Three Reads w/ Chris Kelso

The pool in the backyard is full of black dogs and antique moosejaws frozen in sludge like lollipops. We swim all day, drink juice bags, sweat-shirted and sweat-panted to the hilt of our Bizarro dreams. It’s all lizards, all the way down and it’s time to hit the phones, check the calls for clues. It’s Saturday. You’ve brought a black telephone studded with dog teeth. It’s a tooth-phone, you say, made of geese, and we laugh for hours over blood loss and how the dog sleeps on your chest and snorts bugs up its snub nose and snores. That’s how she does things, you say. That’s how she eats cities, sneezes broken glass. I try to \m/ but I can’t. You tell me to \m/ and I cough guts, but my stubby fingers are plastic and we are not Dutch like the girls who keep calling you on the phone with those voices like crisp lines of dew.

And who are you? You are Chris Kelso, the author of many books as evidenced by your websites which you send me in the morning, just as the coffee spills on my blue velvet lounger by the television, books like Moosejaw Frontier and The Black Dog Eats the City. I am watching MacGruber and waiting for the sirloin soup to stop popping in the microwave. I really wanted to drink that coffee, truly needed that coffee to cultivate speed, so I compensate by downloading more Molina for Clementine and turn up the volume on the only speaker I own, the one that you bought me at Target. What do they say about you? I ask, sucking soup like college, spitting jelly on bread. Who? you say. I don’t care who, I say. I am losing my patience. This is not an interview. This is barely a conversation or a short story. It’s a log cabin. But the phone rings and you pass it to me as if I can speak with so much soup on my tongue. I chicken-cluck a greeting and hear what these others, these brothers of yours, have to say, Chris Kelso:

“I never thought I could use “aggro” for a novel, but Chris Kelso’s Transmatic is pure heat-white aggro in a new twisted way that will leave you breathless and wanting for more. Think Tarantino meets Ballard meets Burroughs, and you’re still in it for a surprise. A hard drug I sincerely recommend. I am now officially a craving Kelso addict.”
Seb Doubinsky, author of Goodbye, Babylon

‘Choke down a handful of magic mushrooms and hop inside a rocket ship trip to futuristic settings filled with pop culture, strange creatures and all manner of sexual deviance. The mundane becomes the bizarre, the standard evolves into the alien, and penises and vaginas are rarely what they seem. Buckle up. Shadenfruede is indeed pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.’
Richard Thomas, author of Staring into the Abyss

‘Chris Kelso is a fun writer. He is a daring writer. He is an experimental writer — but more importantly he is about to become an important writer. Read him with this book, so you can say you discovered shortly after Don Webb. I said it first, so I win.’
Don Webb, author of Overthrowing the Old Gods

But you’re gone the way of the Web and I check Facebook and there’s nothing left to read, no feed, no news, no shine-box, nothing trending at all since you’ve big-timed the frontier and the narrative flow. Isn’t this supposed to be about books? Let’s rap rock. Let’s boogie down your list and dive in the pool where the dogs are stacked like tables made of bacon and beef. Do you like bacon and beef? Let’s eat a city, no more telephones, none here, Chris. I’m with you on this one and the wind has picked up a nation of millions. It’s a trending wind. I feel you’re ready to begin, is that right? I’ll let you speak. I have to finish my soup, make some more coffee.

Chris Kelso speaks of books:


The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip.K.Dick
I really love Philip.K.Dick. A lot of my friends don’t like Philip.K.Dick. Those who don’t like his work will say that all his characters are rubbish, half-rendered, one-dimensional sketches…there is undoubtedly truth to this argument; and I firmly believe that for the majority of other writers out there this would be a major bone of contention – but when you consider the sheer magnitude of PKD’s concepts, well, surely we can forgive him that one tiny foible (can’t we?). Maybe I’m too merciful.

I’m a sucker for a god paranoid brain bender.

All the familiar tropes are present in his opus ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’, but here Dick isn’t just concerned with blurred consensus reality or unreality, interplanetary colonisation or the effects of psychedelic drugs (mind you, you’ll still catch sight of those wacky PKD hallucinogen names like ‘Chew-Zee’ and ‘Can-D’), oh no – the philosophical undertones of ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’ echo more the transcendental idealism that would permeate his later work, like The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, like VALIS. The main esoteric question being probed here involves god and his relationship with mankind – more specifically Dick asks ‘what if God existed and he hated you?’ In spite of the small matter of Dick’s throw-away characters this is classic paranoid fiction, my favourite of the PKD novels.


The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Much like Philip.K.Dick, Paul Auster’s characters is a little pre-occupied with his own identity and reality. He attacks the subject in a different way – instead of placing his protagonists in a science fiction setting, Auster prefers to inhabit the crime detective genre. ‘The New York Trilogy’ is the single volume of sequentially published novels set in the Big Apple. They all have a common theme and involve men who intentionally strip down the conventional layers of their lives in order to move beyond their set reality. Often, more than one personality will frequent the body of a single man in one of Auster’s stories. When I was going through the Raymond Chandler chapter of my adolescent reading career I discovered Paul Auster towards the tail end of that phase. His prose is beautiful but succinct, his ideas challenge anything PKD tried and the NY Trilogy has that certain enigmatic quality that really appeals to me…


Lanark by Alasdair Gray
My favourite work of fiction EVER by a Scottish writer. ‘Lanark’ is a genre-spanning odyssey that gives the graphic account of dullard and chronic acne sufferer, Duncan Thaw, as he struggles to get women and generally bumbles through his menial existence while attending art school in Glasgow. Thaw wakes up in a bizarre and terrifying purgatorial world after drowning himself, a place where people grow thick layers of extra skin known as ‘dragon hide’ and mouths start appearing on the palms of their hands…it’s pretty insane stuff. Gray also illustrates all his novels and is a true polymath. I had the chance to meet him, here I am here…looking so happy I could tear my copy of ‘1982 Janine’ in half!

Thank you, Chris, I say. I make my way through the meat of the pool, lick my lips. I found a phone down there. We can call Iceland or Berlin and bake fish cakes in the palms of our hands. Let’s get drunk on ruined cities and voices, on stories that fill tubs with jelly and I promise I’ll let you go first. Is there more in store? you ask. There is always more, Chris, I say. And they sting like blades of pulp, brother. They really do. Read them HERE.

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