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under the covers

Bedside Manner: Come Back, Cotter

Temperature's rising, we fall to reading in the conditioned air.

By Wayne Alan Brenner, 9:08AM, Mon. Jul. 9, 2012

The prose has teeth in the mouth of the beast.
The prose has teeth in the mouth of the beast.

There, to the right:

You see the book that's on top, mostly:

Fever Chart by Bill Cotter.

You see that one book on top, like you'd see the disposable diaper hastily wrapped around a wounded & profusely bleeding hand because, ah, because there was a profusely bleeding hand – and a disposable diaper happened to be the nearest & most sensible solution under the circumstances.

We all tend to use whatever's nearest and passably sensible, regardless of the situation; and if, sometimes, the solution is as absurd as a diaper wrapped around a bleeding hand, well, there it is: Life, in all its fucked splendor.

The fucked splendor depicted in Cotter's Fever Chart concerns the romantic and violence-fraught misadventures of a mentally unstable schlub named Jerome who works his way through heartbreak and hardship within the bon-temps-rouler culturescape of New Orleans with such warped and self-sabotaging determination, described with such insight and precision, you might be like, "Uh, John Kennedy who?"

I judged the book by its cover first, had meant to get a copy years ago because of the Ron Regé Jr. illustration and because it's published by McSweeney's. Put if off and put it off, though, procrastinating the purchase for reasons of budget and the general distraction of other books, movies, websites, that one friend who talks for hours over coffee but (fortunately) has a lot of interesting things to say.

You know how it goes.

But then came to find out that the author is a local man – is, in fact, the longtime significant other of that force of nature called Annie La Ganga. And, visiting Annie for an interview, I met him. Which, maybe perversely, but typical for me, made me want to definitely own the book but not read it.

For any number of reasons of complex paranoia. But mostly because I didn't want to become acquainted with the man and hear about his amazing current employment … and then read his book and be disappointed by the writing. Because now the book would have to live up to both its gorgeous cover and the quirky affability of its author. No way in hell I was going to deal with that, you know? Not actual reading. Especially not after I'd already done my part of neighborly "support" by heading down to Domy Books and buying the goddam thing.

(Ah, the pressure, the pressure, the pressure.)
(You do it to yourself, you do, and that's what really hurts.)

But then I read some short article that Cotter had written.
Found it on a website at the end of a link from a Tumblr
mentioned on the Facebook wall of an old Livejournal friend or something.

And it was good.

So: Goodbye, procrastination.
Farewell to the internal Admiral Ackbar insisting "It's a trap!"
And hello to Bill Cotter's Fever Chart, one of the most enjoyable, pained-laugh-inducing, memorable picaresques my brain's ever had the pleasure of processing.


Other volumes in or around that pile that you might enjoy reading:

The Map of Time: Felix J. Palma's bestselling fantasy thriller in which H. G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, and an actual working time machine start off the story – shades of Time After Time – and in which such historical notables as Joseph "The Elephant Man" Merrick and Marie "The Ripper's Last Victim" Kelly are featured in extended cameos. I've only begun reading the 500-page thing, and there are a few elements of fantasy (elements that aren't even internally logically consistent) that are gag-me difficult to swallow … but this Palma feller knows how to write & his plots tug one along with cunning insistence ….

The Post-American World: Release 2.0: This is Fareed Zakaria's update of his well-researched look at the United States (and particularly its place within the whole world's community) in the 21st Century. It's not all doom and gloom – well, unless you're some kind of mostly brainless über-patriot – and it does a fine job of shoring-up all the things you've been suspecting are going on with regards to this ever-new world's ordering. Global human society isn't a zero-sum game, people – although, when those who had greater control of the playing field find that their power and reach is slipping, you know there's gonna be a lot of greedy scrabbling and glorified self-pity going on.

The Braindead Megaphone is a collection of George Saunders essays, wherein the man behind all those brilliant fictions shows that his topical non-narrative thoughts are just as compelling and insightful and, often, LOL delicious. Kudos to Half Price Books for prominently displaying such goodness.

RASL, recently purchased from Austin Books & Comics, is the new graphic-novel series by Jeff Smith, whose previous, bestselling (and you-could-call-it-YA) work, Bone, charmed the hell out of even someone that Smith (later) majorly pissed off. This new tale, not for the kiddies, is a noirish fantasy about a dimension-hopping art thief. And it's hella adventurous, but – what always gets me – it's rendered with "unhurried storytelling and the focus on little things." That, thank you, is the way to do it right. (Besides, I've been waiting for this Dimension-Hopping Art Thief schtick to get more play, ever since that trope jumpstarted the plot in Kenneth Branagh's excellent Dead Again.)

And ... the current catalog from Melville House?
Ah, we've already gone on about this remarkable indie publisher
in a previous blogpost, haven't we?



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