• The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

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    The title: working title was "Slutty Teenage Hobo Vampire Junkies", but as the author began to see the book was "transcending it's Roger Corman-esque origins" a song from a forgotten lo-fi band named Unicornface popped up called "Woof Eats Creeps" then a friend suggest "Sun Eats Creeps" which the author thought too obvious and riffed to "The Orange Eats Creeps".

              "When a sleeping cats paws twitch it's dreaming of running away from you
               You know, these are weird times, marked by a non-specific dread that rests
               in nights of brown fog at the center of my bones. Everything in life is determined
               a machine fueled by the tones emitted by digging a fresh grave. Horrific events
               are set in motion in this occupied territory, activated by movement, but I can't
               stop moving."
                                                                                                               -page 105

    The author: according to the wikipedia entry on Grace Krilanovich she "moved to the Los Angeles area from Santa CruzCalifornia in 2003. She attended San Francisco State University for her undergraduate studies, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies. She then went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Writing at the California Institute of the Arts, where she graduated in 2005. She currently works at The Los Angeles Times"

          "These were antique thoughts, marked by a non-specific dread...My first impulse 
            is to go to sleep. My second impulse is to have sex with it and  my third impulse 
            is to eat it. That's how my mind works. But the three are not quite as fixed as 
            you might think; they've been boiled down, chiseled out, and  refined, 
            painstakingly handcrafted over three centuries resting at the bottom 
            of my brain. The three are like the finest three-line poem chiseled in gold at the 
            foot of a roaring majestic waterfall and I'm sure as hell not giving them up, not 
           for the world. I need them."
                                                                                                                 -page 131

    The publisher: Two Dollar Radio is an indie publishing house established in 2005 by Brian Obenauf, Eliza Jane Wood, Eric Obenauf and Emil Pullen to "publish books that if I stumbled upon as a reader I would push onto others, saying 'you've gotta read this.' Each and every book we publish we endorse without limitation. (No jokebooks or bathroom readers found 'round these parts.) Above all, we value ambition, and believe that none of our books crimp to convention when it comes to storytelling or voice. Ideally, that contributes to a liberating reading experience" 

      "Our kind doesn't die from anything, all we do is die all the time."
                                                                                                                  -page 8

    The book: Grace started writing OEC as a Corman-esque horror story using the folklore and crime stories she grew up around in Santa Cruz, California. It quickly became something else entirely. Worlds like "story" and "plot" don't seem to apply to OEC as it's a wild, flowing mass of words loosely grouped around a young woman who might or might not be a vampire in and around the northwest of the US in some future time (perhaps). Her efforts to find her sister/friend Kim while searching and exploring urban and suburban scenes, attending lowend rock clubs, having sex and being raped, doing drugs, walking in the woods, hanging out with a gang, living on the road, et al. Living and dying day by day, moment by moment. 

    The book follows her journey from outside and inside as well. In fact, many times it's hard to tell where the young women's mind starts and the outside world begins. Waves of rhythmic poetic prose wash over the reader moving from macro to micro within the same sentence. Or a paragraph will start in a realistic setting and then morph out into the surreal and grotesque. 

    Grace worked on OEC (her first novel) for several years incorporating a wild variety of techniques for finding inspiration, direction and content for the book. Music was a major source of inspiration:  "The writing of this book wouldn't have been possible without the antics, abandon and illegal proclivities of bands I hold near and dear spurring me along in my artistic endeavors, safe in the knowledge that somebody out there was pushing the limits, truly alive in their mind, even though they may have been out of step with the rest of world."

    She also tried the Burroughs "cut-up" method and used her own set of "cards" which she threw to create unusual combinations of setting, character and afflictions. Here's a nifty vid of here discussing some of here writing methods in OEC:

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    My thoughts: a quote from Mortimer Adler came back to me as I was reading deeply in this truly strange and wonderful novel; "In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you". How many readers will allow Orange Eats Creeps to get through to them? Most of us read every book the same way: for entertainment and escape. You can't read OEC this way as you'll end up like this Amazon reader: "What do I wish I had known before I purchased this? This novel is all junkie and no vampire (really I couldn't tell you exactly what the main character was because the entire story is incoherent)". 

    Serious readers will recognize that Grace is channeling a tradition of writing that goes all the way back to Baudelaire, Celine, Ginsburg and Burroughs. It's a literature whose goal is to "connect" (as Forester puts it). So what is Grace connecting with? It's the idea that language creates it's own reality and that words can be combined in ways that are unique and strange; that consciousness can be imitated with words and that we do this every day in our own lives.

    In a sense, OEC approaches the quality of music, an art form which can be completely abstract and still move the listener with sound/tone combinations. Grace did what creative artists do; she combined everything she could remember, think and feel into a form and then shape the form to her conceits. In this case it's words combined in familiar/unfamiliar wasy to create a mind/world. It's also to kick the readers ass a bit like every good punk rock band does. You just have to let go to get it.

    Perhaps this song "With Teeth" by the Melvins (part of her own "set list" for OEC) shows better than words what Grace Krilanovich is up to:

    So let's cut to the chase: most people aren't going to get this book and that's fine because there are sevenbazzilion writers out there crankin out the copies of copies of popular sentimental melodrama that will keep their readers happy. And, hell, I read some of that shit, too. But Orange Eats Creeps is the real deal. It's unapologetic, uncommercial and like it's main character, it doesn't give a fuck about you except to suck your blood. Men don't come off well in this world because there are pretty much all bastards who think only with their cocks. A lot of women don't come off well in this book as the House Mom character is smothering and distant, Kim is lost and our young female hobo vampire carries the bones of some dead animal in her apron to jiggle for guidance. Ok, maybe the women at least have a shred of conscience. The whole world is filled with...well...creeps.

    Perfect? No. The book bogs down in the middle and you have to tough it through a bit. Perhaps it could have been shorter, but who the hell knows. Borrows too much from Burrough? Probably not. Let me read it 5 more times after reading Naked Lunch and I'll tell you then. Posterity will love this book like a lost kissing cousin. I sure as hell loved it and will read it again and again.

    You should too.

    Notes: Two Dollar Radio has a great deal on buying their books. If you buy 5 of them (your choice) it will cost you $30 which is a big savings over the normal price of $12 a piece. And there's some great, great stuff in their catalog. Definitely head over to the site and have a look.

    As you can imagine, OEC has created quite a stir and there are lots of reviews and discussions all over the net on the book. Most of them better than my poor efforts here. Here is a short list:

    -excellent interview with Grace at the Twodollarradio blog
    -Grace's music playlist 
    -best review is by Tobias Carroll at Vol 1 Brooklyn
    -wonderful conversation between Richard Thomas and Blake Butler that covers just about every angle you can think of about the book/author.
    -Orange Eats Creeps page at Two Dollar Radio where you can read some of the book.
    -Steve Erickson's introduction is a bit over the top, but right on in several points. Give it a read here:

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