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The Consumer

M. Gira


US Trade Paperback

ISBN 1-880985-26-8

Publication Date: 03-01-1994

236 Pages; $9.00

Date Reviewed: 01-06-03

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003



Horror, General Fiction

Writing by rock and roll singers and performers is a dicey proposition for the reader. Yes, in some cases you'll pick up a book by an artist you love, and it will turn out in the fullness of time to be a Patti Smith poetry collection. In other cases, it will prove to be something less felicitous. In the case of M. Gira's 'The Consumer', the average reader will be shocked, horrified and sickened, and probably not in a good way. But a select number of readers will find this collection of surreal fiction a wonderful, if nausea-inducing delight. Written by the one-time lead singer of a band called 'The Swans' (whose claim to fame so far as I knew it was an acoustic cover version of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'), 'The Consumer' is a collection of sketches, stories and scenes that manages to turn the surreal setting to eleven, while remaining repulsively readable.

Readers who are easily repulsed by graphic scenes of sex, violence, bodily functions and a wide variety of combinations of all three should not set foot in this collection ,they shouldn't open it and they should not buy it. But those who can handle such scenes and also enjoy the work of say, Thomas Ligotti, Clive Barker's 'Books of Blood' style and even Ramsey Campbell will find a stomach-clenching feast between the covers of this book. The longest sustained work is the title cut, 'The Consumer, Rotting Pig', clocking in at 18 pages, which is itself divided into four sections. Here's a brief taste of the kind of feast that Gira is serving in this story:

'I'm symbiotically connected to the living tissue of my bed, decomposing alive. Infinity is suffocating me. Time is a closing hole. At some point I know I'll know everything, and at that point I'll cease to exist, having exhausted possibility (the word "possible" is itself an oxymoronic impossibility, as is the word "impossible")... All this excites me sexually, but the energy has no place to go, so it eats me alive, making me fatter."

Now this sort of thing could get both pretentious and annoying in anything but small doses. But Gira keeps the doses small, and includes wonderful bits of supernatural terror that would seem quite at home in any splatterpunk anthology from the 1980's. He does so while managing to maintain a slightly elevated 'literary' air, which turns material that might otherwise seem sleazy and needlessly over-the-top into something that's merely very, very cutting edge.

"The girl/boy creature comes in, naked. The marks are there from last time it was in here: deep red open scratches across its chest, leading down to its hairless abdomen, like crimson furrows gouged in spongy soil; an open sore where the nipple was ripped from its left breast-pouch; a large brown-blue bruise spreading up from its crotch onto its lower stomach, like a huge ugly hand, so saturated with color as to appear painted onto the skin, separate from the actual flesh.

The thing stands there docile, waiting, looking down at me on the bed, watching as my erection grows."

'The Consumer' is a nicely printed, packaged and bound trade paperback, with large type that's easy to read, if you can manage to force the damn words into your brain. Published by Henry Rollins' (one time singer for LA punk band 'Black Flag') company 2.13.61 [the whippersnapper!], 'The Consumer' is not your typical trade paperback. Gira's predilection for keeping things short and surreal really helps make this excellent but outre writing much more readable. There probably aren't a lot of people who can mange to read 'The Consumer', but those who can will find this a wonderfully wrought collection of extreme grotesquerie.