We are samurai of the post-apocalyptic zone, the coming of a new form of desert zen. We carry our samurai swords on our backs, black-caped and goggled to the hilt. The dust kills pain. We drink dust like milk. We ride hogs up mountains to the top where the fountains of dead clown tears gush a bizarre form of beauty for those who know how to read.
We read book after book. We keep the books glued to the inside of our goggles, use throwing stars when we have to. But the men are on the hunt. Of course, they’ll arrive with whips and spears, chains, planks of barbed-wired wood for the beating. We’ve been whipped before. We must read quick, scoop the words down our mind-holes, and bury them in the pit of our lung-cloaks.
I heard of a pool filled with dead clown tears, somewhere hidden on the other side of a mountain made of words. And we are thirsty, ever thirsty, at once satisfied and wanting more. Do drink, good brother, do drink, for I heard the tears taste like automobiles and venom, like being stranded in the Arctic, or like meeting a painting at a bar. Like screaming. There are no bars here in the desert. But we are close. Walk among the dogs and be close. Let them lead the way.
You say your name is Douglas Hackle and you say we are Clown Tear Junkies. You speak of the Rooster Republic. You speak tales that warp the world into a frenzy of snarls and belly laughs that twist the gut into knots. My world is a spangle of your short stories that still haunt my nights with glee and grand fright. Keep it bottled, you say. Wear it around your neck and sing, you say. And I do. I fall into a trance until the words of the others sing a river through my throat. They sing, Douglas. This is what they say about Douglas:
“Hackle may be the best absurdist story writer working today […] I enjoyed this book [Clown Tear Junkies] more than any other book that I’ve read in a long time.” – Bradley Sands
“…he tells us the kind of tales we didn’t even know we were thirsty for in the first place. The kind of tales that matter, in their own weird way. The kind of tales that make reading a joy.” – Danger Slater
“What makes Hackle’s writing so much fun is his unpredictable wordplay and his juxtaposition of low brow fare and academic trivia. – Gary Arthur Brown
“You walk away [from Clown Tear Junkies] with a clear feeling of how odd Doug Hackle is. It’s almost like finding an anonymous notebook in the halls of a high school that was dropped by someone who wrote these twisted little things never intending anyone else to read them.” – Ray Fracalossy
And you’ve pulled my goggles from this scarred head, ground my face in this desert dirt. You tell me to make the first move. I take a step toward the east. The ancient east. There is a drowning clown with a bottle in hand. I see this image in the sand and you slap my face to listen for the squeak. You shove my face to the rock and it is there where the power of three is finally unleashed. There are three books. Three ways in. Three ways out of this mess.
After I read this book and checked out some of its reviews, I discovered that it’s one of those books many people give up on. I suppose I can’t blame them. Many of the “stories” in this collection are confusing, recondite, tedious, and downright incomprehensible. I myself preferred the stories that more closely approached something like traditional narrative, the ones that were more graspable in terms of ideas, characters, settings, imagery, etc. But even in Barthelme’s more abstruse pieces, much inventive and imaginative manipulation of language and ideas can be found. (Translation: I tend to like it when motherfuckers fuck with the traditional short story form.)
Most horror fiction you find out there can usually be categorized into a standard subgenre or else some mashup of those subgenres: traditional supernatural, Lovecraftian, psychological, gothic, sci-fi horror, occult, splatterpunk, et al.
And then you have Ligotti.
One of my favorite collections of bizarro short stories. The tales contained herein are surreal, dreamlike, dark, sometimes sad, other times funny, and satisfyingly unpredictable.
I am alone now. I have no motorcycle now, no sword and no goggles. I find a pair of rollerblades for the samurai that I hope to be. My hair is longer now, mustache messier now. For some reason, you have gone, but your words linger loudly in the air. I can taste the tears in my eyes, smell the tears like the fog of a forgotten age. I know you’ll be there when I arrive.
I must go. And, like you, I must wander. Soon after, I find your clown shoes stuck to a cactus and I put them on.
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