Last month I was commenting on Facebook about the best non-realist fiction of 2010 and someone mentioned enjoying The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich and that it featured an introduction by Steve Erickson, probably the best surrealist writer in the United States. This made me sit up and take notice, and I got the book and read it immediately--especially since it seemed to answer the question posed last week on the Guardian's website: Where did the decadent novel go?
I'd tend to agree with Erickson in his somewhat breathy assessment that "The exhilaration of such a novel is nearly beyond calculation. If a new literature is at hand then it might as well begin here." But I find his associating the novel with the Decadents and the Beats to be perhaps more helpful. As is Shelley Jackson's blurby observation that The Orange Eats Creeps is "Like something you read on the underside of a freeway overpass in a fever dream....visionary, pervy, unhinged. It will mess you up." Brian Evenson's comparison is also on the mark: "Reads like the foster child of Charles Burns' Black Hole and William Burroughs' Soft Machine. A deeply strange and deeply successful debut."
The jacket copy provides some assistance in describing the "plot," although this anchors falls short of being as useful as you might expect given the novel's approach to language: "the '90s Pacific Northwest is refracted through a dark mirror, where meth and madness hash it out in the woods. . . . A band of hobo vampire junkies roam the blighted landscape—trashing supermarket breakrooms, praying to the altar of Poison Idea and GG Allin at basement rock shows, crashing senior center pancake breakfasts—locked in the thrall of Robitussin trips and their own wild dreams. A girl with drug-induced ESP and an eerie connection to Patty Reed (a young member of the Donner Party who credited her survival to her relationship with a hidden wooden doll), searches for her disappeared foster sister along 'The Highway That Eats People,' stalked by a conflation of Twin Peaks' "Bob" and the Green River Killer, known as Dactyl."
Given the difficulties of discussing the narrative, because it is twisty and different and surreal, I thought it might be interesting to form a troika with literary bloggers Paul Charles Smith (Empty Your Heart of Its Mortal Dream) and Larry Nolen (The Of Blog), who have an interest in Decadent and cross-genre fiction, and all three post reactions to the novel on the same day.
Here are excerpts from those reviews, with links to the full versions.