Book Review : Jamie Grefe - Static/Orgone (2016)
Not sure if you noticed, but I've been reviewing a greater amount of established authors in 2017. It's not a coincidence if I've featured the likes of Peter Straub, Dennis Lehane, Jeremy Robert Johnson and Jordan Harper over the last six weeks. They're the authors that interest you. And it's fine. It's insanely tough to convince someone to purchase a book written by a total unknown on my word alone, so I like to pick my shots. Jamie Grefe's double feature Static/Orgone came in warmly recommended a couple months ago and I thought it would close the month nicely, yet it ended up being a unconventionally hard book to review. I've enjoyed it somewhat, but I have no idea why you should pick it up. It's one of these books that does only one thing, but that does it really well. I'll break it down the best I can and let YOU decide.
The first story Static is about an orgy happening in a mansion, which happens to be in the middle of the desert. The protagonist Lek is looking for the woman he loves from room to room, while being exposed at different facets of desire. It's never really explained why everyone is fucking in the middle of the desert, but the story is a contemporary spin the Orpheus myth, the musician who bailed his woman out of hell. Come to think about it, Orpheus probably inspired Meat Loaf's career too. Anyway, Static is gorgeously written. The orgy is disturbing, monstrous and has somewhat of a hive mind, which I thought was interesting. It was so overwhelmingly surreal out of context, I thought it was more an exercise of style than a bona fide story, to be honest.
Orgone is a lot more "out there" than Static, though. I would lie if I told you I had any idea what the fuck it was about and coming from someone like me, who prides himself in understanding what he reads/watches, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. There's a giant body in there. There are gruesome murders. There's a guy named Reich. It reminded me of Alejandro Jodorowsky's movie Santa Sangre a lot, and to a certain extent the Holy Mountain. Once again, I can only command the quality of Jamie Grefe's prose. The man can not only craft beautiful sentences, but he can craft haunting scenes out of them. The only problem is that they have no context whatsoever. Static/Orgone is enjoyable the same way a surreal painting is. Except they've both sixty something pages long. That book had great parts, but it didn't add up to something that was overall better. Does that make sense?
Would I recommend Static/Orgone? Fuck, I don't know. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everyone the same way I've been shoving Jordan Harper's books down people's throats for example. It depends on what you feel like reading. There's a very precise mood to Static/Orgone. If you're looking to read expertly crafted prose that flows from one page to another like poetry, this is worth a try. Jamie Grefe is definitely no mad scientist of language, but he has an imaginary strong enough to confront certain limitations of its conventional use. So that aspect was interesting. This is not conventional fiction, though. It's more of an art piece than a transporting narrative. I don't think anyone will ever love this book to death because it engages readers with visceral images instead of a visceral narrative, but it sure isn't devoid of creative ambition and artistic merit. It's only $3,95 on Kindle, so why not, right? If you need a supercharge of surrealism, this kind of gets the job done.