150 pages, $10.95
Review by David S. Atkinson
I’d never heard of bizarro lit before a few years ago. However, I’ve read what I would consider a decent amount of it lately. It seems like I should have a handle on exactly what is or isn’t bizarro by now…but I really don’t. For what seems to be a somewhat small genre in literature as a whole, there appears to be at least twice as many ways to do bizarro as there are writers within the field. My impressions of this were further cemented when I took a recent look at You Are Sloth by Steve Lowe (author of humorously odd books such as King of the Perverts, Muscle Memory, and Samurai VS Robo-Dick).
The book starts ordinarily enough:
The dude writes, “You are sloth!” and that’s how it begins.
He didn’t write “a sloth,” just sloth, and that has you wondering what he means. It concerns you a little that this is some kind of Se7en thing where you’re going to die in a very lazy way because some foreign spammer has seen too many American movies without quite grasping their gist.
But that wasn’t what he meant.
When he says, “You are sloth,” he’s being quite literal, but in your hangover haze, that just flies right on by. You just don’t get it until you reach for the keyboard to respond and instead spend ten minutes staring at your yellow, curved fingernails (three to be exact; you count them over and over to confirm) and thin paws covered in long, wiry hair.
Yup, the main character (you, since the book is written in second person) drunkenly opens a spam email and is somehow turned into a sloth. Worse, men of odd sexual proclivities are disappearing all over the city and the main character is apparently being set up to take the fall for it. With only the help of two neighbors, one an asshole and the other a half-wit, sloth needs to track down the spammer before various mysterious and absurdly sinister plans come to fruition. Before that, though, he’s going to get drunk.
Why you are sloth? Because fuck you is why!HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!
I found You Are Sloth to be an enjoyable read. The premise is highly absurd and the pacing is energetic, but the absurdity isn’t relentless. The basic bizarreness is established and then the story proceeds from there; this isn’t the kind of bizarro that deems it necessary to constantly keep up the level of Richard Nixon clones upsetting the plans of the trilateral commission by eating Fruit Loops laden with 80s movie memorabilia in order to stop the construction of more Planet Hollywood locations. In short, good and engaging fun…but not exhausting to keep up with.
I even enjoyed the second person narrative stance. This can often render text choppy, but it works in this book. I didn’t quite feel that I was sloth, but it did work to bring me in a little closer to the main character. Given that he is sloth, and I really hope I’m not, I think that little extra help works.
Though You Are Sloth is a little different than much of the bizarro fiction I’ve read in that it lays a few fundamental bizarre elements and then works with a fairly normal storyline from there, I don’t think it is going to be the subject of many Ph.D. dissertations anytime soon. I’m just glad that isn’t the threshold for whether a book is good or not, because You Are Sloth is entertaining and interesting. I’d definitely recommend checking it out. After all, “You are sloth!”
David S. Atkinson is the author of Bones Buried in the Dirt and the forthcoming The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (EAB Publishing, spring 2014). His writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, Grey Sparrow Journal, Interrobang?! Magazine, Atticus Review, and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/ and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.