Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Joe R. Lansdale – Electric Gumbo; David Madsen – Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf

Posted by Mike on May 30, 2006

Joe R. Lansdale's Electric Gumbo is an anthology created expressly for the Quality Paperback Book Club. I ended up purchasing it because I couldn't find any info on line about its contents. As it turns out it's an anthology that includes his The Drive-In novel, a number of short stories that are all in High Cotton, two essays and two novellas/novelettes, The Events Concerning a Nude Fold-Out Found in a Harlequin Romance and On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks. The essays are about drive-ins and also about low budget horror movies and are vaguely interesting and funny, particularly the sidetrack into religion being an inspiration for horror. The two long works are split in the middle, Romance is a rather predictable (I'd say how, but it would be a spoiler) and tame mystery for Lansdale, while Dead Folks is far more typical and gruesome, featuring what seems to be recurring motifs for Lansdale, a perverted Christianity and a determined bounty hunter. It, I believe, originated in a collection of zombie stories and so has a definite Romero-ish, apocalyptic feel.

David Madsen's Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf was a completely different sort of book that mainly dealt with orthodoxy vs heresy in a totally bawdy manner. It takes place in the era of Luther, Rafael, Michelangelo and Pope Leo X, who is portrayed as a Pope with nobility and quite human desires. Peppe, the Gnostic dwarf of the title, narrates a story of human pain through a historically turbulent time, in fact if anything at all slows the book down, it's the occasional historical digression. Although they're fascinating, they interrupt what is generally a compelling narrative. Gnosticism is covered and the impending breakup of Christendom through the actions of Luther, but the heart of the story is simple, the love of Peppe for a woman condemned for heresy and her father's increasing madness and desire for revenge. The book spans decades and includes a freak show carnival, several detailed digressions on gnosticism, and a tragic ending that turns happy at the very end. An amazingly human book altogther.

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