Oh, what fun it is to enter the world of the bizarro. Especially when our guide through this strange and often mystifying place is none other than D. Harlan Wilson, author of the collections The Kafka Effect and Stranger on the Loose and the novel Dr. Identity. If you're looking for truly “through the looking glass” or “down the rabbit hole” fiction then look no further than the aforementioned works. Because they are plenty weird, to be sure. And, yes, a hell of a lot of fun to read. Much the same can be said for the author's latest release, Blankey Blank, a book that features a man obsessed with turning his suburban home into a farm, a serial killer with a barbershop pole for a head, and Lou Diamond Phillips. Yes, THAT Lou Diamond Phillips. Intrigued? Well, you should be. And if you're not, well, then grow some imagination already, will ya?
OK, so there's a lot of crazy nonsense going on in Blankey Blank. But if there's anyone out there who can make a lot of crazy nonsense fun and, even more remarkable, make some sort of sense—if such a thing's possible—then it's D. Harlan Wilson, as fans of his work already know. For those of you who are not familiar with D. Harlan's writing or with the whole “bizarro” style of literature as a whole, then some fair warning is in order: This stuff is definitely not for everyone. A great deal of the old “suspension of disbelief” is in order here, overflowing truckloads of it to be perfectly honest. And just so you know where I, your trusted reviewer, am coming from, let it be known that I have no problem suspending my disbelief as much as I have to in order to enjoy a piece of fiction—or a movie by, say, David Lynch, or some surrealist painting—as long as it is A.) well executed and B.) entertaining. And let me assure you that Blankey Blank succeeds on both levels.
In the book's opening chapter, we are introduced to one Rutger Van Trout, a man who is having a silo built in his yard, screaming at the construction workers all the while. It seems that Mr. Van Trout has a bit of a short fuse, turning his anger on pretty much anyone and anything he comes across including his car, his neighbors, and his family. As for his family It consists of a wife who believes her own skeleton is haunted, a son who was once bitten by a rabid dog and might now be a werewolf, and a nymphomaniac daughter. And as for the neighbors They include Dr. Tenbrook, a man who fancies himself a superhero named The Gamehater, a girl named Sheba who shares the same name as the family dog, and the aforementioned Lou Diamond Phillips who is now ninety years old and owns “the biggest MacMansion on the block.” As if these people's lives weren't screwed up enough already they find themselves having to deal with the appearance of a serial killer named Blankety Blank who has a nasty habit of attacking his victims whenever and wherever he feels like it and cutting them to pieces.
And this description does very little to convey the true weirdness of this book. The narrative is interspersed with made up, encyclopedia-style entries with titles like “How to Make a Shrunken Head: A Process Essay” and “A Short History of Ripperology.” There are also a number of quotes sprinkled throughout the story attributed to the likes of Charles Manson and Gary Alan Walker: “I'm sorry I killed five people, ok?” Yeah, Blankey Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria is plenty strange. And a lot of fun. Even laugh-out-loud funny in places. So, bottom line, if you're looking for some seriously escapist fiction to lose yourself in then look no further, D. Harlan Wilson's got just the book for you.