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A Greater Monster by David David Katzman

A Greater Monster

by David David Katzman

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I'm not done with the book yet, but I can't resist beginning a review for this is a work of genius, linguistic genius, written by someone who can obviously do whatever he wants with words. A Greater Monster is listed as or tagged as a work of apocalyptic literature and a work of fantasy--apocalyptic maybe, but fantasy? No--it's surrealism intensely realized. I'll be back when I finish the book.


I came across this in a book today: 'Added to this is the knowledge we unconsciously take to the streets: to Heraclitus has been attributed the observation that one cannot step into the same river twice; to atomic physicists this has been exacerbated by the proofs that no material is the same twice. Worse, insights beginning in the 19th century developed into a cataract—never the same twice—of understanding of our inner worlds, which not only are in incessant flux, but cannot but distort the external environment with which they interplay.' Katzman's A Greater Monster takes this assumption as a starting point for his philosophical discussion about existence, which is what I take the antics in the book to be all about. Among the descriptions of an original bestiary there are astute comments, profound discussions, a very critical examination/plaint regarding the human.
I have to compare Katzman to someone, which is what you do when you write a review that wants to express that the author is good enough to enter the canon. But I doubt Katzman would agree that Samuel Beckett is his primary literary cohort. And I couldn't really explain why that idea came to me, and, a la the voices in A Greater Monster, nor can I be sure I still think that or if it is planted in my skull estranged or if I actually do remember having thought that, or if I am about to think it, getting ahead of myself. Anyway, his prose isn't like Beckett's. Nor Joyce's. He has done what I think was meant to be done with Joyce--he has accommodated him, learned a bit from him, rather than ignoring him. The book is not Joycean--it's Katzmanian.
When I paused in reading to begin this review I assumed there was some chance the book was going nowhere, so to speak, that it really had no plot and would not require one. I didn't care, and I don't care that I don't yet understand the meaning relayed by the forty or so pages of drawings--but I am rather amazed at the way the story told in the book crept up on me as I so regally regarded myself in ecstasy over the language. At some point rather late in the book I was hoping to finish as soon as possible so I could get to this review, but I had several other reading deadlines and had to content myself with fits of reading, and before I could be done with the novel the story insinuated itself into my reading and quite surprisingly it became emotionally moving--and this anti-novel novelized into a profound ending.
Here are some things I underlined, to provide some idea of Katzman's ingenuity:
The sky is dull and blank like suburban dreams.
Is that all you got, nubcake?
a hypnogogic pillow
color of friction in my mouth [synaesthesia is common tool in this book]
I'm skinless inside my plastic hassle.
Back into the grim haze that's grey and grinning like a mad dog.
space is too nake when hidden
The ceiling cops a rustic attitude
it's the sound of time splitting off from space
Coarse, stratal chimes like the ringing of dirt-brown earth.
the unitary ontolojest the everlasting laugh
Nerves of spoor with hysteria.
Life is tough on a chick with alligator lips.
Homo saperior!
Baskets filled with glowing lichens cast an eerie glow.
Absence hurts the roof of my mouth like loneliness.
noisome methane rollicks in fetid sinkholes
Now, if that's not horny, I'll burn my ass hair.
My dear lazies and genitalmen.
Dear labias and gentrified.
The unquenchisite fuck after erasure. But I'm attracted to the raw.
Feel right in your poin garden?
What I wonder is, is lust complete shrivelscorch?
My scaly loden shell.
recollection is a cannibal
The amethyst parrot disappears into the helium sky.
Move along, rabid thing.
Probably that list would be review enough, and it's true that having made it I am left with little to say. This is one of the most profound books I've ever read, and I am absolutely certain I don't understand it well yet. I will read it again, and probably understand a bit more. But that doesn't matter, for this is a phenomenon, and phenomena have their own existences...if they do... ( )
5 vote RickHarsch | Mar 4, 2016 |
1/3/12 Was listed as the number one book of "10 Hot Chicago Reads For Chilly Nights" on Refinery29.com: http://www.refinery29.com/new-books

12/31/12 Was named a top 10 book of 2012 on The Common Ills blog. According to the post:"... Beth championed it near weekly in her column for the gina and krista round-robin. It is a jigsaw of writing and you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole. 'A book to ponder and to read for the sheer life on the page,' Beth observed.12/7/12 A flattering review appeared in The Chicagoist for A Greater Monster. Some highlights:"This is a psychedelic-Burroughs-dream and an aggravated-Lewis-Carroll-nightmare, a world in which we must continuously re-adjust our bearings....The brilliance of his imagination aside, we must also consider that this novel is a lot to absorb....Yes, the novel is difficult to read at times. Yes, you will have to read certain passages more than once and often read them in various ways. Of course, your face will start to hurt from the perplexed look you'll be wearing over the duration of the book. However, you will be refreshed with new characters and situations every few pages--all of which will be other-worldly. You will stumble onto sparks, which will snowball into a catharsis more than once. Most of all, you will be challenged as both a reader and a thinker. If the pros outweigh the cons for you, then David David Katzman might just be your new favorite author."5/27/12 Received a thoughtful review in the Psychedelic Press UK here: http://fb.me/1L1NL4ebJ The reviewer says:"The book’s blurb describes it as 'Innovative and astonishing… [breathing] new life into the possibilities of fiction' and, without doubt, the novel lives up to this description: A psychedelic journey into the splintered mind of a life on the desiring edge."5/1/12 A Greater Monster has won a Gold Medal as an "Outstanding Book of the Year" in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards. So say the awards: "These medalists were chosen from our regular entries for having the courage and creativity necessary to take chances, break new ground, and bring about change, not only to the world of publishing, but to our society." There were only 10 winners in different categories out of 5000 entries. The judges of the competition sent me the following review quotes from their evaluation:"Imaginative, explosive and poetic. A real trip!"
"A brain-singeing look at humanity at its strangest."
"Dark and edgy, like a Blade Runner for English majors."1/27/12 - Another lovely review, this one from from Reader Views critic Paige Lovitt. Full review is here. Last paragraph reads:Intelligently written and displayed, A Greater Monster is truly like no book I have ever read before. While visions of Alice in Wonderland strayed through the back of my thoughts, this book is so much more. I admire David David Katzman’s creativity and the amount of work that must have gone into creating such an exotic literary gift for readers who like to read beyond the lines of contemporary fiction.Received a review from Midwest Book Review. Here are the highlights:
[When] we see something unusual, we rarely expect it to be the tip of the iceberg. A Greater Monster is a novel from David David Katzman who brings readers into a unique alternate reality that has many twists and turns ... With unique humor and plenty to think about, A Greater Monster is a fine and much recommended choice.Several writers were kind enough to read my book in manuscript form before its release. They had the following to say:

“Brilliant, insane and utterly unique, A Greater Monster offers pure sensory stimulation, verging on sensory overload. The graphics, concept and narration are pause-worthy, and they all combine to create literary indulgence at its best—its most interactive. The narrator in A Greater Monster doesn’t hold your hand and guide you; he doesn’t ask you to like him. Instead, he delivers a sharp uppercut to your chin and asks you to stop cowering, open your eyes, and fight back. You will. He’ll make you.”—Jen Knox, author of [b:To Begin Again|10783352|To Begin Again|Jen Knox|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349070595s/10783352.jpg|15307704] (2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award winner)

“Beautiful mystic-schizo DayGlo wordage. Poetic prose that befuddles, enchants, and amuses the reader at the same time.”—Lance Carbuncle, author of[b:Grundish Askew|6774979|Grundish and Askew|Lance Carbuncle|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347219135s/6774979.jpg|6975258]

“This is bizarro fiction at its most intense. It contains scenes and unique designs that seem engineered by some Mad Hatter and Chuck Palahniuk cross-breed.”—Lavinia Ludlow, author of [b:alt.punk|9685054|alt.punk|Lavinia Ludlow|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347511566s/9685054.jpg|14573079]

“After David David Katzman’s brilliant first novel, Death by Zamboni, a masterclass in the uses to which comic writing can be put, comes a novel that couldn’t be more different. A Greater Monster opens in a world that’s immediately and recognizably ours … before spinning off into a spiritual (and carnal) quest that reads like Alice on acid, while channeling every trash sci-fi nightmare Creepy Tales had to offer.”—Charles Lambert, author of [b:Scent of Cinnamon|3870172|The Scent Of Cinnamon (Salt Modern Fiction)|Charles Lambert|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348274618s/3870172.jpg|3915362] and [b:Any Human Face|6789444|Any Human Face|Charles Lambert|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1267780852s/6789444.jpg|6993053]

A Greater Monster is a highly creative and original story combining poetry, imagery, and prose—all working seamlessly without a break in momentum.”—Charlie Courtland, author of [b:Dandelions in the Garden|7308222|Dandelions in the Garden (Countess Elizabeth Bathory, #1)|Charlie Courtland|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298515466s/7308222.jpg|8765846]

“I can’t express how brilliant my favorite scenes in A Greater Monster are. In this extraordinary work, Katzman pushes language to do things, which are truly astounding. This is where Artaud meets Williams S. Burroughs meets Lewis Carroll in an obscene, violent dissolution of character, plot, and setting. A Greater Monster dismantles the foundations of narrative, of the human subject as master and center of time and space, reason and language, and the word is transformed into image, into an indigestible thing that both resists easy consumption and is utterly entertaining.”—Carra Stratton, Editor Starcherone Press ( )
2 vote David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
Jesus Christ. The best way I can begin this book discussion is to dare every single one of you to buy the book and read it. I add the dare so that your pride forces you to get the book lest you seem the sort person who shies away from a challenge. I need you to feel your honor is at stake. However, it will be a dare you will be glad you took. A Greater Monster is a book you will need to read at least twice, and even then you will be able to pick it up a third, fourth and fifth time and right around page 40 you will feel like you are reading a new book again. Given that this book has 367 pages, that’s a bargain. In a sense, you will get a new book every time you read it. So really, it’s an economical dare.

The best way to describe the book is to call it experimental fiction because after the first 40 pages or so, it defies any traditional narrative. It’s a drug trip that has a beginning of sorts but no real end. The protagonist slides from one hallucinogenic experience to another, each itself having no beginning and no real end. It’s disorienting and peculiar. But at the end it is a religious experience for the protagonist, a deeply personal descent into the unreal and irreal that make it almost alienating to read. The protagonist wants this trip into a world that has no meaning – if he doesn’t experience real meaninglessness, his life will become even more meaningless. And each trip he experiences means only to me what I assign to it because there is no meaning once the trips begin. Only experience. A nauseating but ordered beginning turns into the protagonist careening in unordered experiences.

I had to read this book in a manner similar to the way I read House of Leaves. The first time I read it in bits and pieces. It’s a dense text and, without any linearity of plot, I don’t recommend reading through it in one attempt the first time you read it. I honestly don’t know if the book would do you any good reading it all at once. It would be like experiencing someone else’s delusions. Before my senior year of high school, I developed pneumonia and had such a high fever I began to hallucinate. My mother found me in the hallway, waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Evidently I was convinced Chinese laborers were using the house as a rooming house and we all shared the same toilet. I could see odors as colors and felt sure there were cows hiding in my room, producing methane gas that manifested as the color orange. Small blue people ran across my bedsheets, warning me I needed to sit up or I would die. My books spoke in foreign languages, the mirrors showed me unseen rooms in the house, and when I later told all of this to the doctor, he flat out did not believe me. My mother told him, with no small amount of anger, that all of that had happened and I still don’t think he believed us.

I hallucinate now with very low fevers and most medical personnel give me the side eye when I report it. I seldom say anything anymore. I’ve had a couple of nurses tell me they do the same thing but mostly I know I am not believed. I used to be offended by it but now I know better. The fever dreams and hallucinations of one man can never really resonate with others unless they, by chance, had the same fevered dream, the same tendency to hallucinate, the same peculiar mindset. That sort of cross-over seldom happens. And that’s why you need to read this book in little bits at first. Otherwise the protagonist’s experiences will become too much as you try to make sense of them. In smaller bits you won’t try to find the common thread, the element that links all these stories together. There may be one but because this is not my hallucination, my drug trip, my terrible fever, the thread is elusive at best.

You can read my entire discussion here: http://ireadoddbooks.com/a-greater-monster-by-david-david-katzman/ ( )
1 vote oddbooks | Sep 3, 2013 |
I sit down to write the review of this book. The slightest bit of blackness on the cover slides off and turns into a black pill…hmmmm….

I avoid eating it, but the book slowly grows legs—does its best Bill Cosby impression before turning into a city politician and attempting to steal my shoes. I didn’t know the book would try to do that. I would look at the warning label on the book, but the book is now off to other pursuits.

The book is now my deadbeat roommate—city politics is light on samba, and besides, he shrugs and explains lamely.

It’s the future now, and owe what a future is shall be—or maybe it’s not. It’s hard to tell if waking up after 3 pm constitutes “the future.”

The book looks less like trippy surrealist art and more like accounting...

In offices somewhere boring people talk about sphinxes rolling around in space helmets and riding across rivers on the tips of penises as if they were compact cars with low gas mileage (riding around on giant penises is actually the “greenest” method of travel in the future—at least according to my new accounting book).

Writing books like A Greater Monster is an utterly practical pursuit in this past 3 pm future. I try to formulate eclectic word bombast, but instead end up writing an editorial to Christian Science Monitor that argues for greater oatmeal consumption. My mom shakes her head in worry—“If you can’t write eclectic, electrifying prose, how will you eat? No accounting firm will want you.”

I do what all rebels do in the future…go to business school. Book called Greater Monster, having long given up his quest to be my roommate and/ or be a city politician, follows me to business school. It won’t be like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, he explains. Mostly, you just wear a suit and spend the day trying to avoid getting stuff on your tie.

And that’s how you become a rebel in the future.

But I digress…

The gummy black pill, eEye, Sasha—these things—these very potentially real things: constant surveillance, lost love, addiction…they matter the way business school matters, I try to explain to the book.

It’s at this point that he points out I have mustard on my tie…at this rate I’ll fail out very soon.

The bottom line: it’s like modern art, I yell, like a lazy teenager with turrets.

Try again, the book says, I think you mean it’s like contemporary post-modern art.

Modern, contemporary, post-modern, whichever happens in the far off future of past 3 pm.

I try again. Bottom line: Its like Logan’s Run meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Catchy, the book says, and definitely something I can sell to a movie executive. He goes to the closet and shows me a tied up Michael York. Just in case, he explains.

Book named Greater Monster is in a very practical mood today.

I say so—Book named Greater Monster, you’re in a highly practical mood today.

He responds by pointing to my tie and I find that I have chocolate on it now (in addition to the mustard).

At this rate, I’ll never graduate from business school.

Wrap it up, he suggests.

I smile, clean off my tie, untie Michael York, get on the podium and proclaim: This is an age old story—man works at cybertech security company, man takes strange tar-like drug, man becomes lizard in space suit in surrealistic world; book with lizardman in it makes me go to business school, Michael York still in perfect health despite being tied up in closet for a while, the far off future of after 3pm not so bad.

I smile, book named Greater Monster smiles, book review comes to happy conclusion.
Thank you, Michael York.

Five stars! And no, I’m not in business school…yet. ( )
1 vote DanielClausen | Oct 5, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0983864403, Perfect Paperback)

Received a Gold Medal as Outstanding Book of the Year in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Called one of 10 books every Chicagoan should read by Refinery29.com.

Named a top 10 book of 2012 on The Common Ills blog.

A psychedelic fairytale for the modern age, A Greater Monster is the mind-bending second novel by the author of the acclaimed Death by Zamboni. This darkly poetic tale takes you on a trip into a radically twisted alternate reality that reflects civilization like a funhouse mirror. Along the way, you'll encounter sphinxes, gods, living skeletons, witches, and quite possibly the strangest circus ever imagined. Innovative and astonishing, A Greater Monster breathes new life into the possibilities of fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:02 -0400)

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