Friday, December 4, 2009

Stabbed In Stanzas Book Review: Peckinpah by D. Harlan Wilson

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

David Samuel “Sam” Peckinpah is best known for his portrayal of violence in his films. D. Harlan Wilson pays homage to this man in this outlandish novel where bizarro meets the violent nature of humanity. Even if one is unfamiliar with Peckinpah, the book stands on its own. Wilson mentions Sam Peckinpah throughout the book, either by film reference or by shooing techniques such as zooming in and out on various characters. Peckinpah reads as a movie script at times. Most often the book is narrative. This serves to hold the reader’s interest.
Wilson mashes together unrelated characters in a warped stream of consciousness technique that makes this novel a page-turner. The conflict is set up slowly, the protagonist (Felix Soandso) and antagonist (Samson Thataway) introduced rather late. Peckinpah has a Spoon River Anthology feel to it in that the characters seem to pop up in soliloquy. They aren’t in the grave, but their lives are dead-end. The town of Dreamfield, Indiana is rural and backwards - displaced hillbillies up north that add to the absurdness. Wilson makes only Soandso relatable and sympathetic and as such is an outsider. He’s an observer until the violence hits home and only then does he do something. And yes, it’s violent.
Violence oozes from every page, some gory, some outright hilarious. Simple things like ears of corn hold chainsaws and other gruesome goodies. The violence doesn’t become boring, as is common in some slasher films. Wilson’s imagination is vast and impressive. His use of imagery is both symbolic to the state of humanity and serves to underline the severity of humanity’s flaws. The illustrations scattered throughout the book add to that effect. The absurdity of violence is displayed like an open vein. Peckinpah is a wonderful introduction to the mind of D. Harlan Wilson.

--Karen L. Newman