Click through for a review of David Ohle’s two novel(la)s BOONS & THE CAMP, the thirteenth in this full-press review series of Calamari books.
I am an avid fan of David Ohle & I believe that this Calamari duel-novel(la) volume shows two interestingly offsetting displays of his writing, one which greatly succeeds & one which is a bit tougher to digest.
What I loved was THE CAMP:
Now she could see him, a stoop shouldered, pigeon-toed man of sixty or more years. A bandana tied behind his head covered his nose, face and mouth. He stood behind a rotting stump, the pistol held loosely in his hand, a black satchel lying at his feet. It was Mr. Ganzfeld himself. Mimi had seen him once or twice at the annual Mill pot luck and appreciation day. She had noticed something odd about his nose. It looked false, like balsa wood carved and sanded, perhaps held there by some kind of wheat paste glue.
THE CAMP is a brave story in that it relies heavily on the reader to pick up pieces along the way, to put them together in the right order, & to understand what the final picture means. This is not, however, to say that the exposition is entirely missing from THE CAMP, but in typical (wonderful) Ohle fashion, the exposition is only admitted when absolutely necessary &, even then, in the smallest possible moments of text, keeping the story moving but never entirely losing us.
When October came, and the cool autumn winds blew across the fields, Ganzfeld’s hair had grown long and lay in dry, knotted strings on his shoulders. “It’s over for me,” he told Mimi one windy afternoon as he wept. “I’ll never have a real nose. I’m going to shoot myself tonight. The decision is firm. Make no effort to stop me, please.” He said he would be sitting in a tub of warm water when the deed was done. She was not to view the scene under any circumstances.
What I liked was BOONS:
More drastic self-preservation strategies were also noted in the Proceedings: A California man amputated his leg below the knee with a chainsaw when it became stuck beneath a tree he’d felled. In Utah, a hiker’s forearm was hopelessly crushed beneath a boulder. To get free, he severed it through the elbow with a pocketknife, then broke and tore the two bones apart. An Australian coal miner amputated his own arm with a Stanley knife when he found it trapped beneath his front-end loader when it overturned deep within a coal mine.
For me, the problem with BOONS is that unlike THE CAMP, which extends its exposition-handshake only when necessary yet often enough to keep us (& our understanding of the narrative) in line, BOONS offers perhaps a bit too much exposition in its gathering of back-story (constant references to what was, has been, etc.) &/or a bit of a scarcity when pushing us forward in the story, the scientific terms often overwhelming the narrative & the background sometimes appearing redundant or in need of a bit more connective tissue:
The Professor’s latest post contained various scholarly journals and a fascinating and illustrated account of yaws cases among boons. What a frightful disease, he thought. They first develop frambesioma or ‘mother’ yaws on the buttocks and legs acquire a thin yellow crust. In time we see feet crippled with sores, producing a remarkable crab-walk. And in the fullness of time a gangosa may obliterate the lower part of the head, making a humanoid funnel lubricated by nasal discharge and into which peanuts could be pushed.
This is, all said & done, a very small critique of BOONS & probably sounds larger than what it really is. Ohle is a smart & inventive writer who, much like Orwell or Huxley, nicely mixes futurism into his narratives & creates for us a world that has roots in our own but has also grown beyond what we know – a vastly difficult task & one which Ohle seems to revel in (& succeed with) nearly all the time. These two novel(la)s are certainly worth the read.
Get yourself a copy of this book here.
Next up, another round of SLEEPINGFISH. Tune in then.