I didn’t go to the dentist for three years, because I am a dumbass. As a result of this, I ended up being in the dentist chair for a deep cleaning. I’m terrified of the dentist in general; and my wife found one who specializes in folks like me— a little bit of nitrous and some reassurances by the hygienist and we’re off to the races. I was listening to music through my headphones, and I thought “this sounds like music made for nitrous.” And that’s the fundamental problem with drugs. They can make you think that the world was made for them, rather than the truth, which is they are a part of the world. Extremity can be like that; a kind of drug that makes you think the world should be filtered through it’s lens entirely, but is, in fact, just a part of the world. There are other roads to walk down; other lenses to view the world with.
Which brings me to “You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood”, a book which I really disliked. That having been said, just because one dislikes something does not mean it does not have value, and I think there’s something you can learn from almost any piece of art.
I don’t remember where I came across this book; I suspect Reddit, but I am not sure. The person recommending it encouraged the reader to go in cold. While I have a big, fat disclaimer on the side panel of the blog, I am going to warn the reader once more: I can and will spoil absolutely everything about the things I write about. No detail or twist ending will be spared; and if that’s going to bother you, you’re better off coming back later if you plan to read this.
“You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood” is, in theory, a collection of writings by a serial killer, with a foreword and afterward by an editor. It contains audio transcripts, poems, and a short novel entitled “You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood”. They are all written by (loud sigh and eye-roll) Martyr Black.
Ok, so, here’s the thing: I don’t think you’re supposed to think that Martyr is cool. He thinks he is, but he’s just a dipshit killer, who’s motives are revealed to be absolute garbage. His writings are all revealed to have been plagiarized from his victims, and he stages his victims to look like paintings, which are helpfully footnoted. Dude thinks he’s Hannibal Lecter but he’s more Hannibull Lectern, an off brand copy.
The only other characters we deal with directly are Ambrose Thorne who is Martyr’s lover, and the editor of these texts, Trent Pilcher, who was, at one point acquainted with both Martyr and Ambrose (and was Ambrose’s lover). He says in the foreword that he’s presenting these texts to show the human side of Martyr and Ambrose, but this is all undone when it’s revealed that the texts presented are plagiarized. The only ‘real’ texts involving Martyr and Ambrose, then, are the transcripts of them speaking, which contain additional commentary by Martyr. And Martyr sucks. He says things like “A worm doesn’t listen to a grasshopper” or speculates that “not every living thing wants to live”, which lead to the sort of philosophical discussions I associate with late night weed smoking while prog rock plays in the background or something. It’s alternately dull and unpleasant.
Well, what about the novella within the novel? Honestly, I didn’t think a whole lot about it. It’s a narrative about someone who goes to a mysterious compound to create assets for a video game for someone with the name Abbas Zimpago (depending on where you look, the name means “lion” or “father”), and discovers it’s entirely something other. It’s resoundingly ok. Given the overarching narrative of the book, it’s stolen from some other author, but it sort of reads as though Eric LaRocca, the actual author of everything, had a cool short story and then came up with an overelaborate framing device for it. The book ends with the editor quoting David Leavitt : “Sometimes brutality is the only antidote for sorrow.”
Without overthinking the quote, the editor reminds me of… me in a chair, high on nitrous thinking that the music was made for being high on nitrous. I’m not certain that the book is all that brutal. It certainly ain’t fuckin br00tal. It has a lot of forced-feeling symbolism, philosophical discussions, and the occasional murder. I didn’t find the gore or body horror (in the novella within the novella) particularly hard to take, but I’ve dulled my senses with endless horror films, so take that with a grain of salt. But I can’t help but think that the story in general doesn’t need to be about murderers, or contain the gore it contains— the novella within is fine, but the discussions outside of it do not particularly benefit from involving serial killers.
Horror is a genre where a lot of people get their start. In film, in particular, horror is often a low budget point of entry for aspiring directors and actors, with some exceptions— though that has shifted over time with greater availability of tools for filmmaking. It’s also a genre with a fairly sizable built in audience, who will give most anything at least a try. This book has an interesting core, somewhere in it, and perhaps putting a horror wrapper over it it has given it an audience that it might not have gotten if it was about, oh, a couple of university professors who discuss plagiarism. As a step on a road, it’s something to consider. As a self contained, complete work, I think it trips over itself a tad too often to be really effective.