"Avoiding Mortimer" Book Review
Written by J.W. Wargo
2012, 90 pages, Fiction
Released on October 23rd, 2012
That bizarro is weirdness for the sake of weirdness is a common misconception. In fact, some of the most cerebral fiction is coming from this genre. Authors like D. Harlan Wilson, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Cody Goodfellow, and Andersen Prunty, to name a few, work in bizarro and produce some of the most unique and intelligent writing out there. Now the genre welcomes a new author to the list of weird, smart voices: J.W. Wargo.
Wargo's first novel, Avoiding Mortimer, was published late last year as part of the 2012 New Bizarro Author Series. The story follows Mortimer, a man whose sole purpose in life is avoiding. He avoids work, thoughts, and interaction. His entire family is full of avoiders, but after his dad insists on un-death as a way to avoid death, Mortimer starts avoiding them. Lonely, tired, and stuck in an awful job biting worm feces all day long in shoelace factory, Mortimer decides to kill himself. Unfortunately, the afterlife is not what he thought it'd be. Facing an eternity working on a body-making factory, Mortimer starts to think instead of avoiding. What follows is a wild ride through the bureaucracy of the afterlife in which a soul-hungry ant blob, a sentient pile of dreadlocks, nothingness, and God will all play major roles in what becomes of Mortimer.
Between bitch slapping God, drinking emotions, Romero brand Instant Brains, the scatological nature of aglets, and the somewhat organized madness that is heaven and all its offices, Avoiding Mortimer packs more than enough weirdness to satisfy fans of bizarro. However, what makes the novella shine is the fact that just below the craziness is a touching narrative wrapped around a smart critique of corporations and religion. For example, workers at the shoelace factory are treated like dogs and there seems to be an error in Mortimer's paperwork in the afterlife.
Wargo is a talented writer who likes to mix intelligent concepts with full-blown strangeness. In fact, the last few pages of the book are wonderfully philosophical while also having the feel of a cheesy action movie. If you can imagine Freud and Kafka getting drunk and then trying to beat each other senseless, you'll have an idea of what the writing's like.
Like most NBAS books, Avoiding Mortimer is short and sweet. Wargo doesn't waste words and his narrative moves along quickly and feels interesting to the last page. If you're looking for short, punchy, strange fiction in which there's character depth and growth, do yourself a favor and don't avoid this one.