Book Review : Lee Widener - Rock 'N' Roll Headcase (2015)
"I'm sitting next to a talking head on my couch."
"Welcome to my nightmare, son"
The greatest heartbreak of my life wasn't orchestrated by a woman. It came the day I realized school and television had lied to me. That walking the path wouldn't lead me to become a rock star or a famous athlete and I realized this obscenely late in life. So, the question remains: how do you cross the invisible line between human and God, nowadays? Author Lee Widener's novella Rock 'n' Roll Headcase is a psychedelic journey from the land of mortals to the pantheon of contemporary idols that'll help you remap both your inner universe and the world around you.
Chaino Durante is an alienated Nuclear Burger employee who's about to give up on life. Everything changes the day he discovers a mysterious bag in the deep fryer. He brings it home only to find the head of freakin' Alice Cooper in it! Think it's freaky yet? Cooper's head happens to be alive and well and somehow, Chaino gets the gun he wanted to rob his employer stuck in Alice's head and the head stuck on his arm. Oh yeah, this is just the beginning of Rock 'n' Roll Headcase, it is Alice's mission to usher Chaino into immortality and Alice Cooper doesn't fuck around.
Rock 'n' Roll Headcase is like the psychedelic cartoon your mother warned you about. It's violent, vulgar and filled with bold and fascinating symbolism that requires a little maturity to break down. The relationship between Chaino Durante and Alice Cooper is very literal in Rock 'n' Roll Headcase, but it's basically the same than any disenfranchised youth's with rock n' roll music. Chaino "literally" uses art to access a reality that would've been forbidden otherwise. Alice's Cooper's weaponized head is Chaino's tool to transcendence. The purpose of any art is to subvert and ultimately transcend reality and it is boldly and brilliantly portrayed in Lee Widener's Rock 'n' Roll Headcase.
"Alice, you don't really think you'd God, do you?" Chaino asked, gazing at the city beneath him.
"Sure kid, I'm God, you're God, we're all God. There's a spark of divinity on each of us, and a bit of the ungodly as well."
"I've never felt much like a god."
"That's your problem. Your thoughts hold you back."
While it's tempting to draw the meaning of Rock 'n' Roll Headcase from its over-the-top imagery, the real message Lee Widener is trying to convey is embedded in the deep and philosophical dialogue between Chaino, Alice and the many disembodied pop culture icons they meet along their journey. Reading the dialogues and the action scenes is a bit of a disjointed experience, but that doesn't imply any negativity. The action scenes' purpose is to "illustrate" the philosophical points Lee Widener is making, hence the strong imagery and that odd feeling that you're watching a cartoon or reading a graphic novel reading through Rock 'n' Roll Headcase.
The New Bizarro Author Series is a wicked good time and Lee Widener's Rock 'n' Roll Headcase perhaps is one of the most accessible and empowering volumes in last year's collection. It's a subversive little piece of counterculture with a heart of gold that I wish I could've read maybe ten years ago to steer me into the right direction. If you're not familiar with bizarro fiction, I highly suggest Rock 'n' Roll Headcase to help you discover this imaginative and boundless genre. I had a great time with the book and yet I do think it can be a more important in younger reader's path to enlightenment through art. A solid book that doses wild imagery and philosophical insights with subtlety and gracefulness.