Book: How to Eat Fried Furries
Author: Nicole Cushing
Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro, short story collection
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, it begins with a team of humanoid ferrets trying to save the world from a literal shit storm. It gets odder from there.
Availability: Part of the Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Authors Series, it was published in 2010. You can and should get a copy here:
Comments: LET BIZARRO WEEK BEGIN!
I am going to review one bizarro book a day this week. Why? Because I love bizarro literature. I also had five bizarro books to review and figured, “Why not.” If people like Bizarro Week, it may become a regular feature so if you are digging it, comment and let me know.
Also, if you leave me a comment in this entry today before 7:00 pm PST, you’ll be in the running to win a free copy of How to Eat Fried Furries. If you retweet any of my Twitter posts with the hashtag bizarroweek, that will also throw your name in the hat to win a copy of the book. That’s right, folks. I’m giving away two free copies and yes, you can both leave a comment here AND retweet in order to improve your chances of winning. I will choose one random commenter and one random retweeter after 7:00 pm PST. You definitely want a copy of this book. So get to it!
Okay, all my business out of the way, I need to say that this was a great book to start off Bizarro Week. A fucking wonderful book. A themed short story collection wherein all the stories have a link to one another, no matter how small, this book is subversive, sickening, funny, eerie and, dare I say it, entertaining. It is random, topical and creepy as all hell. One chapter raised the hair on the back of my neck, it was so creepy. These are stories for people who like being disgusted, for whom a book cannot be too disturbing, and who don’t mind the nasty being quite funny.
I think I knew this book was going to be utterly wonderful during the prologue.
Who hasn’t, in some moment of midnight genius, concocted a plan to murder Santa Claus? I know I have.
I have, too.
But killing Santa is only part of this book. And while the title refers to furries, they are not those kinds of furries, the kind mocked on CSI. They are humans forced to wear animal suits so people will feel more comfortable with cannibalism. A recurring theme in these stories is that of humans assuming the roles of animals, either as an attempt to survive during a squirrel invasion or by force in a grim dystopia, or animals becoming human hybrids, as happened with the grotesque Ferret Force Five, who try to save the Earth from space invasion as well as stop a massive shit storm that is covering the planet in hot, steaming poo.
And then there are the people who decide to lose their skins as a means of rebellion. Ugh.
So what makes this collection of stories about shit storms and Squirrel Jesus and deformed ferrets and cannibalism so special? Well, first, the book is culturally cunning without sliding into insufferable hipster territory. The nods to 90’s brother band Nelson and Pulp Fiction amused me but aren’t invasive. She blends little dots of pop culture references into her narrative in a manner that ensures that if you get the reference, you’ll grin a bit but if it all means nothing to you, you won’t sense that there is an inside joke that does not include you.
Second, Cushing’s narrative styles are also a thing of beauty. She uses a pastiche of different narrative types to tell the stories of worlds gone mad. Recipes, scripts for long-forgotten television shows, first person journalism accounts – the way she uses varied methods to tell these stories with a common theme make this collection seem active, engaging and sharp.
Third, she is a fine storyteller. I am walking a fine line here because I want to share some of the best parts of these tales but at the same time I do not want to give too much away. So to a degree, you may have to take my word for it that this is one clever, interesting, disgusting, foul, hilarious, over-the-top yet subtle short story collection. Some of the text will just make you uneasy, like the description of Ferret Force Five in the first chapter, “Ferret Force Five, Episode VII: Hirrelter Squirrelter! A Media Tie-In for the Ages!” The description of the hot, steaming shit storm in the same chapter is both disgusting and quite funny, especially the “science” that explains the phenomenon.
“Squirrelmagedon: 2012” is bleak, dystopic and horribly funny. The Angel Uriel sends survivors rhyming messages from a bi-plane and the remaining humans do their best to appear as squirrel-like as possible. Yet as bizarre(o) as it all seems, the characters still manage to pigeon-hole their experiences into the world view they had before they experienced such calamity.
Crossan couldn’t stand to hear her talk this way. Hadn’t she listened to enough of his sermons to know that the Book of Revelations predicted a cleansing, purifying bloodbath at the end? Didn’t she know Jesus would win? Admittedly St. John had left out the part about three decades of hiding from a squirrel army. But other than that it was all working out according to plan.
The best story in the collection is “A Citizen’s History of the Pseudo-Amish Anschluss.” This story, more restrained than the poop-filled, gross, outrageous plots of the other stories, was easily one of the creepiest, eeriest things I have read this year. I don’t want to discuss it in depth because frankly this is one of those stories I consider “worth the price of admission.” It’s a story most readers will come back to in moments of mental silence, remembering the absolute but understated horror of the piece. But let me share one passage from this story, and even with zero context, I think the power of Cushing’s prose will be clear:
I heard the Black Suit Ladies knocking gently–ever so gently–against the basement windows, the front door, the back door, the downstairs windows, the upstairs windows. Their tiny wrists tapped their elegant nails against each window, sending each pane of glass a-titter. “Bossie, time for milkin’!” they all called out in unison.
I didn’t answer.
I knew I had time.
I will surrender to the Black Suit Ladies. Not yet, but soon.
If you are reading this now, you must be one of them.
When a bunch of women, who reminded me of Mrs. Danvers, are gently insistent that a woman become a cow, we are dealing with a palpable level of creepiness.
One of the reasons I started off with this book for Bizarro Week is because I can’t remember the last time I read a first effort that was this damn good. I am a reader who appreciates many genres and this book covered horror, humor, the grotesque, the foul, the insane and the unthinkable in a way that even satisfied the part of me that still has the stink of an English Lit grad student. Cushing got this book published in the Bizarro New Author series but in order to hear her voice again in another book, we readers have to buy this book. This series really does permit us to vote with our dollars. So if you read here often and I’ve steered you right before, consider buying this book. I highly recommend it and spending money on Cushing’s book will ensure we have more books from her in the future.
And because I liked it this much, I bought two copies to share, and again, you can win a copy if you comment to this review or if you retweet any of my tweets with the tag #bizarroweek. Contest ends Monday, November 8 at 7:00 pm PST.
ETA: nmallen won the Twitter retweet giveaway and Dan won the copy for comments in this entry. Thanks to everyone who commented to win – keep an eye on the site as I will be hosting another book giveaway on Thursday for another New Bizarro Author!