He Digs a Hole Book Review
Written by Matt E. Lewis
Published by Fungasm Press
Written by Danger Slater
2018, 138 pages, Fiction
Released on February 14th, 2018
Some days, you can feel okay going through the motions: work, coffee, lunch, work. Other days, a seed from a mutant tree compels you to shove your hands into a table saw and affix gardening implements to the nubs in order to dig a hole. Fortunately for us, the protagonist of Danger Slater’s He Digs a Hole is feeling the latter, otherwise this book title would be blatantly false advertising. Could you imagine a book called He Digs a Hole with no actual holes in it? Like, what if that movie, 'Holes', had nothing to do with holes? Did that movie star the kid from 'Malcom in the Middle' or am I remembering that wrong? I suppose I could just look that up and find the answer, or do I prefer to keep the mystery? Has our culture gone down a hole? Because in He Digs a Hole, Harrison Moss and his wife Tabitha discover that it has, in a way – along with lakes of blood and man-sized earthworms who ride rhinoceros beetles to work. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
He Digs a Hole is a story about Harrison and Tabitha, a couple whose comfy suburban life has (metaphorically) turned their brains to brie and (literally) made their genitals retract into their bodies. Other than the disgusting spleenfruit tree in their yard, which bleeds when it’s cut and sprouts knuckled fingers for branches, pretty much everything about their life is as dull as dishwater and they’re convinced they like it. Already, I’m getting a feel for it. Harrison and Tabitha probably watch NCIS every night (unconfirmed) and drink shitty beers at shitty outdoor cookouts (confirmed canonically!). Tabitha is obsessed with finding the ‘right’ color for a room in their house and is constantly repainting it. Sounds pretty standard. Harrison eats a seed from the spleenfruit tree and after fitful nights does the above-mentioned hand trick to dig a massive hole in their yard. Sounds just like my dad! I mean, my dad is more likely to start an ancestry.com account than leave his digits splattered all over the inside of the shed, but you know what I mean!
Harrison’s obsessive digging is just the beginning, of course. After his wife is rather annoyed instead of horrified (it’s hard to impress someone who’s genitals have healed over into bare skin!), Harrison starts to ruminate on the life he’s created, the person he’s become, and doesn’t like what he sees. What? The guy with garden-tool hands has more emotional honesty than his shallow neighbors and exhausted wife? He then starts to chastise them with the kind of talk you’d hear from that old guy who never seems to leave the coffee shop – with lots of “are you really living”, “what is your purpose in life”, “have your dreams just become an empty void while you sleep”, etc. Then his neighbors are eaten alive by worms. Then that hole gapes open, swallowing Harrison and Tabitha into it, and you’d better believe this story is just getting started!
Slater relishes in breaking the fourth wall throughout the book, with his neuroticism almost becoming a character in itself. The frequent mentions of tropes, character flaws, and existential crises are clever and thoughtful, somewhat like Vonnegut’s narrator in Galapagos. If you enjoyed any of Danger Slater’s previous releases, like Puppet Skin, you’ll find He Digs a Hole is a similar mix of bizarre strangeness, graphic eviscerations, and self-deprecating humor. But for all its goofiness and gore, this bizarre book is really a touching story of love and relationships. We hear plenty of meet-cute stories, but how often do we get to hear of the trials and tribulations of a love challenged, of two people brought to the brink in the midst of suburban drudgery? And how many of those stories feature guys who cut off their fucking hands and shove a trowel and rake in their place? The answer is just one – He Digs a Hole. Sounds like it’s just what you’re looking for.