Pinkies by Shane Hinton

Book:  Pinkies

Author:  Shane Hinton

Type of Book:  Fiction, short stories, flash fiction

Why Do I Consider This Book Is Odd:  Because it’s not immediately clear which Shane Hinton wrote this book.

Availability:  Published by Burrow Press in 2015, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  Shane Hinton has a bit of Jon Konrath in him, or maybe Jon has a bit of Shane in him.  Or maybe they both have a bit of someone I have yet to read in them both. But this collection shows that Hinton has an eye and ear for the absurd in daily life, though he ventures into the speculative more than Konrath does.  And I only mention Konrath because I found myself chugging NyQuil Cough formula like it was soda the other day and ended up having a bad dream about that infant-mouse-covered snake on the front of this book.  In my dream the snake had charmed the mice like a sort of reptilian Charles Manson and they were ready to do his bidding, except I also think the snake was female. A lot of it I’ve forgotten, which is probably a good thing. But I did have the nightmare. That much I do know.

Before I begin to discuss this book in earnest, I want to mention that there is some interesting meta going on in this collection, and meta I have seen in other books recently.  I don’t think it’s happening enough to call it a trend, but this summer I managed to read three books wherein the characters were named for the authors.  Hank Kirton named a couple of characters in his short story collection Bleak Holiday after himself.  Brian Whitney’s Raping the Gods sports a protagonist named Brian Whitney, which may be because the book is autobiographical (and I am afraid to find out if it is indeed autobiographical).  And every male protagonist in Pinkies is Shane Hinton.  One story boasts dozens of Shane Hintons.

I can feel the desire to go on at extraordinary lengths rising up because I genuinely enjoyed this collection, so I’m going to limit myself to the stories I liked best.  Every story works on some level – there wasn’t a clunker to be found – but I decided to limit myself to four of the sixteen stories in this slim volume.  Let us all cross our fingers that such a measure keeps my verbosity more or less in check, but I think it’s safe to say this is going to be very long, because this is a good collection and because this is the first book review on Odd Things Considered and I feel self-indulgent with celebratory bookishness.

Sleep Has No Master by Jon Konrath

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Sleep Has No Master

Author:  Jon Konrath

Type of Book:  Fiction, themed short story collection, lunacy

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  I don’t even know how to tell you all the ways this book is odd.  I am mostly reminded of this Hunter S. Thompson quote:

Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ‘the rat race’ is not yet final.

Availability:  Published by Paragraph Line Books in 2012, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  This book gave me the fear.  Like I was going to go full Gonzo-paranoid and end up locking myself in the backyard shed with a gallon of whiskey and a loaded gun.  As I read parts of the book, I thought, “I wrote this.  I wrote this book and I forgot and Konrath sent it to me in some passive aggressive ruse in order to show me he has access to my thoughts and computer and probably even my medicine cabinet.”  I read the title chapter out loud to Mr. Oddbooks, who peered at me nervously from his side of the bed, no doubt wondering if I had had (another) psychotic break (there was a… problem when I read a particular Zippy the Pinhead cartoon that referenced the Oscar Meyer Wiener-mobile, but that was years ago).

A quick summary of the book is likely in order:  this is a short story collection that tells the tales of a dude who does stuff, sometimes alone, sometimes with his loser friends.   Through these dudes, Konrath hits on too many details of my life for this book to be legal.  Some of the topics that include details far too specific for my comfort: insomnia, unlikely car customizations, Varg Vikernes, specific conspiracy theories, a complete inability to use eye drops as a child, over-the-counter sleep aids, corpulent Asians friends, microsleep, the bizarre belief that one’s eyelashes are inverting back into one’s eyelid (mine grow sideways, toward my nose, and it’s a problem), spending most of one’s work days searching eBay listings, self-torture via medical sites, Crispin Glover, gg allin, disgust for how badly movies tended to represent computer capabilities in the 80s, the Voynich Manuscript, fear of what diet sodas may be doing to my brain, and so much more.  This book is, when I can tamp down the paranoia, deeply funny, verging on hilarious at times, but the paranoia lurks because who really could have so many weird idiosyncrasies in common unless something nefarious is happening?

The story “Sleep Has No Master” contains a paragraph that pretty much confirmed for me that Konrath needs to go to jail, the fucker, because I know I wrote this at some point:

I started researching sleep disorders online, the usual death spiral of fanatical WebMD queries, and stumbled upon something called fatal familial insomnia.  It’s an incredibly rare four-stage inherited prion disease that starts with progressively-worsening insomnia and panic attacks.  Then you dive into a wonderful world of Nixon-esque paranoia and vivid hallucinations.  By the third stage, you cannot sleep at all, and your body starts breaking down with rapid weight loss.  It all leads up to a crippling dementia, before you finally buy the farm.  Barbiturates and induced comas, which you’d think would knock you out, actually speed up the disease.  In one famous case, the doctors completely nuked the patient with heavy sedatives, but his brain would not shut down.  This is the exact kind of thing you don’t want to read at 3 AM when you’ve been awake for 40 hours straight and you’re trying  to find some homeopathic bullshit to turn off your brain for the evening.

Seriously, I am rethinking the microwave brain readers that Gloria Naylor insisted were used to read her thoughts.  You know how when your cats freak out and run frantically into the other room, only to stop immediately and then stare, wild-eyed at the wall?  I think that’s when Konrath is warming up the brain-microwave.