Hawking Up Hairballs

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Matt Ruff

I know I've been away for a while. I'd like to say it's because I've been up to exciting things, like a trip to the International Space Station or bicycliing across the country. Sorry, folks, but I've just been blog lazy. I'm back now though. For how long? None of us knows the future.

I have a question for today though. Is there something in the air out there in the Pacific Northwest that produces quirky writers? There's Katherine Dunn. She's only written one novel, Geek Love, but it's the quintessence of quirky and bizarre. There's Chuck Palahniuk, who most of you probably know, and another guy I ran into by the name of Matt Ruff. As genres go, he's classified as a sci-fi/fanstasy writer, though his books don't really fit into my understanding of the genre.

I've finished one book by him called Bad Monkey. The protagonist is a woman who claims to be a member of a secret organization called Bad Monkey, that assassinates the most evil of people, the ones who genuinely deserve to die --child molesters, serial killers, people like that. When the novel opens, she's in what appears to be a room in the psychiatric wing of a prison. She's telling her story to a shrink, starting with how she came to be a part of Bad Monkey and proceeding from there. Ruff does a good job of swinging the reader back and forth from believing that the woman's story is the raving of a paranoid schizophrenic, to believing that Bad Monkey really exists and that she's a part of it. It isn't great lit, but it was entertaining, though I thought the ending wasn't well handled.

I'm in the middle of another novel of his, Set This House In Order. It's about this guy who suffers from multiple personality disorder, though he prefers to say that many souls live in his body. He has learned how to integrate all of his personalities, without destroying them, so he's what could be called well-adjusted. A woman he knows introduces him to another woman who also has multiple personalities. However, she's living in chaos and her main personality doesn't even know about the others. The story proceeds as a kind of romance where he's going to help her deal with her personalities. I know it sounds hokey, like the kind of thing that might be on Oprah, Jerry Springer, or Dr. Phil, but it's not. Ruff is clever and imaginative. He handles the story well. Whether it will hold up through all 479 pages remains to be seen. Again, it's not great lit, but I'm enjoying it.


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