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.