Sex Dungeon for Sale! by Patrick Wensink
reviewed by M. Arkenberg
Patrick Wensink’s first short story collection will go down in history as the book that made me love Bizarro.
These stories are page-turners; short, witty, unapologetically entertaining. But don’t mistake them for light reading. Wensink uses bizarre, often ridiculous situations to make us step back, look at our world and see the things we have allowed to become bizarre and ridiculous.
Take one of the first stories in this collection, the one that told me in no uncertain terms: You, madam, are going to love this book.. “My Son Thinks He’s French” follows the unfortunate father of a six-year-old Francophile. This little boy wears a beret, eats Nutella, and quotes extensive passages of Jean-Paul Sartre. But the larger issue, it soon becomes apparent, is the narrator’s distance from his family.
But the more I think about it, who is the boy I’ve always loved? What did he look like as an infant? I don’t remember him toddling around, learning to walk. No idea what his first words in English were. Couldn’t even tell you if he prefers hotdogs of hamburgers, though I suspect frog legs edge out both.
The ending is the funniest punch in the gut you’ll ever receive.
My favorite story in this collection, however, has to be “Jesus Toast.” As the title suggests, this story centers on pareidolia; the main character has the ability to see everything from Italy in clouds to the Shroud of Turin in a coffee stain, and her boyfriend Claude is able to turn her visions into cash. But ever since her sister’s wedding, her visions have been less of religious figures and more of ex-boyfriends.
Claude said he’s not the jealous type, but I don’t buy it. My man stopped holding the door open for me, rubbing my feet and spilling red wine all over perfectly good couch cushions after we inspected the Immaculate Rust Stain. He wanted the Virgin Mary…not “Marty: The Guy Who Took My Virginity” (1983).
Like all the stories in this collection, “Jesus Toast” combines strong characterization, biting wit and a real mystery. It manages to be surreal without being so strange that it fails to resonate.
Also, it’s really really really hilarious.
For more about Patrick Wensink, see his website. Sex Dungeon for Sale! may be purchased at Amazon.com.
Update: A fantastic video has been made of the title story, "Sex Dungeon for Sale." Check it out here.
Private Worlds: A Revised Atlas by Scott E. Green
reviewed by M. Arkenberg
At their best, authors, artists, and filmmakers in speculative fiction create rich and textured worlds that lend their names a magic of their own. The word Lovecraft conjures images of icy mountains or drowned cities and their pulpy, tentacled denizens; Machen brings shadowy hills and deep green forests. Green’s ambitious poetry collection describes ninety-nine of these “private worlds” in short poems and haiku.
I think this is a wonderfully unique idea for a poetry collection. Though I wasn’t familiar with all of the creators, the poems for the ones I did recognize seemed very accurate.
The heart of Africa
Is the heart of the world
The womb where heroes
Hard as flint
And so are the fey folk
Who live there
Hidden from time
Hidden from the eyes of others
For readers with a good knowledge of speculative fiction’s past masters, this collection will be a thoroughly enjoyable read, and may serve as a recommended reading/viewing list for the rest of us!
Private Worlds may be purchased from Abbott ePublishing
Megan Arkenberg is the editor of Mirror Dance and its sister publication Lacuna. She dreams of one day reading a poem called “Arkenberg’s World.” Until then, she is learning to stop worrying and love Bizarro.