Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Warhol Gang, a review

Wow. Ok. Let me sit down and take a breath for a moment. I just finished The Warhol Gang, by Peter Darbyshire, and now I need to sit and let it settle for a bit.

This book,  (and PD’s first novel “Please”) is such a departure from other books I’ve read recently. The usual is for things to have a definite beginning, middle and an end. With this, I felt like things were on the run from the moment I began reading, and, at the conclusion of the novel, were still in process. That being said, I was a willing participant from first page to last.

The book is written in first person narrative, a style recently discussed on Bookninja . I’m not one to spend a lot of time thinking about the way something is written. It’s either a good story or it’s not. (I, however, will not read anything with more than one exclamation mark per chapter. If you can’t get the reader there with your words, don’t expect your punctuation to do it for you! {That’s my quota reached.}) The protagonist of the novel, Trotsky (Warhol) works for a temp agency and is presently working as a sort of beta tester for products at a neuromarketing company called “AdSenses”. Trotsky’s not his ‘real’ name. All of the characters in the book are just that. Che, Paris, Holiday, Nickel, Flint, Thatcher, Nader, Reagan.

I guess the book can be called an ‘allegory of our time’. We are not ourselves, but reflections of what other people think of us. We are replaceable (there’s a part in the book where one of the AdSenses workers isn’t there, and then is replaced by one of the others. “You’re Nader now”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt like that. Just stick a new name tag on this one, and that’s good enough.

Trotsky soon begins to need more stimulation to get the same effect. Just viewing the products isn’t enough. He needs to buy them, to feel them. But not use them. Soon that’s not enough. He seeks other ways to get the same feeling. To feel real. He attends scenes of accidents, and for a while that’s enough. He needs more, and starts impersonating emergency response personnel. Soon that’s not enough. The novel speaks to the way we need more and more stimulation to feel like we’re experiencing enough, and the way we expect that having things will fill that gap.

Trotsky ends up involved with Holiday, who calls herself the “Marilyn Monroe” of security footage, a woman who seeks infamy through being broadcast on news feeds hosted by Paris. Together, and in conjunction with a resistance led by Che, they accidentally become the Warhol Gang, and, of course, havoc ensues, culminating in a violent standoff at Ikea. “Everything ends in the Ikea.”

The Warhol Gang is described as ‘black comedy’, as an absurd tale, and a story about a dystopian future. In my opinion, it’s a trip, a ride, a story that you don’t want to believe could happen, but believe too fully.


wackerlin said...

Sounds like a wild and wooly book, Mon, but I don't know whether you liked it really. Did it grab you or just make you go all analytical?


Monica said...

oh it grabbed me, RRW. I'm sorry that it didn't come across in my review. Perhaps I'll have to review my review.
It was an odd story (you should read Please, by the same author, which was a trippy ride, as well), but well worth the time. I got 'analytical' a few times, but almost had to come out of the story to get that way. If that makes sense.

Ben Warsop said...

This business of super-stimulus is interesting, Monica. I heard a podcast with someone who was researching it recently. (Probably 'For Good Reason').

Animals also respond better to super-stimuli than they do to real stimuli. And it is at the root of our obesety epidemic. Some argue that it porn is no longer a substitute for sex. As U2 say "even better than the real thing". They were inspired by a gulf war pilot who dwscribed bombing Bhagdad as "very realistic". It's tempting to think it contributes to other extreme or negative behaviours too, like massacres. But how would you test that?