The first association when reading Brian Alan Ellis was that he´s a better looking Bukowski, mixed with some Noah Cicero and Sam Pink, filled to the brim with beer and whiskey and stories and poetry and madness. There is something charming about BAE´s special brand of insanity, even I suspect he enjoys being a pervert a tad too much at times.
Leftover heels? A story only recommended if you are a shoe fetishist AND a chronic masturbator; it´s just flat out vulgar and a tiny bit bizarre. I could have done without that knowledge, you know? Other stories like Loco Mask II, where a guy meets the new boytoy of his mother, a professional wrestler and just some two, or three years older than him, is walking the line between heartbreaking and offensive.
When BAE is good he is very good. My favorite opening in the story collection is from Drinking In Bed With Zadie which in itself is already a short story within the short story, and beautiful and sad and just awesome, even in this something´s not quite right way.
We are kamikaze lovers. We spend the night drinking red wine from the bottle, shoving pills down eachother´s throat. We take turns vomiting into the toilet during our cloudy attempts at lovemaking. We are, if anything, a train wreck of suicidal passion. Something cliché.
It seems rather common that someone or the other tugs at their junk hanging out to make sure they are still alive. No argueing that BAE´s story collection is very much a boys thing, where women are taken as a prize, rather than seen as another human being. (...) he will try forcing an erection between her ass cheeks. She will of course refuse this invasion by elbowing him in the chest, and he will wonder aloud what the difference between putting something in one place and not the other is. Makes one wonder, indeed.
And still, those stories are essentially love songs, sung by the downtrodden, the losers, those at the bottom of the pit. Or as the book description says, BAE writes about schemers, dreamers, losers, boozers, stolen televisions, professional wrestlers, self-mutilators, compulsive masturbators, shoe fetishists, and a dead cat named Johnny Thunders.
What BAE doesn´t do is making fun of his characters and their life stories. He presents them matter of factly without sitting judgement about their short-comings. Those stories aren´t really that bizarre in the end. Strange? Hell yeah, but at the same time BAE looks at those guys, maybe, but only maybe shaking his head in wonderment and shares a huge grin. He understands, and he makes you empathize with them too. He finds humanity in those weirdos, something to love even one might not always want to think about that those people he writes about exist. It is an honest look which *is* uncomfortable where every day life is sad and ugly and tiresome and endless sleep seems as good an option as any but thanks to the dry and dark humor BAE makes them shine.
Most, if not all, of BAE´s characters have this kind of self-awarness of a brick wall. However, it does feel like most of the times that he writes deliberately "badly" (which he doesn´t btw) to come closer to the bottom, to something that resembles any kind of truth, whatever that means in the end. BAE´s stories are rough, often cruel, some times downright nasty but at the same time funny and there is a catchy tune to almost all of his stories. It does seem a bit like an act too. Like he really doesn´t want to apply to some kind of mainstream with his stories, indeed has choosen to be a literary outlaw by his own making. Which is fine, I like it.
This, my friends, is literature from the fucked bottom. (...) just milking one off - all sticky and strange and hardening the surfaces once more.