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Friday, October 30, 2009

Fistful of Feet by Jordan Krall

Here's my review of Jordan Krall's latest, Fistful of Feet:

Jordan Krall’s third release and first full-length novel is a must for spaghetti and weird western fans. I’ve never actually read a western novel but I find many of the movies to be plodding and dull to the point that most of the characters and plots are nakedly obvious in the first few minutes, thus beginning an endless barrage of the protaganist asserting his masculinity. Krall brings something new. The framework still draws heavily from the tried and true formula of the western film but is presented with such a love for the outre, weird, and fetishistic, that I found myself wanting to read on just to find out what happened next. And like the best spaghetti westerns, there are gems of existensialism like this: “Maybe there isn’t a Heaven and Hell like they tell you in church. Maybe you end up spending eternity riding on the back of a giant scorpion that keeps going in circles and you can’t tell him the right way to go because your mouth is full of dust.”

Calamaro is the hero in the book. He enters the trippy town of Screwhorse, Nevada, dragging a wooden donkey behind him (an homage to the film Django). Calamaro has a hazy past and an extremely chivalrous disposition. The town of Screwhorse is a wreck. It contains a legendary whorehouse where customers can come and indulge their sickest, strangest fantasies. The mayor is corrupt. The cattle have tentacles instead of udders. The drugstore sells a powerful hallucinogen. These things are just the beginning. Part of the thrill of reading Fistul of Feet is discovering the odd characters and situations and picking up on all the winks and nudges.

Many of the characters lack depth, which is one of my only real criticisms with the book. One of the reasons for this is that Krall introduces A LOT of characters. There are basically good guys and basically bad guys but nearly everyone is weird. This can sometimes make it difficult to keep the characters straight. Some of the chapters are little more than these odd characters gathering together to indulge their fetishes with little to no plot development. However, this book is definitely not intended to be any kind of character study. And while it does have a plot that advances at a decent pace it is a writer creating an homage to various film and pulp fiction genres. In this respect, I think Krall succeeds and creates a very worthwhile and entertaining piece of oddity. After reading the 2008 novella Piecemeal June and the novella collection Squid Pulp Blues, I had been wanting to read a full-length work from Krall and Fistful of Feet left me very satisfied and looking forward to his next book.

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