Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review of L.V. Rautenbaumgrabner's As I Was Cutting and Other Nastinesses

As I Was Cutting and Other Nastinesses by L.V. Rautenbaumgrabner
New Pulp Press, 2010

L.V. Rautenbaumgrabner’s (that can’t be a real name) book made me happy to read small press books because I don’t know that one would find something like this in the mainstream. This is a gem of a short story collection. It contains a number of noirish tales of extreme violence and crimes gone bad, but it also contains a number of stories more reminiscent of Charles Bukowski than Jim Thompson. The characters in As I Was Cutting and Other Nastinesses are beaten down and hellbent on tearing their way through the bottom by any means necessary. In the story “Little Timmy’s Last Heist,” a couple poison their child with bad fish to help pull off a drugstore heist. In “Hammerin’ Hiram,” two exploitation film enthusiasts meet, have a week or so of intense sex, and then decide the only thing left to do together is murder someone. In the title story, a man kills his dog to save his marriage and, realizing he might be too late, resorts to an equally extreme measure.

There is a also a healthy dose of absurdity to the stories in this collection. “An Anvil Chorus Followed by An Equine Aria,” features a man assaulted by falling anvils. In “A Mind Excessively Deferential to Received Ideas,” a mysterious character named Uncle Juan invites his family into the bathroom to observe his latest bowel movement. In “The Ice Cream Truck Plays That Tune No More,” an ice cream truck driver begins pimping out his girlfriend using the ice cream truck as a kind of mobile advertisement to troll for johns.

Not all of the stories work, but most story collections subject themselves to this kind of subjectivity. For me, it was one story that was basically a screenplay (“Wheel Me Over to the Next Rabbit”), and a couple others that were very short character monologues.

What makes this a really strong collection is its eclecticism and Rautenbaumgrabner’s excellent sense of language. He breathes life into the sometimes worn out genre of sleaze. This book will not make you feel any better about life. In fact, it’ll probably make you look at your neighbors a little more closely. But it’s entertaining from beginning to end. These stories are never boring and some of them are genuinely shocking.

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