I really love it when an author/book comes seemingly out of nowhere and just flat out rules in a way that is difficult to describe. Sometimes I read a book and I’m like “Yeah, this is a guy/gal I want to hang out and shoot the shit with.” The last time I was this excited about discovering a new author was when I blind bought John Dies at the End by David Wong. In some ways, that comparison sort of makes sense because this book is part of the same extended literary family. Not like that first cousin who you hang out with a lot and get into trouble with and maybe want to make out with regardless of gender, but more like a third cousin, twice removed who is only part of the family via a reluctant adoption, and really—who knows what sort of trouble that cousin’s getting up to?
The Weirdness breaks one of my major rules/pet peeves about books and somehow manages to get away with it: he writes a book with a writer as the protagonist. Normally I only let Stephen King get away with that, because he doesn’t know any better. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some King…I just wish he would have a protagonist who’s, like, a special education teacher or a zookeeper (specifically one who works closely with Komodo Dragons) or a professional triangle player. But anyway…Bushnell gets away with his character of Billy Ridgeway because apparently Billy is a pretty suck-ass writer, not someone who is anywhere near living off his craft (in fact he has trouble getting published at all and works a day job making sandwiches). And one day, Billy gets a visit from the devil, and Mr. Lucifer himself ever-so-sweetly offers a deal to get Billy’s really bad novel published if he only performs a favor.
On the surface, this sounds like a pretty basic premise. However, I promise you it is quite the opposite. I don’t even want to say anything more about the plot because it might spoil how ridiculously absurd the book gets (and I mean that as the highest compliment, as anyone who knows me well can attest to). The Weirdness is very, very funny in a dark and sarcastic way. I actually laughed out loud a few times, which rarely happens. Usually, even when a book is pretty damned funny, I internalize my laughter. But Bushnell, that dirty bird, he tickled my funny bone real good. Even some of the more horrific moments are still tinged with this sick humor. And I also enjoyed going on this journey with the unlikely hero of Billy. Anyone who’s ever felt like a Grade A fuck-up in their life will be able to sympathize with this poor sap and cringe every time he makes a really horrible decision. He’s far from perfect, but still so goddamned likeable.
Bushnell uses this literary device that I think I’ve seen done before, but can’t quite put my finger on (which means it still has some level of originality to it). In the beginning of each chapter, he creates this vague list that basically breaks down what is to happen in that particular section. Every time it seems like it makes no sense, yet still elicits some laughs, and it never really gives anything away plot-wise, but once you’ve read the chapter it actually does make sense.
Also…just look at that cover. It’s a beaut. I mean, wouldn’t you at least pick that up and read the back cover to see what the hell it was about? Really, I cannot recommend this enough. If you like black humor and quasi-horror, you’d be dropping the ball big time if you don’t check out The Weirdness.
Jeremy P. Bushnell’s second novel, The Insides, is coming out in a couple of months. I will definitely be picking that up. Eventually. I promise.