Saturday, June 20, 2009

Catching Up #35: Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

This is yet another edition of "diluting the brand with the Nerd of Noir," where I review something that is only very loosely noir fiction. That said, going into Crooked Little Vein I was under the impression that it was very much up this site's alley, what from the way all-a youse dorks out there in internet-land had talked about it. I'd basically heard it was a fucked-up take on the PI-genre filled with dark, perv-y shit. I'll take it.

Well, dear reader, after burning through this motherfucker, I can say that that shit was fucked-up and it was definitely perv-y, but dark? Not so much. Essentially Warren Ellis' novel is a celebration of the American Freak Flag and the Information Age - and a love story to boot! By using the private eye novel structure (hero going around interviewing various characters to solve the case) Ellis has found an entertaining way to talk about what makes the current generation the truly greatest generation. It's a weirdly positive novel about the aspects of modern culture that the shittier members of society would think of as not so positive - but then that discourse alone is positive in itself and...

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's do the whole plot description thing and then I'll show you how fucking smart I am or whatever.

Private eye Mike McGill gets a break from being shit on when the White House chief of staff drops by his office offering him a major case: find the "real" constitution of the United States. You know, that one that Nixon traded for sex back in the fifties? The one that - when you're in the presence of it - turns you into a straight, upright, non-degenerate? Yeah, that one.

Why does McGill, the losingest of losers, get this case (and a half million untaxed dollars) you ask? Well, precisely because he has such epically rotten luck. No one but God's-Favorite-Toilet Mike would possibly be able to find such an object seeing how it no doubt is in possession of one of the very perverts it could potentially un-perv.

So McGill follows the trail with a sexually adventurous grad student doing her thesis on underground sex culture in tow named Trix who he quickly falls for. The search for the book (or is it McGill's shit luck?) leads them to all kinds of weirdoes with all kinds of crazy kinks stretching across America. Trix is as open to each odd experience as McGill is mortified by it.

Will these two crazy kids fall in love? Will McGill find the book? And if so, will he really give it to the White House so they can blast us all back to the Mad Men days? And just how much saline can one man fill his sack with before his balls pop out?

So it's obviously a fucking looney-ass book and totally ridiculous, but like some sort of cock-eyed optimist Vonnegut, there's a method and a message to Ellis' madness. Yeah, there's lots of funny and gross scenes of weirdoes doing sick shit rarely seen outside of the Savage Love column, but the laughs come with sharp commentary. He brings up great points about the greatness of our sick society, this place we live in where anybody can find whatever they want and where anybody with internet access can be part of the media.

Thankfully, the preachifying isn't as simple and boring as what I just typed. There are many much more interesting and challenging observations made in Crooked Little Vein, making for a highly enteraining romp (dear god) through the underground-that-isn't-really-underground-because-it's-on-the-internet-right?-so-it's-obviously-gotta-be-mainstream of America.

In other words, it's a lot of fun. But dark? Nah. If you disagree with the sentiments (and if you do, realize that you're reading a fucking BLOG from some nobody right now on the INTERWEB with somebody with a CURSING problem), then maybe it'd be kind of considered dark, but mainly it's a comedic satire with little danger and a sweet, atypical romance at the center of it. Not complaining or anything, but still. The Nerd can't help but dilute the brand these days.

1 comment:

Keith Rawson said...

It's still one of the funniest reads in the past couple of years. The chapter where that group of guys are injecting their nut sacks full of salt water, fucking hilarious!
But, no, not noir, not hard-boiled, but still brilliant.