happily into bed together.

The love affair blossoms. Pate abandons his plan to travel north and goes to Honolulu to be near Jennie when she goes to school there. Pate observes the yachting community of which he writes “People are living up to the names on their boats, so many boats. People talk about boats across boats and inquire after the health of other boats.”

But Jennie does not come to Hawaii. She dumps him. Pate spends most of his days in idleness and many of his nights cruising the gay scene. He resolves to kill himself although resolve may be too strong a word. He composes an artfully meaningless suicide message and shots himself. But the gun is loaded with blanks and he recovers by virtue of the farce of this episode. The end is funny and itself farcical.

After this novella we find a section of poems interspersed with several short stories. The former are mostly in the style of ‘Jabberwocky’ and the stories are high in acid. Of the poetry we can say that Strom leaves no sound untuned.

Given the extreme alterations in style within the novella, we are not prepared to abandon Pate where Strom leaves him and expect a resumption of his story. It is a defect that the book is not clearly mapped out with a table of contents to assist the clueless reader. But this is a minor stricture. There is a buoyancy to this book which redeems it from hostile criticism. For the reader who has no objection to writing that stands on its edge this will be a very desirable book.
buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Will-Save-Dean-Strom/dp/0974726117
Review from: Compulsive Reader

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Cover designed by Stratos