Wednesday, March 23, 2022

What Wred's Reading: The Emeryville War by Wild Bill Blackolive

So I am still slowly rereading through my personal library and disposing of it.  I noticed that this extraordinary novel has gotten little attention, so I thought I would post about it.  This is one of my favorites of the ULA Press novels that The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus was published among.  It's autobiographical, so you might not even consider it fiction (in fact, the publisher's hype calls it a memoir and novel).  It's basically a wild man hippie being homeless in the 1980s and raising pit bulls in his car.

There is no traditional obvious plot.  The novel seems to start arbitrarily and seems to end arbitrarily.  But there is a plot.  It's actually an old one.  It's the one about the stranger coming to town (you know, just like The Great Gatsby), but in this case the stranger (the main stranger, as you can argue that there are several strangers coming to town in Gatsby) is telling his own story.  It is the story of the stranger arriving in Emeryville, a city near San Francisco, California USA, having some adventures there, and leaving it.

Wild Bill's style is unique.  It is a rambling, stream of consciousness approach that can at times make James Joyce's Finnegans Wake seem to be written for the sixth grade reading level of a USA Today article in comparison.  Some readers just will not get it, but if you hang in there and treat it like a strange dream you are having it will start making its own innate sense.  You are basically in Wild Bill's head, and he is telling a story to himself.  He assumes you know everything he does even though you don't.  At some point, the style will start clicking if you stay with it, but if you read the first line ("Packy disclaims he tried to fuck Adrianne, or that the reason he tried to fuck Sidney is he had feared I would get her instead.") and start wondering who these characters are, you are doomed.  None of them figure in the rest of the novel (I don't think Adrianne even gets mentioned again).  Just go with it; soon you'll be dodging cops, fighting crackheads on the street, drinking Guinness, lifting weights, helping a neighbor's abused son get his morning coffee, attending city council meetings, living with a mad inventor, trying to get your psychedelic western novel published (on a sidenote, you can skip that one--this novel is way better), writing letters to Social Security explaining that you are genius and therefore cannot work, struggling to feed your dogs who keep getting pregnant, and so on.

This novel is crazy.  If you roll with it, it is great fun to read.  I am enjoying my second trip to Emeryville.  Even though the novel is going for collector prices online, I think you can still score it for $5 postpaid (not a huge seller apparently, which isn't surprising given the unique literary voice it is written in) from the publisher, though I would email first to find out for sure.

If you want to read a book that isn't as weird but still pretty weird, then read Fast Guy Slows Down!

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