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Theatre, Music, etc.


May 18. 2012

Evenings Out Delusions with wolves

by Anthony Glassman

Artistic minds are renowned for examinations of madness, of insanity. Vincent Van Gogh, as a notable example. One of his most famous paintings is a self-portrait with the bandage clearly visible from having cut off his ear; he was in a right state over fears that fellow painter Gauguin was going to stop working with him.

More recently, the novel and film of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club are both about the dangers of dissociation; the narrator thinks Tyler Durden is a separate person, leading him astray, when it reality it is the narrator himself.

The similarities between Tyler Durden and Vincent Van Gogh are fairly shallow overall, but they do have something else in common: They are/were both annoyingly heterosexual. Thankfully, we have Daniel Allen Cox, who must sit in his luxurious manse in Montréal plotting ways to write gaily about people going insane.

His third novel, Basement of Wolves, is now available from Arsenal Pulp Press (trade paperback, $15.95), everyone’s favorite Canadian publishing company. Seriously. They wear their pinko-lefty agenda with pride, as all true liberals should, and provide such a strong outlet for LGBT writers, as well as fascinating travel guides, vegetarian cookbooks and a slew of other literary delicacies.

But, back to the matter, or novel, at hand. Basement of Wolves is the tale of Michael-David, an actor leaving his youth and not yet in the realm of distinguished roles. He’s in that period that we all wish Tom Cruise would enter where he would become persona non grata before returning as a silver fox like Ted Danson.

He sees a chance to avoid a self-imposed exile, however, when auteur filmmaker Chris asks him to be in his new opus, not yet written, not yet plotted, but sure to be an intense experience. It’s about a boy whose father raises wolves, but treats them horribly, so the boy frees the wolves, runs off into the woods with them, then returns 20 years later as Michael-David.

The only problem is, in addition to being narcissistic, Michael-David is also deeply paranoid, and begins to see plots and schemes designed to irreparably shatter his career, if not his psyche. What was supposed to be a story of redemption becomes a tale of revenge, and his behavior on-set is increasingly erratic before filming wraps.

Once it does, an internet hook-up goes awry, and Michael-David decides to go into hiding - from his trick, from his director, from everything. He takes a room at a tourist hotel in Los Angeles, where he meets Tim, a skater-cum-terrorist who might actually be Michael-David’s only salvation.

The liner notes refer to the novel as “a work of dream logic.” It might be more pointed to call it glorious nonsense. Either one works, really. The book makes the same sense as a dream, while being both incredibly silly and deeply meaningful. Cox is almost uniquely able to do this, while at the same time avoiding a literary devolution into soft-core pornography, a fate that befalls many a gay author. Basement Wolves proves that a single well-placed sex scene is far more potent than all the Viagra-induced, overly-sweaty hornball crap that lines the gay lit shelves much of the time.                       |





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