Book Review : Leza Cantoral - Cartoons in the Suicide Forest (2016)
I don't know much about Leza Cantoral aside from Cartoons in the Suicide Forest and the fact she whimsically appears on my social media at random times, mostly through the updates of her boyfriend, author Christoph Paul. She's somewhat of a mystery to me. It's a good thing because it allowed me to read Cartoons in the Suicide Forest with an unblemished perspective and appreciate her work for what it truly is. I've learned a little more about Leza Cantoral from reading her debut short story collection. She's the dark reflection of your manufactured subconscious. She lives in the collective consciousness, like Simon in Session 9. Her ambition is to break that consciousness and create something new, which is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
So, what the fuck am I blabbering about, right? Leza Cantoral primarily writes about fairy tales and Disney-like narratives, which is the closest we have of a collective experience. Everyone was told fairy tales as a child and an alarming number of people turns back to them over and over again as some kind of beacon of order and balance for their lives. Leza Cantoral probably is the only person in the world who hates that as much as I do. She reappropriates fairy tales in Cartoons in the Suicide Forest and ushers them into adulthood like an abusive mom and I mean that in the best possible way. Leza Cantoral's new wave fairy tales are jagged and dangerous and perhaps the best thing about them is that they're starring the very people balance and reassurance in their lives I was referring to earlier.
The title story Cartoons in the Suicide Forest was a gem and one of my favorite shorts in the collection. It's an elaborate spin off the enchanted forest tale loosely-based on something very real. The forest, much like the desert for example, is a place of renewal in classic storytelling, but it's no place for sad girls. I've also deeply enjoyed Planet Mermaid, which came out earlier this year as a limited edition chapbook, for its savage iconoclasm and its enthusiastic deconstruction of fairy tale romance. Siberian Honeymoon, Green Lotus, Suicide Pigs and Star Power also stood out, in my opinion. Leza Cantoral preaches the end of childhood innocence with the ferocious intensity of a doomsday preacher because she believes it will lead to something better and I'm 100% with her on that.
I wouldn't say Cartoons in the Suicide Forest is proper bizarro fiction but it would neatly package such an eclectic short story collection. This is transgressive YA literature for teenage girls who want to watch the world burn. Leza Cantoral is the pied-piper well-thinking parents are afraid their daughters will follow into the terrifying unknown. She's one mean lady who takes pleasure into tearing apart the collective imaginary, but I believe her heart's in the right place. Cartoons in the Suicide Forest is a mere glimpse into her abilities and potential, but her thematic obsessions and her ferocious conviction give her a unique edge that will always help her stand out from the crowd of indie authors out there. Reject fairytales for 2017 and embrace the new world of Leza Cantoral.