Author: Gabino Iglesias
Type of Book: Fiction, novella, bizarro, body horror
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, because a man’s life is ruined by the sentient mouth that appears in his stomach.
Availability: Published by Eraserhead Press in 2012, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I decided to kick off my New Bizarro Author Series week with Gabino Iglesias because he is a fellow Austinista. Shallow, but hopefully my discussion will redeem me. Gutmouth is the story of Gut Dedmon and the sentient and often hungry mouth in his torso, a mutation that began as a pimple on his stomach and turned into a mouth that Dedmon has to feed. The mouth, named Philippe, interferes with Dedmon’s life in pretty interesting and foul ways, demanding food and engaging in oral sex with his girlfriend without Dedmon’s permission. Dedmon’s reaction to this latter act of betrayal lands him in jail, and the story is told in flashbacks as Dedmon experiences prison life, often with his own shit in his hand.
In this novel, Iglesias creates a perverse dystopia that can best be described as 1984 with extreme body modifications and mutations. Extreme pain is pleasure, pleasure is demented and everyone is amoral and marginally insane. There is a Church of Albert Fish, Carlton Mellick V is writing brutal fiction, people can genetically cross themselves with salamanders and a body modification expert deconstructs his ex-girlfriend into a motorcycle. This is a fun, perverse and at times really gross dystopic book, and it even has something for the paranoid types who like to visit here from time to time. The dystopia is a capitalist hell hole and Dedmon plays his part as a “hunter” for MegaCorp.
The job, as the name implies, involved hunting down people who refused to comply with MegaCorp rules and regulations and bringing them to the local Consumer Rehabilitation and Punishment Center. I would usually get a call or text with a crime, a name and an address and then I would track down dissidents – folks that refused to buy their allotted quantities of products each month, stubborn citizens who wanted to grow their own food, horny individuals that raped someone else’s pleasurebots, things like that. From the inside of the cell, that life looked like paradise.
Dedmon loathes the stoma-mouth that penetrates his abdomen and you can’t really blame him. Philippe forces Dedmon to interact with him and if ignored Philippe chews up whatever is in his way, including Dedmon’s clothing. Philippe also puts a lot of financial and emotional pressure on Dedmon.
Philippe was misogynistic and racist, which made me feel guilty about having him. Plus, his extravagant tastes clashed with my financial reality. A hunter couldn’t afford a steady diet of bipolar midget brains, Angora cats and chocolate-stuffed olives.
Philippe is demanding, respects no boundaries, and speaks, inexplicably since Dedmon is American, in a British accent. This is a pretty good distillation of their relationship, a scene from when Dedmon is in jail.
“Shut up, you fucking aberration. You’re the reason we’re here in the first place,” I said.
Philippe smiled a crooked grin in response.
“I’m hungry, mate. You think we can get some curry in here,” asked the toothy hole.
“I’m going to let you starve, you snaggletoothed prick,” I said.
“For a bloke who couldn’t satisfy his lady, you sure sound like a macho man ready to take on all comers. You muppet,” responded the mouth in his British accent.
“You know what? The best thing about dying is taking you with me,” I told him, pulling my shirt down.
I found the interactions between Dedmon and Philippe to be the best parts of this novella. It’s impossible to miss the implication that Dedmon is a man truly at war with himself, with Dedmon as the ego, Philippe as the id and a superego nowhere to be found. Plus I just like quarrels that verge into the ridiculous.