Gerbil Probe: The Media Empire of Michael Allen Rose

(The following is a transcript from the sixth Party Wolf Book Club meetup at the home of Michael Allen Rose in Chicago, IL - Saturday April 7th.)

Michael: Welcome back, everyone! This week, we're discussing Lepers and Mannequins by Eric Beeny.

Cooter: This reminded me of West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet, man. The whole star-crossed lover thing that Eric plays with was definitely front and center.

Rex: But unlike those old ass stories, this one has grenades, and flying body parts!

Michael: That's a pretty fair assessment, I think. How did you guys feel about Beeny's use of that classic structure?

Sophie: I liked the way he twisted it, using characters like lepers and mannequins. We have this world full of characters with disposable parts warring over the ability to be whole. The fact that the main characters, Jaundice and Quall, are obviously in love makes for a nice surface layer, but Lepers and Mannequins goes so much deeper than that.

Smitty: I dig that Jaundice girl. I can totally understand why she's obsessed with her tits. I'm obsessed with her tits, and I don't even know her!

Sophie: There's definitely a lot of relatable character depth here. Body image, the nature of love and obsession, and the idea of "otherness" causing war and tension are all central themes and they're used well.

Cooter: Yeah, it's not heavy handed, dude. But it still has a ton of meaning in the subtext. It's metaphorical, right? The twist when he gets into the real nature of the harvesting and the relationship between the lepers and mannequins? Powerful stuff, man.

Michael: It's tough to discuss this book without giving anything away. Part of that is because Beeny is a really economical writer. This book is a great example of how to take one central plot, focus in, and deal with only things that spring from it directly.

Sophie: I agree. There's very little wandering, and practically no side-stories or meandering prose. It's tight.

Herb "The Herb": Tight. (Takes a huge hit from his bong)

Michael: Herb, I almost didn't see you over there, what with the cloud of smoke.

Sophie: Herb liked this one. He's very philosophical, you know, and I think that this novel centers more on theme than plot to drive it. It really resonated with him.

Herb "The Herb": Party. Party. Hegelian synthesis or two opposing forces brought together to assume a new creation. Party. (Blows a smoke ring.)

Smitty: Okay, since nobody's talking about the most important thing in the book, I'll bring it up. What about the sex? The crazy leper and mannequin sex? The scene where they get it on is awesome!

Sophie: I'll admit I love the imagery of her pregnancy. I won't say any more about that, lest I ruin the surprise about the form that takes, but it's interesting that it's both grotesque and stunningly warm at the same time.

Smitty: Yeah, yeah... but he makes a pussy for her! So hot. And she says the word "nipples" a lot. That was cool too.

Rex: The harvest was very interesting. The fear that the hunters inject into their prey. The stalking. The hand grenades. Savage. Brutal.

Michael: Rex, did you feel like it was one-sided then?

Rex: Nope. The soldier mannequins held their own too. The burning scene is creepy and awesome. And I respected them. They're tortured souls, but they're also relentless killing machines.

Cooter: Dude, it was cool how both sides really had all the shades of violence represented, you know? Like, you had these lepers that were cruel and violent, and then you had Quall and his gentle soul, trying to do the right thing, keep his pack pride, right? Then like, the mannequins had their creepo soldier dudes, and some family mannequins, and some assholes, and Jaundice, who was just lovely. Beeny keeps things real, and shows some depth.

Sophie: It's true that often times war stories really show one side as the good guys and one side as the bad guys. This book skirts that nicely, by exploring the motivations behind both sides and what they do. Then when the discoveries start to happen about the real situation, it's that much stronger.

Michael: Final thoughts? What are you taking away from this read?

Rex: Always be prepared for war. You never know when the harvest is coming, and someone else might take your most precious things. That's why I'm always on guard. (Rex pops the collar of his leather jacket.)

Sophie: Aww, baby. We know you're here to protect us.

(Smitty makes gagging sounds. Rex stares daggers at him and growls softly.)

Smitty: If you don't have awesome titties, or a sweet pussy, you can make your own in a few easy steps! Hey guys, do we have a mannequin?

Herb "The Herb": In the garage.

(Smitty scrambles off. It's hard to keep from shuddering.)

Sophie: The true depth of need is often defined by circumstances, and we are often defined by our opposites. So understanding why our opponents do what they do often helps us reach a deeper level of being.

Herb "The Herb": What she said.

Cooter: I just thought it was a super fun take on the old "two warring families" motif. A great read, and worth checking out, dude!

Michael: Definitely a great read. And the ending is definitely worth the price of admission! Take it from the Party Wolves: check out Lepers and Mannequins. Until next time, keep reading, and supporting the New Bizarro Author Series!

(The Party Wolves Book Club meets once a week or so to discuss books in Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series. The Party Wolves are featured in the book Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose)

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