Sunday, February 10, 2008

Selections from The Fall

You have to respect a punk band that has survived and thrived since 1977. Aside from that, there’s not much I know about The Fall. So when Perverted by Language: Fiction Inspired by The Fall, came in the mail, I really did not have much insight to bring to bear upon it. However, I do not want to crib Instapundit’s “in the mails” so I wanted to at least dip into the volume of Fall stories.

Each story takes its title from a Fall song, like Carlton Mellick III’s “City Hobgoblins,” a rather disturbing tale of human-mutant relations. It is notable for having a character express a pro-life sentiment, albeit under bizarre circumstances: “Yeah, well I’m pro-life when it comes to all issues. If there’s anything I can do to keep a living being alive I will do it. Even if it’s something that came out of the walm [mutant central].” (p. 46)

However, most of the narrators of the stories I sampled are morally and ethically compromised. A cokehead snitches on a royal neighbor. An office thief graduates to homicide. The music of The Fall seems to lend itself to rather pessimistic visions of humanity.

Perhaps the most disturbing brings readers inside the head of Dr. Hume, a Holocaust denier, in Stav Sherez’s “God-Box.” Having read the entire story, I don’t believe it is offensive, but it certainly provocative and people of good conscience could understandably be offended. Even after its final revelations, there are aspects of Hume, who is not whom he appears, that remain disconcerting.

As one would expect, there is not much jazz in Language. The most we get comes from a hitchhiking musician in Nicholas Royle’s “Iceland,” who tells his ride: “I play the bass saxophone . . . Jazz-punk. Not really jazz at all. I hate jazz.” (p.101) That is pretty much the extent of it.

If titles like “League of Bald-Headed Men” and “Lie Dream of a Casino Soul” already mean something to you, than you do not really need much of a review. Just: “here it is.” For the rest of us mere mortals, if you like dark hipster short stories with a dose of the fantastic, you could also probably get behind Language. Editor Peter Wild seems to have selected some well written contributions based on what I sampled. Ultimately, I just feel like I’m missing the irony of matching story to song without that deep knowledge of The Fall, but if it’s your thing, have at it.