Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy by Bradley Sands

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy

Author: Bradley Sands

Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro, flash fiction, short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, one of the stories is called “Crawling Over Fifty Good Pussies to Get One Fat Boy’s Asshole.”

Availability: Published by Lazy Fascist Press in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: We end Bizarro Week with Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy by Bradley Sands, and I need to remind you that today is also the last day you can run rampant in the comments in order to enter my free book drawing. I am giving away a free copy of each book I discuss this week, and here are the details on how you can enter to win. Comment freely. Comment with vigor. Comment with the knowledge that each comment adds to the sum total of democratic good in this world.

It’s fitting that I am ending this week with Sands’ collection of flash and short fiction. Some stories are absurd. Some are surreal. Some are really fucked up. Some are just a meaningless romp with words. Some are deeply layered and strangely touching. All of them have the demented hand of Sands going for them, but the breadth of story-type made this one of those collections where I am yet again struggling to find a common theme to unite the collection other than the relatively useless, “It’s good, read it.” So again, I am just going to discuss the stories I liked the best in the collection.

“Scenes from the Life of a Greeting Card Designer” initially suffered because I read it shortly after watching the execrable 500 Days of Summer (in lieu of shouting at you kids to get off my lawn, I will say I suspect this is how my mother felt when I sang the praises of John Hughes and all she could see were attractive young people whining). However, on a second read it fared better. The story, one of the longer in the book, follows the life of Tim Hallmark over four Halloweens. On October 31, 5008 BS, Tim is working on a greeting card in his cardboard house when angry trick or treaters attack him with missiles for offering cardboard candy. The kids decide nukes are in order:

Tim Hallmark watches the nuclear warhead and thinks about his life. He screams out the words from his favorite creations:

Happy birthday! You are one day closer to your putrification!

Happy Mother’s Day, but I never asked to be thrust out of rotting taco.

Sorry your grandma died! She molested me when I was eight!

He doesn’t understand why the American public has never understood his genius.

Never fear, he survives and Halloween 5009 BS finds him working as a sideshow freak, living in a dumpster. Mutated by radiation, he is angry and poisons the children who knock on his dumpster asking for candy.

A little boy tears open a greeting card envelope and card, sees a picture of a skeleton in a thong bikini. Under the picture, he reads:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
You have been poisoned
and it sucks to be you.

Tim tells the kids if they overthrow the government for him he will give them the antidote to the poison, but, sadly, the cost of the poisoned candies left him too broke to afford the remedy. But at least he is President.

As President he does terrible things, like threatening women who spurn his advances with rape camp and rubbing his testicles on the gold in Fort Knox, and he has guards to protect him from the angry mobs. But on Halloween, the sexually harassed woman turns out to be a tank in disguise and he is betrayed, oh no! The next Halloween, 5011 BS, finds Tim hiding in the sewers. He is now a eunuch and works on greeting cards in the sewers as the relatives of the kids he poisoned are trying to find him.

Right now, he is sitting on a pipe, working on his latest creation. He is calligraphing the words, “I’ll never flush you my darling. We’re purr-fect for each other.” He has already drawn a cat blowing kisses at an unflushed bowel movement.

But then the kids find him and shoot him with super-soakers full of flame. But since their older siblings were mean to him, they put out the flames and again, as fitting as the man who sends people to rape camps, kills children and rubs his balls on gold, he betrays the kind children and comes to a conclusion that I will not spoil.

So. That is one of the more lunatic stories and within it, there may be some meaning. It has a plot and Tim is characterized by his actions and we walk away knowing he was a very bad man and the ending points at a moral purpose to the piece. Ultimately I decided just to take this as a funny, gross story about a mean, gross man and left it at that.

Other stories have similar ambiguities. For example, “The Time Traveling Giraffe Defies God” seems to be just a strange vignette, and the title pretty much sums up this flash-length story. The giraffe has a headache from time traveling and asks God to give him a shorter neck and a pogo stick but God denies him as He is still creating Zimbabwe. The giraffe bites off God’s ear but he is still time traveling and his head still hurts. This is, I think,  not wholly absurd, because we can sort of derive a sense of an uncaring God in the face of suffering, sort of, and it is not wholly surreal. Maybe this is irreal? I still need to read up on irrealism so who knows? You tell me if you know. Many stories sort of have this tendency to seem utterly without meaning but have a maddening tendril of meaning in them that prevents me from seeing these stories as just a silly, lunatic ride.

Also, strangely, many of them, even as flash pieces, are complete summed up in their titles:  “A Headless Man Falls in Love With a Bowl of Rice.” Insanely, the story begins with the line:

The headless man is eating dinner.

The headless man feels incomplete and realizes that what he is missing is an emotion, an emotion he can direct at others. He focuses his emotion on the plate of rice in front of him, because women don’t like him because he is headless and men like to beat him up. And again, there is that annoying tendril, that piece of hair that gets in your face when you have the windows down in your car and you just can’t get it back in place: those who are extremely different may have a hard time finding traditional love. Maybe.

But then there are stories like “The Study” that are unmistakably absurdist. A bookcase will show a secret passage if you remove the book Cellular Metabolism at Fifty Degrees Celsius. The passage leads into a woman’s uterus, and there a secret passage will lead to series of vague places wherein the passage seeker can leave for another place but he can never come back to the study because there are no books called Cellular Metabolism at Fifty Degrees Celsius to remove from a shelf.

“Want to Hear Something Really Creepy?” defies even the labels of absurdist or surrealist. It is a nine line poem that discusses sitting on couches as a man writes the poem in question, and how the couches seemed to change. No more, no less. It almost has a Zen quality to it. I wonder if one could clear their mind of cluttered thought if they pondered this poem. Not entirely what is the sound of one hand clapping territory but not far off either.

I sort of want to discuss the story that confirmed this as odd, the brain bending “Crawling Over Fifty Good Pussies to Get One Fat Boy’s Asshole.” But I can’t. Any attempts to summarize this story will force me to take to my bed for a week or so. Just know that it features a gangsta Alex Trebek robot who busts a cap in Chuck Woolery’s ass and Stagger Lee, the trickster pimp, who wreaks violent havoc. It’s beyond lunatic. It’s an amazing work but I’ll be damned if I can come close to describing what Sands put on paper.

I’ll end this review with my favorite story in this collection, “Invincible.” Beware, I am going to be spoiling the hell out of this story, so skip to the final paragraph if you need to. This story is about a character called “the boy.” He is a stuttering child and is selling lemonade at a stand in his yard, making some money. Then come two neighborhood toughs:

Billy and Jack come down the street in fine Italian suits. The boy does not like Billy and Jack. They are bullies.

[…]

Jack removes a Tommy Gun from his pants, which contain an interdimensional dimension transcending time and space. He pours the lemonade on the sidewalk… slowly. “Faggot,” he says, “You’re cutting into our business, faggot. Go inside and stay there, faggot, unless you wanna be filled full of holes and eaten like Swiss cheese.”

The threats make Billy cry. His mother hears him and comes out to see what is happening:

Rata tat tat. Jack shoots the mother in the chest with his Tommy Gun.

She is not bothered by the bullets. She is unfazed.

Mothers are indestructible.

This is one of those times when bizarro may seem loony but really isn’t. This story is utterly perfect in depicting a common scene of bullying and the way a loved and protected child sees a parent. The bullies are so terrifying they resemble mafia hoods to the boy, and their guns may be toys but the menace Billy and Jack offer makes time seem like it is standing still, like time and space have ceased to exist. All there is is the fear and terror in that moment. But then comes the mother, who never speaks, only making guttural sounds as she protects her son, sounds that in turn terrify Billy and Jack. They run away and she takes her sad son into the house where it is safe from bullies.

Even though it uses the often strange narrative style found in Sands’ tales that are absurdist, it would be hard to find a story that depicts better the vulnerability of an atypical child at the hands of bullies and the way that a fierce mother can vanquish all foes. When I read this story out loud to Mr. Oddbooks, he remarked that the story reminded him of this drawing. This story amazingly captures the fear of being a child and universal awe of having a mother-protector.

It seems fitting to end Bizarro Week with a book that seems to encompass so much of the bizarro genre. Grossness, lunacy, clever meanings, tender interpretations, absolutely no meaning aside from the experience of reading… Sands’ voice is unmistakable but his focus is wide and this collection of 52 stories shows a remarkable ability to write the absurd, the surreal and the all-too-real, while also throwing in some really interesting and foul mayhem. I highly recommend this book to all of you. Thanks for reading with me this week, and I will announce the winner of the contest later this evening. Send your friends, spread the word, because I love giving away books almost as much as I like writing about them. Let’s make sure my cookie jar is full of names when the drawing time comes! Much love to you all.

35 thoughts on “Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy by Bradley Sands

  1. I managed to track down a few of the stories from this book online. Tao Lin and Seth Schultz, as well as others that may or may not be in the book, but are examples of Sands’ flash fiction.

    He certainly has a distinctive voice. The phrases he uses are pared down, but evocative. Kind of like Daniil Kharms mixed with Dr Seuss…???!!

    When I read his stories, I get the feeling like I’m walking on air, looking at the scenes he depicts from above through frosted glass.

    Good books all. More people need to know about Bizarro. I think it can honestly help lonely, weird kids with strange tastes who feel that they’re alone with their obsessions… like it did for me 🙂

    1. I think bizarro can be all kinds of coping tools. I think reality is becoming stranger and stranger and bizarro makes it more tolerable, how strange life is. But it’s also some incredibly good writing that mainstream publishers ignore because it isn’t the literary version of verse-chorus-verse.

      But I also think that bizarro is one of the more cerebral literary scenes going right now, and it’s cerebral without being pompous or elitist. There are so many reasons to read it.

      1. If that’s why mainstream publishers ignore Bizarro, then that’s pretty sad.

        I find that bizarro is good for expanding my imagination. Making me think of juxtapositions that I had never considered. Sometimes I feel like I could live in my imagination all the time; as great as the world is, the reason people daydream so much is that they can imagine realms far more magnificent. But the people I love and care about tether me to the world. It’s a disturbing thought, that I could happily sever myself from sanity.

        Bizarro certainly isn’t elitist. People like “famous author” Mykle Hansen can gleefully laugh at themselves, which is a breath of fresh air.

      2. Thanks a lot for the review, Anita. I think traditional publishers would be more interested in publishing bizarro-like books for children than books for adults. Because children’s books seem to be more imaginative in general. Like if the Wizard of Oz was a new book, one of the big NYC presses would publish the hell out of it. While John Skipp and Marc Levinthal’s adult version of Oz, The Emerald Burrito of Oz, would probably only be able to get published by a small press.

        So I wrote an absurdist fantasy book for children recently. Still need to do one last edit. I’m going to try to find an agent for it to sell to an NYC press. Because I think it’s the only book that I’ve written that has a chance at being published by them unless they suddenly embrace the bizarro genre. And I think it will continue to be that way unless I write another children’s book, which I’m probably not going to do unless this one ends up being really successful considering how tough it was for me to write. I did it for my grad school thesis. Both because I wanted to write a book that might sell to a larger publisher and I wanted to challenge myself to write something unlike anything I had ever done before rather than doing the same old thing. (Of course, if the book sells, I assume it will have to be published under a pen name considering the titles and content of my other books)

        1. Actually, I can see you as a kids’ book author. If you need a pen name, my I suggest Adolph Guerro Rodriguez-Dalton. That’s my late cat’s name. I’m sure that is a name that will appeal to kids.

          The review was my pleasure!

      3. The samey predictability of most literary fiction is why I’m reading mostly genre stuff nowadays. How many more times can one read the same book about a bearded, middle-aged academic experiencing ennui/anomie/horniness, undergoing some sort of journey involving improbable sexual contacts with attractive young women, then experiencing some kind of epiphany/anti-epiphany. The answer is none. None more times.

        Also, it’s very cool that the author was generous enough to come here and comment and answer questions.

        1. But… but what will happen to Phillip Roth, Edward? WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HIM IF WE STOP READING BOOKS ABOUT MIDDLE-AGED ACADEMICS GETTING LAID?

          Bradley Sands is ten kinds of cool and three kinds of awesome. I like him a lot.

    1. A fair amount of the titles where actually come up with by other people. My friend, Seth Schultz, gifted me with the title of the book, so I wrote a prose poem about him ruining an orgy in thanks. Actually, I consider what Anita refers to as flash fiction to be prose poetry, but perhaps that’s because I’m pretentious. It could definitely fit either category.

      But anyway, about many of the titles: I was between projects and wanted to work on a small project in the meantime. I asked the people who read my blog for titles. Then I wrote the prose poems based on the titles and “submitted” the poems to them. Some of them had actual literary journals (mostly online) and some did not. If they did not, I made up a name for their journal based on their own name and sent them my poem as formal submission. That resulted in a bunch of online journals being created, although I don’t think too many of the journals are still currently publishing. So maybe a little less than half of the pieces had titles that were come up with for other people. If you read the book, this is indicated whenever “for so-and-so” appears below the title.

  2. When it comes to traditional genre fiction, I tend to stay away from short stories and flash fiction but bizarro seems to be perfectly suited for it. There is something about the urgent lunacy that works perfectly within the shorter formats.

    1. I love short story collections of all kinds so I’m a sucker for these sorts of stories anyway, but you distilled it perfectly:

      There is something about the urgent lunacy that works perfectly within the shorter formats.

      Indeed!

  3. I think one of my favorite authors ever is Bradley Sands. He just makes me lol, and it’s hard for me to do that from books.

  4. Bradley Sands is awesome! His latest, “Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You!” is an advanced course in badassery!

    “It Came From Below the Belt” while slightly more sedate, is also exceptional.

    1. Sands is moving up to the top of my READ NOW list. I have a copy of My Heart Said No But the Camera Crew Said Yes and need to get the rest of his books.

    1. And there is also no better way to upset everyone around you, I’ve found the hard way. I need to be more careful what I read in doctor’s office waiting rooms and waiting in line at the bank.

      1. Huh, I’ve only brought bizarro to school, comic shops, and movie theaters, but I’ve never heard anyone get offended. And that includes when I was reading Apeshit.
        The doctors office? Wait, were you reading the Haunted Vagina?!

        1. During a time of intensive medical testing, I annoyed, angered and disgusted several people.

          First, I was reading Snuff by Palahniuk, which is not entirely bizarro but in the same family tree. The cover is not that offensive but if you pay close attention it is a bit unseemly and I got looks.

          As if this had not happened, as if I lacked all kinds of common sense, I went back the next week with a copy of CM3’s Ultra Fuckers. This time a woman asked me to please hide the cover of the book and a nurse was upset with me. Even better, I accidentally forgot it when I left the exam room and didn’t have the balls to call and ask them not to burn it or put it in my permanent file as a sign of my mental degeneracy.

          Now that Kindle has come along, I can stop offending people. At least in that matter.

      2. There’s nothing wrong with the cover art for this book, although people may get a little shocked by the title. But it’s tame compared to other bizarro book titles, such a lot of Carlton Mellick’s books and my current one, Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You.

        Sam Pink did the cover art for the book and I’m also a big fan of his writing. He’s another Lazy Fascist Press author and we both had a book published through Afterbirth Books (which sort of no longer exists, although I think his book is still in print while mine is not because they like him better than me or something. Or maybe it just sells better. It Came from Below the Belt sold relatively well the first couple of years after its release, but sales plummeted after that. Seemed like someone bought a copy once every month or two).

        Anyway, I highly recommend any of Sam’s books.

        1. Oh, I read your book at home. I offended people with a Palahniuk and CM3 book.

          Sam’s Person is on my Amazon list and with your recommendation I will buy him sooner than later. 🙂

          1. Oh, I saw your post above. Snuff. I don’t understand how the cover is offensive. Even if someone studies the little people in the person’s mouth for a few minutes. The book itself is rather offensive and in my opinion, the worst book he has written.

          2. Just keep in mind that I live in Pflugerville, Texas. On that one, no one told me outright what it was that was upsetting but I realized I was getting unpleasant looks as people looked from the book to me, then back to the book. Total churchlady stares.

            I agree. I did not enjoy Snuff. I will say, however, that I liked it better than Rant. But neither were particularly good. I’ve got Pygmy and Tell-All in my to-be-read stack and am hoping they are much better.

          3. I loved Rant. That was the last of his books that I liked. I disliked Tell-All, but at least it wasn’t written in the same style as almost all of his other books. I had mixed feelings about Pygmy. It gets better once you get used to the pidgen-speak.

            Getting uncomfortable because there’s a giant mouth on the cover of a book is just silly. I doubt if the people who were made uncomfortable by it were able to see the tiny people in the mouth unless they went close to it and stared or something.

      1. The song is Nick Cave’s version of the song, Stagger Lee, from his album, Murder Ballads. He didn’t write the lyrics. I think some bored prisoners did. The story that the song inspired is “Crawling Over Fifty Good Pussies to Get One Fat Boy’s Asshole.” I wrote it because I was solicited to write a story for a horror anthology that was supposed to consist of stories inspired by Nick Cave songs. My initial response was “Are you sure? I don’t write horror.” And then they wrote something like “No problem. We’re familiar with your writing and like it. Just make sure your story is(quote) dark (unquote).” So I did as I was told and received a nice rejection letter that told me how great the story was but that it wasn’t a good fit with the rest of the stories that they had accepted, which I was afraid of happening in the first place but I went through with writing the story due to the editor’s reassurances. So I was a bit annoyed about that considering I felt like I had wasted my time. Recently I found out that the anthology has been cancelled, which filled my evil side with glee. Although my friend had a story accepted, and although they did not publish it, they still paid him for it. And the pay was pretty decent.

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