Book: TV Snorted My Brain
Author: Bradley Sands
Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s a retelling of the Arthurian myths using a sullen teenager, a sleazy wrestler, and a mystical television remote.
Availability: Published by LegumeMan books in 2012, you can get a copy here:
Comments: This is a book you will either love or hate. I don’t think there can be much gray area. The reason for this is because this book relies on a teenaged narrator, a particularly stupid teenaged narrator whose brain is given to repetition. Lots of repetition. I suspect a real teenager would find this book interminable. But if you can remember yourself when you were annoying as the day was long, yammering about ANARCHY and hating everyone around you because they were norms, you may find Artie Pendragon as funny as I did.
This book is a retelling of the King Arthur story using ridiculous suburban schmoes in the place of heroic figures. Excalibur is a remote control and Camelot is inside a television. When Artie’s father dies and his mother marries his uncle, no one can work the television until one night Artie uses the Excalibur 3000 to navigate the TV and his entire family finds themselves sucked into a netherworld wherein actors really are inside the television. Artie has to engage in a struggle against his stepfather and little sister as he hunts for the Holy Grail. Can he save the land in the television? Can he achieve his goal of anarchy? Can he get his wife back from his stepfather and take his place as the rightful ruler? Will his struggles be so silly that it makes the mythos of Arthur seem like little more than the backdrop to a Bill and Ted film? The only question I will answer for you is the last one and I think you know what the answer is.
As I mentioned earlier, this book is told from the perspective of an irritating and somewhat uninteresting teenager, a teenager upon whom fate has thrust greatness of sorts. Through showing examples of Artie’s thought processes, I can demonstrate how simple and repetitive he is and, in my opinion, utterly hilarious. Here’s a scene wherein he is watching his younger sister playing in a soccer game:
I sit in a folding beach chair on the sidelines, watching my little sister play out on the field. The chair is uncomfortable. A strip of polyester fabric is poking me in the ass. I do not like to be poked in the ass. But it is worth being poked in the ass. It is a really great pee wee soccer game. It is total anarchy, super-retardo anarchy awesomeness. It is the most anarchist thing on Earth.
Oh wait, I forgot about riots in the streets.
But riots in the streets don’t have little girls picking up clumps of grass out of the ground instead of defending their goal, little girls chasing butterflies instead of the ball, little girls tripping over the ball, little girls kicking the ball into the wrong goal, little girls calling their opponents cuntbags, little girls screaming as they run away from the ball.
Riots in the streets don’t have soccer moms. Riots on the streets don’t have soccer dads. Riots on the streets don’t have riots between soccer moms and soccer dads over pee wee soccer games. Riots in the streets are over real world issues. Real world issues are fucking lame.
I say it out loud, “Real world issues are fucking lame.”
This is a long quote but I throw it out here because it’s a litmus test. If you find this particular style of writing annoying, you will want to stop reading here and give this book a miss. But if you find this strangely charming and exactly like the tiresome kid you sat next to in health class, the one who scrawled Anarchy! symbols all over his Trapper Keeper and quoted Metallica lyrics back before they “sold out” and totally did not give a fuck, you’ll enjoy the rest of this book. And this really is the bulk of the book – the Arthurian myth as filtered through the mind and life of a kid who will remind you a bit of Dermott from The Venture Brothers. There are the usual fantastic elements that accompany bizarro books but this book is quite simple in its execution – teenage dirtbag as King Arthur. And because it is so simple, I think the best way to show how great this book is is by quoting passages.
Sands does a great job describing the often-times boring and tiresome landscape of the unstimulated teenager.
Three Baristas and a Ten Million Dollar Apartment is on TV. It is not very good. It is the worst television show I have ever seen, I have seen a lot of shows, but I have never seen Three Baristas and a Ten Million Dollar Apartment until now. I cannot wait until the commercials. The commercials will be a trillion times better than it, especially if they show that commercial with the hamburger and the breakdancing toilet. I like that one a lot.
Though Artie needs to figure out how to use the Excalibur 3000 remote in order to achieve his destiny, with a television program this inane he has little incentive to fast forward through commercials. But then again, CODENAME: Camel Toe, which we learn about later in the book, sounds like something teenaged boys would want to watch.
I couldn’t help but love Artie’s discourse on decidedly non-PC topics. His step-father, who is also his uncle, is a pro-wrestler, and Artie approves of at least part of the profession.
The wrestling league also has midget wrestling matches. Midget wrestling fucking rules. It’s the second most anarchist thing on Earth, I think. Even though there are a few rules during the matches, it is still anarchist because it rules so fucking much. I am friends with all the midget wrestlers in my uncle’s league. They are my only friends.
That actually sounds pretty awesome, from an adult perspective.
And then we get this bit of logic:
My copy of The Anarchist Cookbook is a special edition. A former member of the Black Panthers wrote, “NOW WITH EVEN MORE ANARCHY!” on the cover in red magic marker. He wrote it so the two “A”s in “ANARCHY” were anarchy symbols. That’s how you know when something is truly anarchist. The anarchy symbol is always a dead giveaway. Having two anarchy symbols makes something twice as anarchist.
Which Black Panther do you think wrote that? My money is on Bobby Seale, but that’s mostly because we were born in the same town and I liked his barbeque cookbook. So I’m biased. But since we later learn Artie bought the book from a dude called Dewey, I’m pretty sure we’re looking at Huey Carmichael, which totally doesn’t sound correct to me but I didn’t write this book, so…
But just to remind us this is a bizarro book, there is some unsettling sex wherein Artie walks in on his mother and uncle having very appalling sex on the top of the refrigerator.
They do not notice me. This makes me very happy. I don’t know what I would do if I were caught watching the most sexually unattractive couple on the planet while they were having sexually unattractive sex. I would probably say, “Hi, Mom!” and run.
This is likely another litmus test. I cannot explain why but this passage made me laugh so hard I woke the long-suffering Mr. Oddbooks.
Artie has little interest in assuming the role of King of Camelot because being King is not very anarchist. His uncle/step-father has other plans.
This makes my uncle mad. He puts me ina headlock. “Don’t test me, brother. Either you’re king or Kin Corn Karn is gonna reign supreme all over your ass. I’m gonna ground you for life if you don’t embrace your freakin’ destiny. How’d you like to stay in your room for two weeks with no television and Internet?”
I say, “I would like to stay in my room for two weeks with no television and Internet, thank you.”
I feel like I should know which wrestler is being parodied here but I just don’t. King Kong Bundy came to mind but I’m sure that’s not right. I bet one of you knows.
But Artie begins to settle down and accept and even embrace his fate.
We are now inside Castle Fracturedskull. It looks more like a shopping mall than a castle. I usually want to blow up shopping malls, but I do not want to blow up Castle Fracturedskull. It is awesome. It is like a shopping mall that caters to drunk people who want to pretend they are twelve-years-old for a night.
But he doesn’t lost his inner spark.
Right now, my mom is staring at me with pride. I don’t know why she’s so proud of adding another item to the list of reasons why she must die after everybody goes anarchy.
It goes on in this manner as Artie marries Gwen, is betrayed by his uncle and sister and must fight in order to get Gwen back and to restore himself as the rightful king. Using the Excaliber 3000, he enters one show after another in the Camelot TV land he inhabits, picking up one character after another from the hackneyed shows, and using them in his final showdown. This section where Artie coasts from show to show is quite funny, especially when he finds himself in commercials.
Wait… this is the commercial with the dumb guys who shout a lot. I hate this commercial I hate the dumb guys and I will not allow their shouts to convince me I am thirsty. The dumb guys have failed at making me crave their sports drink. They succeeded at making me so angry that I want to kill them. I do not care if everybody hasn’t gone anarchy yet. I am king. It is my right to kill the fuck out of anyone who pisses me off.
Another dumb guy swigs his MethLab Explosion energy drink. He shouts, “Whoa!”
I lunge at him, karate chop him in the throat, scratch at his eyes, grab his dick and pull it as hard as I can, force his mouth open, hock a loogie and spit it down his throat.
We no longer have real television in my house. We use an Apple TV and I have not seen a live commercial in a long time. We went to the movies recently and there were a crap-ton of them before the film and we felt like we were going insane as stupid products promoted by loud people were screamed at us in vivid technicolor. Commercials really are a bane of human life and I think we have all wanted to hock a loogie down someone’s throat in a stupid commercial. Strangely, the commercial that made me want to spit the most was that idiotic one with Claire Danes explaining how you can take some medication to have more luscious eyelashes because it was a side effect discovered from glaucoma medication. It’s like people with glaucoma can’t smoke pot in most of this country to relieve their pain, but their medications can be co-opted by the beauty industrial complex so that women with disposable income can grow lashes. We’re not talking cancer victims here – people who lost their eyelashes due to chemo, though I guess they can take it. This was a drug marketed to women who just weren’t getting the effects they needed from mascara. Oh, and the drug can change the color of your eyes. So then you have to go get colored contacts to look like you did before except with bushy eyelashes. Oh, the triviality of it all. I mean, I didn’t want to spit down Claire Dane’s throat, per se, but clearly the commercial caused me to react strongly.
Anyway, back on topic. I found this to be a fun book. It may not be the most clever trope but it’s one of the more original uses of the Arthurian mythos, and if you are of the right mind, it’s very funny. You may note that I have not lost my mind over the crappy editing. That is not to say it didn’t have a couple of small errors, but a couple of small errors happen. Nothing is ever perfect. I mention this because it was nice not to have to lose my mind over crappy editing. So nice.
So if these quoted passages appeal to you, you are going to want to read this book. To those who like the quotes, I highly recommend this book.