Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

First, allow me to apologize if this review comes off even remotely bonkers. I probably won’t realize it because I’m writing this while very ill and it could turn out to be like some wicked fever dream, but in the waking hours. I guess that’s not too different from a lot of the other stuff I write, though, so maybe no one will notice.

There are times when violence becomes literature becomes art. Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is a perfect example of this. Brutality as subversion. Torment as intelligent thought. Nicole Cushing’s Mr. Suicide might be a modern example of this, though in a very different way than the novel mentioned above. I cannot really approach the plot without first discussing the craft. Cushing has chosen to write in a way that many consider taboo: in the 2nd person. Taboo might not be a strong enough word. Some readers/writers/academics just think it’s plain wrong. I am not one of those people. In fact, I have written in the 2nd person before. When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be and I don’t think it should be ruled out just because some people can’t handle it. Can something like this come off as pretentious? Sure, but so could any other literary device if in the wrong hands. Luckily, Cushing’s hands are the right hands in this case. In fact, I think this book could have been considerably less powerful if it wasn’t in the 2nd person. Yes…powerful. I think 2nd person in its best moments can exude power, and to be honest there’s no better genre than horror to utilize this device to its fullest.


Because Cushing makes YOU the protagonist. You are the tortured, misanthropic soul who identifies more with miscreants like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris than you’d feel comfortable admitting. You are the one visited by the mysterious voice who makes you realize just how off the rest of the world is, how the line between flesh and plastic is so very, very thin. You are the one who wants to be unborn, to have never existed, to be one with the black. You will have trouble discerning what is even real anymore.

The book starts strong, but it gets even better around chapter VI when it takes an even more taboo turn that I won’t spoil for you. Transgression is an understatement. It’s very fitting this book was plugged by both Jack Ketchum and Poppy Z. Brite because I haven’t felt this dirty and just plain wrong while reading a book since The Girl Next Door and Exquisite Corpse, respectively. Those are two of the divine masters of the poetically disturbing, so Cushing is in some good company here. No small feat.

All that, and she manages to work in Looney Tunes characters (and those from other cartoons) in a way I’ve certainly never seen before. I wish the book was just a bit longer, but I guess that’s my only real complaint. I definitely want to read some more from this mad mind.

Mr. Suicide is nominated for a Stoker award this year. Yup, it’s a good ‘un.

Update: This book won the Stoker award!

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