The Feel-Good Story of the Year!
In high-school, it was a sort of mark of honour to read Dante’s Inferno. There is something in the human psyche that takes a perverse pleasure in being disgusted. This book makes Dante’s Inferno look like amateur hour Hell. It’s arguably the most pornographic thing I’ve ever read—and I don’t mean that in the usual way.
This is a stroll through a modern Hell, an industrial Hell—the kind that Dante could never have imagined. The industrial revolution gave us meat factories, death camps, chemical warfare, radiation poisoning and a whole slew of other atrocities undreamt of in earlier epochs of human history. It also gave us a laundry-list of other evils that take on a more familiar, banal form: a 9-5 world where people are utterly replaceable, cogs in corporate machines, where abandonment, built-in obsolescence, and a general malaise of indifferent malevolence rule all. And most of all … denial. We hide it behind perfectly manicured lawns, fake smiles, and cheerful advertising jingles.
If the damage caused by humanity’s insatiable lust for power served as the mortar for a city, you would have Slum. The collective psychic soul-damage of the 20th and 21st centuries, on loop, forever.
A little under a decade ago, I discovered the absolutely terrifying auditory landscapes created by Industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle back in the 1970s—in particular their 1978 masterpiece of awfulness, Dead on Arrival. TG used found-sounds—everyday snatches of conversation and background noise from day to day life, and repurposed it into the most frightening music you will ever hear.
What TG did for music, Shawn Montaigne has done for literature. This is everyday life, repurposed into something utterly nightmarish. After you read this book, I guarantee that nothing will feel safe. I literally can’t walk into an Italian restaurant again without feeling nauseous. A black car with tinted windows makes me shiver. A mother talking about changing a baby’s diapers sounds sinister. A landlord giving an apartment tour makes me cringe. A metro ride makes me sick. Sex is disgusting. Random sights, sounds, smells, that before were total banal are now stomach-turning. The light falls a certain way on the pavement and I want to curl in a ball and hide.
You won’t sleep for a week. And the worst of it is, you’ll almost enjoy it. This isn’t the urge to jump. This is the urge to fall. You’ll feel disgusted with yourself for turning the pages. And still, you’ll keep on turning them, and wonder if that means that you too carry this horror inside your soul. You’ll only have to read it once, because the words will be scarred onto your psyche. Then you'll put it away, and tell yourself you'll never read it again. But now and again, when you think nobody's looking--including your own conscience--you'll pull it out and flip to a random page and read something awful, because you just can't stop yourself.
(reviewed 5 days after purchase)