Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Sugar Frosted Nutsack: WTF?!

My advice on this one: Read the title of Mark Leyner's supposedly comic, radically "experimental" (are you frightened?), purposely absurd novel, giggle a few times, and then put the book back — that is, unless you're a glutton for literary punishment. This novel is like a 250-page inside joke...that you're not privy, too. It's like Leyner threw his spaghetti plate of jokes at the wall, and they ALL stuck (even the ones that don't work). It's like if Tom Robbins, Thomas Pynchon, and Christopher Moore got together and did ecstasy, and wrote down their drug-addled conversation. It might be funny at times, but it'd also be a largely incoherent mess.

Yes, there are some laugh-out-loud moments, but on the whole, the thing makes you want to punch Leyner in his own sugar frosted nutsack. If you do decide to read this, do so in small chunks — and be sure to warn your family what you're up to.

Here's the deal: The "novel" is a meta-meta-fiction about an epic titled (what else?) The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, which chronicles the life of one Ike Karton, a 47-year-old butcher who lives in New Jersey. Each time The Sugar Frosted Nutsack is performed — and it's done so frequently by what Leyner refers to hundreds of times as "vagrant, drug-addled bards," everything that happens in that actual recital of the epic must be included in the next recital of the epic. So there's a lot of repetition here to make that point, and also to purposely annoy the reader.

Oh yeah, and so there's also a collection of gods, who we meet at the beginning of the novel and who live on the top floor of the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) in Dubai, pulling the strings of the world (one great Leyner line: "Fate is the ultimate pre-existing condition"), having sex with each other and humans, and doing a hallucinogenic drug called Gravy (which they sometimes sell to Ike's daughter's boyfriend). One of the gods, named XOXO, often messes with reality (and, hence, the epic) by etching people's brains (figuratively...or is it?) with a periodontal curette.

So part of the point of this meta-mess (other than to alternately piss you off and make you laugh), is that it seems to be some sort of send-up of organized religion — how the Bible, doctrine, religious ritual came to be. There's also a whisper of Zen here — only that which can be observed is real. And there are a lot — and I mean a freakin' LOT — of jokes (did you know Dick van Dyke's real name is Penis van Lesbian...but he had to change it for showbiz sake?)...and wildly off-beat tangents...and just general goofiness.

So, two stars — one for the title itself, and one more for the rest. Enjoy at your own risk!

8 comments:

  1. Sounds like a Mark Leyner novel. I find his humor a little aggressive and obvious for my taste. TETHERBALLS had good ideas in them, but it was drowned by his crazyman lingo. Didn't seem like he's grown out of it. Will pass. Thanks Greg.

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    1. I hadn't read anything else by Leyner, but the only people who seemed to have like this novel are Leyner's loyal fans. I'd definitely suggest a pass.

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  2. I saw this in BN last week, laughed, took a pic, posted it to Twitter... and left the book right where it was. Good to know my disinterest is warranted.

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  3. What I find particularly refreshing is that you're a fan of DFW, so you're no stranger to weird, experimental literature... but you still don't like it. Which tells me that you gave it a sincere chance and are writing an honest, negative review... instead of some people who would thumb-down the book just because it's confusing.

    I really enjoyed the book, but that may just be because I have a hipster-lit reputation to uphold... Great review! I'll be back for more!

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    1. That's interesting - other than your hip-lit rep, what'd you like about it?

      You're right, I do love weird stuff - but this was less weird and more just messy. He's a clever writer for sure, and there are laugh-out-loud-funny parts here, but it's just overwhelming as a whole.

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    2. For me, it was the constant repetition, the throw-backs the book gave me to House of Leaves, and the ridiculous skewering of celebrities and\or reality TV shows.

      Also, that one passage where the kid narrates his own basketball game. That was pretty damn perfect.

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