Book Review : Ed Kurtz - Bleed (2016)
Buying a condo is easily one of the top three most stressful things I've ever done in my life. Confronting the sheer level of responsibility it demands gave me nightmare, heartburn and gasses all at once. That's why I've became interested in fiction depicting the existential horror of home ownership such as J.G Ballard's iconic High Rise and Daniel Falatko's Conduminium. It sure it what prompted me to read Ed Kurtz's novel Bleed about a new home owner with an attic sludge monster problem. Man, I sure love to relive my anxieties vicariously through fictional characters. Bleed delivered a lot of that and then some. It's full of nasty little surprises.
So, Bleed is the story of Walt Blackmore, an English teacher who recently bought an old Gablefront house. Walt has a girlfriend named Amanda, but he's a bachelor at heart and their relationship is somewhat precarious. When a mysterious blood stain starts leeking from the ceiling, he is predictably annoyed and anxious for his investment, so he begins investigating its cause. But the more attention Walt gives to this goddamn stain, the more it grows and freaks out Amanda, which only irritates him further. The more he tries to get rid of this invasive stain, the more it grows. Until it's not a stain anymore.
One thing I liked about Ed Kurtz's Bleed is that it wears its influences on its sleeve. It will remind you of several classics without leaving you feeling like it ripped them off. For example, it's impossible not to think of Clive Barker's novella turned iconic horror movie Hellraiser when reading Bleed. Both are monster in the attic stories with similar underlying philosophies of abuse and inner darkness. What differentiates them is that Bleed is delivered like a classic 1950s monster story while Hellraiser is cosmic horror. Another important influence here is William Shakespeare's play Macbeth, especially in regards to the blood stain and its symbolism. Sure, the blood monster in Bleed is, first and foremost a monster, but he/she is quite more than that.
So, there's an allegorical layer to Bleed that's pretty great. There's a logic to how the attic monster grows. The more Walt gives it attention, the bigger and more humanoid it gets, and the shittier he becomes to other people. What I like about it is that it reflects a terrifying reality about home owning : once you have a major possession to project your insecurities upon, it starts taking the place of people in your life. You start investing your time and money into it and before your know it, you become prisoner of all the intangibles your home entails. That is what I believe the blood stain/blood monster represents in Bleed. The growing abusive relationship between Walt and his old, demanding house. He sacrifices people to his most prizes possession, leaving him with a hollow sense of empowerment.
I've said before that Ed Kurtz was a natural storyteller, that it was what made him special. I still stand by what I said, but Bleed makes me believe he might be a little more than that. Kurtz is somewhat of a philosopher too. He's one of these authors who can connect the dots and create original narratives from material we all know and love. Bleed was fun, clever, claustrophobic and rooted in a terrifying reality most adults experience at one time or another in their lives. Halloween is just around the corner and if you're looking for a moody, yet fun and clever October read with monsters in it, look no further than Bleed. Or Ed Kurtz' exploitation quadruple feature Dead Trash. Dude's good.