It’s unclear whether the author David David Katzman wants to simply expand the parameters of what constitutes a novel, or whether he wants to blow up the entire concept.
Katzman bundles all we associate with genre-plot, character development, obstacle and resolution—and tosses them into a hamper. There is no adequate way to describe this book in traditional terms. The narrator appears to be stoned. We have no back story. At the outset he seems to work in advertising, but that quickly dissipates. He meets drunks and drug addicts and usually has no idea where he is or what is happening to him.
There is a plethora of animal and plant imagery, creatures, mythological figures, a witch, and lots of heavy discussion about the meaning of this or that. Add in an element of New Age mysticism and you have, on the surface, writing that is showy, self indulgent, pretentious, in your face—boundary-blasting stuff that will drive some readers to apoplectic seizure.
“My skin peeled off to get away from me
I touched my ears and they rang like toxic metal my teeth were grinding
A place of phantom surfaces
A knife sheep god eater and the twitching toads
The people were beautiful and spoke a language incomprehensible machine chatter
Gleaming iridescent white suits and strapless dresses binding cocaine teeth
Their laughter sizzled in the head and the scarping of rusty wire
She (of rainbow hair) passed the needle
He (with silver eye) passed the needle
A drop of nectar glistening at the top a lambent drop trembling in light
There is no linear plot. Instead we follow a series of encounters with all sorts of entities, like visiting each tent in a circus. Is the narrator or the world insane? This can’t be classified as straight satire or commentary because it is so over the top operatic in style. Has Katzman created another collage art form of prose, poetry, and art?
Whether or not there are discernible ideas here, actual themes that can be pondered, is questionable. Perhaps this is a book for other writers. Perhaps Katzman is opening possibilities. What is true is that, recognizing this book is not for mainstream readers, A Greater Monster possesses the sheer metaphorical verbiage of the late critic John Leonard, the intense lists of Don Delillo, and the shocking, roller coaster sentences of Mark Leyner.
This book is a literary monster. A greater monster is Katzman’a ammo dump of an imagination. There are 65 intricate black and white drawings by Caitlin Drake McKay smack in the middle of the book, which may be worth the price alone.
Reviewed by Joe DelPriore for IndieReader