New Releases: Me and Bobby McGee by Chad Coenson
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Me and Bobby McGee is a bizarre piece of literary, speculative fiction from rookie author Chad Coenson. I use both those terms loosely. "Literary" as the book contains rambling, introspective elements that are more frequently seen outside of the genre than within. And "speculative" as the book takes place in a seriously bizarre variant of our reality that forces me to speculate what the author was taking at the time.
(Basically, I hate genre labels, and Me and Bobby McGee single-bookedly proves that they're complete bollocks.)
That digression aside, Me and Bobby McGee is a darkly-comedic, socio-political road trip in the disturbing legacy of Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson and Warren Ellis (whose foray into fiction with Crooked Little Vein yielded a very similar sort of read). Our "hero" is an alcoholic ex-assassin. His "journey" is a trip across the border with a truck filled with babies. His "finding himself" is time spent as the Marketing Director of an international slavery conglomerate - selling off middle-class white babies to third-world countries. Guilt-free and profitable!
The frequent use of annoying "quotes" isn't meant to be interpreted as sarcastic air-quotes (else I'd punch myself, out of principle), but rather an indication of the serious problem that comes with trying to classify anything in this particularly perplexing novel.
I admit - when I first started, I struggled. Who is this guy? What's going on? Who is she? Why did he do that? (Followed invariably by, "Didn't that hurt?"). However, once I learned to relax and go along for the ride, it all slipped into place. Perhaps the ultimate lack of meaning is the meaning of the book - or just that sometimes the ultimate reward from any venture is just a chance to laugh out loud (a lot). And Me and Bobby McGee provides plenty of opportunity for laughter. The loathsome hero, Kelsey Cypher, has a morbid wit that comes out with the author's fine comedic timing. The best jokes (like Cypher's goldfish-style mood swings) recur, but aren't over-used. And the big, sweeping, set-piece scenes (like the history of the new slave trade) are vast monologues of surrealist entertainment.
This is the "Big Lebowski" of literature - addle-brained, slightly reprehensible, clever-as-hell and, despite avoiding any actual roads, one hell of a trip. I'm not sure what happened, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.