Book: Piecemeal June
Author: Jordan Krall
Type of book: Fiction, novella, bizarro
Why I Consider This Book Odd: I hate to keep invoking the name of Eraserhead Press, but there you go. I also read a synopsis that led me to believe this was an utterly lunatic book. It didn’t even come close to describing the lunacy.
Availability: Published in 2008 by Bizarro Books, an imprint of Eraserhead Press, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Oh dear Lord. How do I even begin? Because I am a closet pervert, I ordered this book thinking it was going to be a bizarro pornographic romp. It isn’t, not really, even though the June of the title character is a sex doll come to life, created in the image of a porn actress, and the main character, Kevin, has sex with her. Despite that, this is high bizarro that leaves me conflicted. Too many descriptions of sweat and feet and more feet. But there is a cat. An awesome cat. So you can see my dilemma.
There are moments when you simply cannot give an adequate synopsis of a bizarro book, and this is one of those moments. So just let me throw out some sentences that sort of attempt to explain this book. There are crab people from what I think is another dimension and the unethical pornographers who do their bidding. There is also a crab king called Simon. He loves the real actress June is based on. He has sex with ears sometimes, or mashed together body parts of the people the crab men kill, squashed together into weird, perverse configurations. There is a guy named Kevin who lives over a porn shop. There is a cat called Mithra who delivers pieces of June until Kevin has a full sex doll, but also gives tarot readings and drops meaningful cards at the right intervals. There is a seer named Latrina whose back is a swirling sewer and who travels via toilets. There is a brain-damaged boxer. There is an ending that will make you wonder if you have, in fact, gone temporarily insane.
So with that out of the way, let me focus on the two elements of the book that remained with me after reading it: FEET OMG FEET and the awesome cat.
Kevin, the protagonist, has a penchant for feet. Now bear in mind, at one point a toilet explodes in this book, spreading filth far and wide. One character is pretty much a walking sewer. Poo does not bother me. Hell, I would go so far as to say that I find poop pretty funny. I’m not into scat but damn if scatological humor doesn’t make me laugh my ass off. Fart jokes? I’m your girl. And all the sweat the disassembled June emitted was unpleasant but I could cope. But feet? Sweaty feet? Smelly, sweaty feet? As my friend Arafat would say, “Jesus Allah Fuck!” I very nearly went fetal during parts of this book.
Take, for instance, this passage:
He put his nose to the toes and inhaled the stench. It was as if his brain became a television and he watched as a teenage Kevin knelt at the feet of his high school Spanish teacher. She was a statuesque older woman who forced him to first massage her feet while he sniffed them. Then she peeled a banana and fed it to Kevin using only her feet. He could still taste the fruit mixed with the pungent flavor of Ms. Booth’s soles.
Mithra meowed and brought Kevin’s attention back to the bedroom. His nose was still touching the top of the foot. There was something in between the toes. He stuck a finger in there, cleaning out the gunk. Bringing the finger to his nose, he smelt banana. Kevin was pleasantly shocked. The sex doll’s foot has banana-flavored toe jam.
Emphasis not my own and I very nearly cried typing that out.
But that wasn’t even the worst of it. My fellow fearers of feet, behold:
…. Regina, the manager, called him into her office…. Every day, without fail, she came dressed in a skirt, pantyhose… Regina babbled on with rhetoric and rhetorical questions while Kevin stole glances of her pantyhose and scuffed black slip-on dress shoes. He wondered if they were sweaty… Were the pantyhose freshly washed or was she wearing them for a while. Would her feet have an additional vinegar stench?… Regina lifted her left foot up and the shoe fell off of it. Kevin first saw the bottom of her foot, the pantyhose were linty and worn thin. Then the smell hit him.
God. Jesus, Jordan, what the hell?
I may be taking this too hard. I sold shoes to get through college. I had some… unpleasant days at work.
Okay. Moving on.
So even if feet scar you a bit, Mithra can help. Mithra rules. Mithra the Cat makes up for all the feet in this book and then some. He is the coolest fictional cat ever!
Mithra is, in a very real sense, the only part of this book that makes any real sense. Mithra’s name is a variation on the Zoroastrian name for the god of truth. And yes, I had to look that up. I had to look up all of the information I am about to share with you. I didn’t mind looking all of this up because Mithra the Cat is worth it. It also distracted me from the feet, oh god, the feet.
Mithra clearly loves Kevin, his slacker, pervert human, and brings him gifts. Generally he brings dead mice, but one day he begins to bring the sweaty, banana-jammed parts of a sex doll that have been stashed in the porn shop below Kevin’s apartment. Mithra is also an accomplished tarot card reader and routinely reads Kevin’s cards. But will Kevin pay attention? Of course not. He’s too busy musing on feet and MILF porn. The tarot cards are foreshadowing, and in a novel this insane, only the cat can be trusted to tell us how things really are.
On the day Mithra brings the first part of June, her sweaty foot, he also drops on the floor in front of Kevin a tarot card, the Ace of Cups. According to the Internet, the Ace of Cups means that the person in question is ready for a new romance and feels a deep desire in their heart for love. So while Kevin is profoundly gross in some respects, he wants true love. Don’t we all?
Mithra drags piece after piece of June’s body to Kevin, but before he drags in June’s head, he brings in another card, the Ace of Wands. Again, the Internet comes to the rescue, letting us know that the Ace of Wands represents a rise in energy, a spark for a new endeavor. And what an endeavor it becomes when Kevin attaches June’s head and she comes to life.
Later, when June and Kevin are basking in the afterglow of vigorous sex, watching Diff’rent Strokes (no, I am not making this up), Mithra brings the happy couple the Queen of Cups, which symbolizes new love or the growth of a family. In this case, it can mean both. Du-du-dun!
During a confrontation with the pornographers who want June back as well as the crab people who are the minions of the king crab thing that created her in the image of a famous porn star who killed herself (don’t question it), Mithra tosses the Three of Swords at the feet of the pornographer, before the fight for June begins. This sword symbolizes a struggle, followed by loss or separation. Mithra knows how this shit is gonna go down even if Max the violent pornographer has no idea at all what awaits him at the end of the struggle.
I hope by now the exaggerated OMG FEET criticism is seen as just that – exaggerated. My only real, deep quarrel comes from one scene, where a friend of Kevin’s calls him just before the final conflict to tell him that he had a car accident and severed his girlfriend’s legs with the dashboard and is afraid to call the cops because she is a student and they were stoned. Then the conflict happens and the friend is never ever brought up again. Dude, what happened to Ryan and Sara? Is there a symbolism I am missing, what with the missing legs? Does any of it matter? But I want to know, dammit.
So, the question is this: Krall has other books out there. Will I read them? Hell yes, I like being disgusted. And appalled. And enthralled by clever cats. Not sure what his other books have in store but I will draw a bath and get a Valium beforehand in case feet, smegma, toe jam or anything else comes up. That way I can just go ahead and feel clean and sedated as I read.
ETA: Oh no… He has a book out called Fistful of Feet. Dare I read it? Krall, you monster!