Rick Harsch: The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas

I won’t conceal the fact that I know Rick Harsch – the author of The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas – personally. What’s best about that – apart from being able to enjoy Rick’s sunny disposition and roguish good looks first-hand, of course – is that sometimes he lets me read his work before it’s published. So I happened to read Eddie Vegas more than four years ago (judging from my history on Goodreads), but, of course, the lazy slob that I can be, I didn’t bother to write a review. The convenient excuse that I told myself was that I found it just the tiniest bit weird to express opinions about an unpublished book. Which is true, but still: now along comes Eddie, having recently been published by River Boat Books – which is fabulous news, as I’ve always cheered for this novel – and I’ve wound up owing Rick a review all this time later. Which worries me, because I usually don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

I’ve started writing this worried that rummaging through my mind for things I remember about Eddie Vegas would be frustrating – and yet, completely unexpectedly, I find myself remembering all these vivid details for some reason. As this is, sadly, definitely not true of every book I happen to read, apparently Eddie has made quite an impression. So let me see what I can remember from more than four years ago.

The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is a formidable tome in terms of length and complexity, yet it reads effortlessly, smoothly, and very quickly – especially once you get the hang of Rick’s trademark linguistic stunts. I’ve had the fortune of reading much of what Mr Harsch has written, and I don’t suppose he ever disappoints in this regard – but I found that Eddie was truly on (a yet) another level. Still, I don’t feel that Rick ever crosses that fine line between good taste and gratuitous fanciness: while he is indeed an impressively eloquent linguistic delinquent, he is also as hilarious as he’s unrelenting. And his lists, for crying out loud, the lists! They are poems, really: from dirty, drunken ditties to dazzling diatribes such as the horrendous thirty-page list of moronic, imbecilic, and idiotic names – truly pure-blooded American names – for doomsday devices. What am I going on about, you ask? Well, Rick approaches the rather sensitive subject of nuclear tests with the immediacy of a battering ram: instead of wasting any time yammering about it, he just hands us a list of names of each individual nuclear bomb that Americans have ever blown up on their own soil. There is a truckload of them – the list goes on forever – and seeing so much human idiocy in one place is about as bizarre and disturbing as watching the news or checking out your favourite social media stream.

However, Eddie Vegas is undoubtedly far from being all fancy bells and whistles and no substance. Four years after I read it, I still remember it as a magnificent, intricate, urgent spectacle spanning two continents and multiple timelines, a political thriller, a (noir) crime novel, an absurdist comedy, a love story, a drama, a poetry collection, a dictionary of languages forgotten and newly invented, an epic historical novel, and even a Western (I haven’t read a Western as good as parts of Eddie for a very long time, if at all) – all of this at once.

In short, Rick Harsch’s newest novel is not only a treasure cove of language porn – it is also a narrative rollercoaster, artfully fashioned by a whimsical narrator you simply can’t help admire even when he gets intentionally annoying. In times somewhat different than the current age of Twitter tweets and rampant split-second attention deficit disorder I can easily imagine this becoming a part of the canon. Kids in secondary schools and universities all over the English-speaking (or English-learning) world could easily be pestered with this instead of Finnegan’s Wake, for example – only that in case of Eddie, they might even be interested in making it further than the cover.

 


 

The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is NOT available on Amazon. It can, however, be ordered directly from the publisher, River Boat Books, which kindly offers two links: head here for U.S. purchases; and here for international orders (everywhere except the United States).

E-book update & release

The novels Cynicism Management and Pendulum Pet have both been updated and released in most e-book stores. Pendulum Pet, previously exclusive to Amazon, has now been removed from Amazon out of solidarity with my new U.S. publisher River Boat Books, and both novels are now available, in electronic form, in most e-book stores except Amazon. The price of both books has been set to $ 3.99. Find the universal book links that will take you to the lists of all the stores the novels are available in below each cover.


Available in the following e-book stores


Available in the following e-book stores

Tilting at Windmills?

A few days ago I pulled my books off Amazon in solidarity with my new publisher’s anti-Amazon campaign, which you can read about – and possibly contribute to – on GoFundMe. Tilting at windmills? Possibly, but I believe it is still a good cause, and all the reasons for it are explained in the River Boat Books Anti-Amazon Statement, so no need to repeat them here.

For me personally, the decision to join the boycott was not particularly difficult: after all, Amazon has single-handedly destroyed bookstores and publishers all over the world as well as literature in itself, or at least completely polluted its e-book segment: rabidly profit-driven, it has ensured the global domination of an endless deluge of cloned (pseudo-)fantasy, (quasi-)sci-fi and romance scribblings of the pulpiest kind, as everything that doesn’t get consumed instantly by vast numbers of readers – thanks to aggressive (and expensive) advertising, paid reviews, marketing tricks and schemes, etc. – is sentenced to instant oblivion, ensured by algorithms that keep pushing only what sells best and burying everything else under mile-deep piles of dregs. While that is perfectly understandable and completely unsurprising in the world ruled (and ruined) by rampant capitalism of the worst kind, it is also exactly what I so frequently rant against in my own novels. Therefore I had already felt like a hypocrite for selling (or, rather, attempting to sell) my books through such a malignant transnational corporation even before my publisher, River Boat Books, initiated their openly anti-Amazon campaign.

However, the last and most hilarious straw for me was that some time ago, Amazon arbitrarily and with no explanation or warning at all categorised my debut novel Cynicism Management as erotica – probably because some tender soul, possibly belonging to some terminally-embittered housewife, complained about the couple of rather explicit sex scenes that the novel indeed contains. Fine, so in Amazon’s opinion, any book containing a (semi)vivid description of anything carnal automatically means that the book is porn. Classifying my novel as “erotica” might not even have been so detrimental if it, in fact, was erotica… But, as it happens, it is actually a sci-fi satire with elements of cyberpunk, and the cover displays a cyborg cockroach. I doubt that anyone in their right mind would find that particularly sexy, and the actual sex scenes in the novel probably take up about five to maybe ten pages out of approximately 450. I dread the potential review by anyone who’d buy this thinking that it truly is erotica, but (fortunately?) the book had been concealed under a million of books about witches, fairies, werewolves, and sexy vampires already before this fiasco, so it hasn’t seen any sales whatsoever for ages, anyway.

So, yeah: obviously, my decision to pull my novels off Amazon would have certainly been harder had they actually been selling… But since they had already been largely ignored and increasingly “undiscoverable” with each passing day (as they sank deeper and deeper into the bottomless abyss littered with hundreds of thousands of long-forgotten e-books), this boycott is, I admit, no skin off my back. That much is true. Nevertheless, I’d hate to subscribe to my publisher’s “manifesto” and then do the exact opposite behind their back, so I hope this decision still counts as a valid expression of solidarity.

And now for something completely different!

It now appears that the “slight possibility that my first novel might soon(ish) get released on paper, as an actual, tangible, physical book” that I mentioned in my previous (longwinded, as usual) post will become a fact after all. Here’s an inspirational quote for this occasion:

The whole jeremiad that is Cynicism Management (the novel) is going to be published by River Boat Books this summer – where else than on the banks of the Mississippi River. Hell, maybe NOW the devil I keep looking for might appear to me at those fabled crossroads after all, so that I can finally sign the infernal contract…?

Pendulum Pet FREE on 28 and 29 May

My second novel, Pendulum Pet, is FREE on Amazon on Saturday, 28 May, and Sunday, 29 May, as a part of KDP Select. During this limited time you can grab it without risking any of your capital assets for something you don’t like. In fact, even if you’re never going to read it, you’d be doing me a favour if you downloaded a copy, because all downloads contribute to the book’s stats and visibility on Amazon. Head to this page for more information about the book.

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Rick Harsch: The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman

AoD2-300pxI have been shamelessly procrastinating for quite a while now and have avoided writing this review, figuring that I’ve had many more “pressing things” to do – for the very simple reason that this is one of those books that are certainly not “easy”. As such it has called for quite a bit of pondering, because writing a hasty review would have not done it any justice. Let me start by typing a few words about Rick Harsch first. In fact, I’ll just pilfer a bit of my own text from the review of Harsch’s Arjun and the Good Snake that I wrote a couple of months ago.

Once upon a time, Rick Harsch was well on his way to becoming internationally renowned for his traditionally-published and widely acclaimed “Driftless Trilogy” (The Driftless Zone, Billy Verite, and The Sleep of Aborigines), which has also been translated into French and made its way into the curriculum of the somewhat obscure University of Tasmania (as Rick defines it in Snake, “the intellectual center of the only block of land to exterminate all its aboriginals“). However – rather unsurprisingly, if you know what an onerous conundrum of uncalled-for incidents tends to surround Rick most of the time – due to an extremely unfortunate sequence of events, including but not limited to the vastly premature death of his Hollywood agent, a bitter though hilarious (to an external observer) dispute with his subsequent literary agent, the bankruptcy of his French publisher and other similarly torturous circumstances, Rick Harsch’s tenacious infiltration of the world literary canon has been on a rather involuntary and undeserved hiatus of late. The infamous downward spiral of the traditional publishing industry that has got out of control after the advent of e-readers has only further complicated Rick’s theretofore cunning world-domination scheme.

In light of all of the above, Rick has recently decided to join the indie author tribe, and I’m helping him out by formatting his books for e-readers. Arjun and the Good Snake was the first book of his to be re-released as an e-book, in a series of others that should follow shortly. The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman was the second e-book to be published, and I’m almost done with three more, which should be out soon. Appearance goes together with Snake and represents the second half of Rick’s Indian Duology, or however he may refer to the pair of novels. Like in Snake, in Appearance he once again focuses on India; on, as he puts it himself in his description of the book, “…the spaces where love and delusion, myth and existence weave sinuously, rhapsodically, through the Indian world.

The resulting “love story” is an extraordinarily poetic and meticulously thought-out narrative, describing a pilgrimage of an US American man through India in an attempt to overcome the dark forces (mundane as well as otherworldly, even demonic) that would prevent his reunion with his Indian love. However clear and relatively simple this basic plot may seem when you “boil it down” like this, Rick’s writing is, of course, not nearly as straightforward. What starts out as a tale of love in the face of culturally-related obstacles (with the traditional Indian family opposing their daughter’s relationship with a Pisaka, eater of dead flesh, as the girl’s mother refers to the narrator) soon develops into a feverish, phantasmagoric journey of a man-out-of-place through the unknowable intricacies of Indian history and myth. The pilgrimage itself may or not be real, and on his path the narrator is derailed by “suspicious” characters, assailed by demons, and drawn into “the foul game” (as one of the characters refers to it, and which involves a horrendous case of dysentery). Soon the story takes on a somewhat magic-realist dimension that makes it difficult to separate reality from delusions. After darker and darker turns the story culminates in a feverish monologue of the narrator whose pilgrimage has, apparently, not succeeded quite as he has imagined – or has it? Perhaps what really happens is that he finally succumbs to the demon Theengu Karuppu, as he suspected he would (and was warned about it)?

The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman is the sixth book by Harsch I’ve read, and such “uncertainty” with regard to his writing, resulting from the frequent “phantasmal” passage, seems to be his modus operandi: it’s simply something one comes to terms with and learns to love, or one doesn’t. When reading Appearance one should also be prepared to tolerate the frustration one might feel (if one is not exactly an expert in India) by all the Indian names, places, Tamil and Hindi words and concepts, and especially Indian mythology, which Rick, naturally, rarely bothers to explain (such “India-for-dummies” explanations would not have any place in a narrative like this, anyway). Rather than resorting to googling all of this one can also do oneself a favour and just remain relatively ignorant – as far as I’m concerned, one doesn’t have to know exactly what is going on to appreciate the story.

What I mean to say is, if you happen to be one of those readers who like their books clear, to the point, and lacking any digressions and seemingly gratuitous “asides”, you would probably do yourself a favour by staying away from Harsch’s Appearance (and probably Snake as well). However, if you can appreciate a random hint of obscurity and see value in an occasional internal monologue and cryptic passage, this is for you – especially if you can relish the exquisite “prose poetry” language that Appearance has to offer.

Pendulum Pet FREE from 25 to 27 March

My second novel, Pendulum Pet, is FREE on Amazon this weekend (25 – 27 March), as a part of KDP Select. So during this limited time you can grab it without the risk of wasting four bucks on something you don’t like. In fact, even if you’re never going to read it, you’d be doing me a favour if you download a copy, because that contributes to its stats and visibility on Amazon. Head to this page for more information about the book.

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Rick Harsch publishes Arjun and the Good Snake

Snake300First of all, let me get the following out of the way: yes, I count the writer Rick Harsch among “real-life” friends (i.e., not one of those you only “talk” to via one of the antisocial networking sites), so my review of his first e-book (but hardly Rick’s first book – he has previously published a heap of those… what were they… oh, paper artefacts!) might not be entirely objective (as if any review is). The thing is, Rick’s relentlessly critical outlook but nevertheless remarkably positive opinion of my own debut novel was what I desperately needed at a time when my confidence in my scribbling ability was faltering on a daily basis, and he has also been invaluable in his efforts to help me polish my own books and get them in front of readers. This was, as far as my own previous experience had indicated, rather unusual for “old-school” writers such as Rick.

As it happens, Harsch is not (yet?) a member of the modern, agreeable, happy-go-lucky gang of “indie authors”: he hails from the “olden” days when the stereotypical image of writers was still – with good reason, I suppose – that of obstinate, loopy, unsociable, disgruntled old geezers who most likely hate all other writers, but especially any who might materialise in their vicinity. After all, Rick was, once upon a time, on his way to becoming quite renowned for his traditionally-published and widely acclaimed “Driftless Trilogy” (The Driftless Zone, Billy Verite, and The Sleep of Aborigines), which has also been translated into French and made its way into the curriculum of the somewhat obscure University of Tasmania (as Rick defines it in Snake, “the intellectual center of the only block of land to exterminate all its aboriginals“). However – rather unsurprisingly, if you know what an onerous conundrum of uncalled-for incidents tends to surround Rick most of the time – due to an extremely unfortunate sequence of events, including but not limited to the vastly premature death of his Hollywood agent, a bitter though hilarious (to an external observer) dispute with his subsequent literary agent, the bankruptcy of his French publisher and other similarly torturous circumstances, Rick Harsch’s tenacious infiltration of the world literary canon has been on a rather involuntary and undeserved hiatus of late. The infamous downward spiral of the traditional publishing industry that has got out of control after the advent of e-readers has only further complicated Rick’s theretofore cunning world-domination scheme.

In light of all of the above (as well as because I practically forced him to), Rick has recently decided to join the indie author tribe. Arjun and the Good Snake is the first book of his to be re-released as an e-book, hopefully in a series of others that should follow. I’ve had the honour of formatting it for e-readers, and it should look good – I certainly hope so, and if it doesn’t, feel free to complain to me and hold me personally responsible, and I mean that! This I did most happily, for Snake has been, to date, my favourite book of Rick’s (with the possible exception of an upcoming “paper” one, which is still in the works); though I, unfortunately, haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the Driftless Trilogy, because it is, sadly, out of print. (Rick is currently looking at the possibility of resurrecting it, but the fact that he doesn’t have the manuscripts in the electronic form will make this “project” difficult and, above all, long-winded.)

Reading Arjun and the Good Snake for the first time a few years back was the perfect way of getting to know Rick better, along with all of his numerous remarkable qualities as well as considerable faults. As he puts it himself in the introduction to Snake, “No character, especially that of the author, is safe” (from assassination, I guess). The (sort of) journal supposedly focuses on the six weeks in India (without alcohol, woe was Rick!) that the author spent on a quest to track down a cobra and hopefully also a Russell’s viper, the ophidian preference of his son. However, the “diary” is interspersed with the author’s intimate musings and ruminations: on his own failings, particularly the harrowing alcohol addiction (paradoxically, simultaneously soul-sucking and soul-giving, as anyone who has ever struggled with their share of problems with alcoholism will surely know); on his family, especially his relationship with his wife Sasikala and son Arjun; on India and all her unknowable depths; on philosophical, existentialist, even suicidal enigmas; as well as on the various goings-on back at the Slovenian coast, where the author had emigrated from the United States, primarily, as far as I know, to escape oppressive idiocy… Only to witness, to his dismay, the quickening of rabid, unhinged capitalism in a former socialist country, with all the savagery that has entailed.

Arjun and the Good Snake is not an “easy” book. If you’re an ardent believer in the magnificent contemporary Western world and appreciate the constant pursuit of instant gratification, ravenous consumption as well as instantaneous excretion – then this might not be a book for you. However, if you’re willing to put a bit of effort in a literary work rather than just be “entertained” by it, you’ll doubtlessly unearth and come to appreciate many a touching contemplative passage such as, for example, the following:

We arrived to the sea – and this is where if I were ever to commit suicide, the time would be as appropriate as it would get, a wretched man standing apart from the alienated cluster representing all he’s got, unable to enjoy himself alone, alienated even from a circumstance too familiar to generate true despair; the waves relentlessly formed and reformed with their concealed force, spent themselves falsely, the sea sucking in with greed: There is much to be learned standing with pants rolled above the knees and feet planted on damp sand as the lace of water passes ankle high, and then the sand around the feet is stripped away with a surprising, even sinister, force that badly wants to take me under, too…

“Pendulum Pet” released!

PPet-COVER-400x600I am overjoyed to report that my second novel, Pendulum Pet, has just been released on Amazon! It’s currently enrolled in Amazon KDP Select, so it’ll remain exclusive to Amazon for the foreseeable future. I might change my mind and release it elsewhere at some point, but for now let’s see how this arrangement works out.

I would hereby like to thank my precious “beta readers”: Monika Fritz, Rick Harsch, Vesna Žagar, Barbara Drobnak, Jure Rudolf, Sunčan Stone and Marko Djukić for their invaluable insight, assistance in the never-ending whack-a-typo hunt, as well as their involvement in advanced mental fart eradication. Furthermore, hats off to Matej Peklar, top-notch illustrator and my best friend back in primary school (in another millennium, in a now deceased country), for his witty cover design. Yay, we’ve got a thoroughly grumpy pooch on the cover!

Over here you can listen to the complete soundtrack for this novel and download it for free.

I can only hope Pendulum Pet manages to find a few readers whose sense of humour is convoluted enough to enjoy it. By the way, the price on Amazon is $3.99.


ABOUT THE BOOK

PENDULUM PET
(Cynicism Management Series Book 2)
Satire / comic fantasy / sci-fi

Pendulum Pet is a romp through the vicissitudes of a gregarious advanced culture with too much time, information and technology on its hands. Paranoia is placed and misplaced, the devious succeed through manipulations of those who gaze in wonder at the mundane like chimps on acid, or fail when the truly bizarre and unthinkable inadvertently stand in their way.

Civilizations clash, as they will, when Metaore, a transnational mining corporation headed by CEO Budd Dimples, purchases a field behind Boris and Beeba’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Tavern, a cult concert venue and meeting place of an eclectic collection of feckless artists, in order to undertake a remarkable experiment: drilling a geopunctural borehole to heal the Earth. Budd has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and taken a sudden turn toward esoteric wisdom, much encouraged by his healer and sex therapist Ashtara Wolf.

Bogomyr Yadvig, one of the more outré of the regulars, lives in a tent nearby with Rex the tavern hound – his idea of communing with Greek Cynics in preparation for an upcoming performance piece. He has cause to lose sleep and accumulate suspicion that the corporation has nefarious unstated ends in mind, particularly when he has his Roswell moment, if that is indeed what it is.

The corporate endeavour comes to a sudden halt when their drill runs into an impenetrable barrier, leading to mutually unfortunate and potentially combustible discoveries, along with stunning truths about parallel evolution and devolution. Yes, the world of the techno-information age has gone mad and survival may very well depend on the whims of a pendulum pet.

Please note that this novel is adult, poignant satire. As such it contains explicit language, sex scenes, politically incorrect depictions, and may be offensive to the more irritable readers. Even though the work is part of a series, the story is self-contained and can be read independently of the other Cynicism Management Series novels.