Book Review : Leland Pitts-Gonzalez - Savage Anesthesia (2017)
My challenge isn't simple here. How can I make you interested in Leland Pitts-Gonzalez' short story collection Savage Anesthesia since you probably don't know him from Adam. It's a great question because his main selling point is the writing, but you have to read the book to understand that. I've read Savage Anesthesia a couple weeks ago because its publisher Carrion Blue 555 is a cool, up-and-coming company that was priorly featured here. That's how I got into Leland Pitts-Gonzalez and guess what? I don't regret it at all. He may or may not be your thing, but he definitely is a man of powerful vision.
Savage Anesthesia contains fourteens stories, including the title novella that takes about half the space. And the common thread that ties them together is their dislocated sense of self. They featured protagonists who are unnamed or sometimes don't know who they are. They're all searching for an important part of themselves or simply lament its loss. Extinguish the Light, one of the eeriest and most heartbreaking story in the collection, is about man strapped down and being tended to by a mysterious nurse. He is either lost in memories or having hallucinations, trying to figure what brought him there. It is, like most stories in Savage Anesthesia, a trip within the self.
But let's talk about the title story. Savage Anesthesia is the story of a man seemingly suffering from Cotard delusion. Or maybe he's just obsessed with death. Leland Pitts-Gonzalez isn't in the business of giving cookie-cutter answers. The unnamed narrator peeps on unsuspecting women and makes up identities for them. Then, reality and fantasies start mixing up and he gets a real chance a life, which he isn't ready for. Savage Anesthesia (the story) reminded me of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, where the protagonist interior and exterior lives end up in an existential deadlock. What interested me about this story is its take on conventional living. Falling in love, getting married, starting a family, etc. The narrator is made of broken, jagged pieces of a self and the rigidity of conventions are making violence to it, which his broken self lashes against. It's a vicious circle, really.
Other stories I liked in Savage Anesthesia are: No More Maps, which I thought was a fresh and powerful indictment of intellectual triumphalism told in Pitts-Gonzalez's trademark dreamlike logic; the eerie and nostalgic Louisiana and the cold, fragmented Recording a Life: Data Transfer Skins : which casts an uncomfortable light on things human beings find comfort and solace in too easily. Savage Anesthesia is such an aesthetic trip in dislocated, dreamlike worlds, it's tough to get emotionally involved sometimes. Leland Pitts-Gonzalez's characters are profoundly broken and their jagged edges can often hurt those around them. It's tough to go there as an audience if you haven't already been. That's why I don't think Savage Anesthesia is bound to mainstream, but its power and conviction will definitely appeal to a crowd out there.
So, the question remains: why should you read Leland Pitts-Gonzalez's short story collection Savage Anesthesia? I've enjoyed it. The writing might've been a little too insular for me to consider the collection a "can't miss," but it sure is above average. There's a common theme connecting every story (the broken self), a powerful and original aesthetic and Leland Pitts-Gonzalez is saying something coherent: sometimes there is no healing. Sometimes there is just getting used to a world that's broken and lonely. If you're feeling like that, Savage Anesthesia might not help you feel any better, but it'll show you it's OK to feel like it and that you're not alone. Another promising release from Carrion Blue 555. You don't NEED to check it out, but you definitely should if you're into gorgeous existential writing.