Birth: or The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck
By S.T. Gulik
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Although I'm generally a fan of bizarro literature (as in "I don't actively hate it"), there's one big problem with this genre that prevents me from being a big fan or a fervent fan; namely, every bizarro novel in existence tends to sound exactly like every other bizarro novel in existence, a genre that can quite literally be defined as "a cartoon written out in narrative form," and therefore has a sort of randomly nonsensical "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" nature that makes every book in the genre sort of bleed into one giant absurdist fairytale without a beginning or an end. Take S.T. Gulik's Birth: or The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck for a good example; not badly written at all, its post-apocalyptic tale of an everyman stumbling through a series of comically disgusting situations nonetheless feels like a book I've already read a hundred times before, precisely because I really have read books exactly like this a hundred times before. The genre in general is sort of the ultimate example of a book type that can only be loved by hardcore fans of that book type, but who will then read a book every single day of this type exactly so they can get their daily dose of exactly what they were expecting; and although crime and romance are genres of this type that get a lot more attention, bizarro is one of the more pure examples of this phenomenon, with Birth being a perfect example of one of those throwaway books that a bizarro fan might start at 10 in the morning on a Wednesday, be done with by 8:00 that night, then be ready to start another one exactly like it at 10:00 Thursday morning. It should all be kept in mind when deciding whether to pick it up yourself, or even whether to be a fan of bizarro lit in the first place.
Out of 10: 7.5, or 9.0 for fans of bizarro literature