Frank’s World by George Mangels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Frank wasn’t born: he escaped from somewhere else … “
George Mangels quickly became a bit of a mysterious legend to me: a cab driver who appeared out of nowhere and dropped a one-sentence-long rant about the world (told from the point of view of someone embodied by the spirit of Frank Booth, otherwise known as the character played by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet) on the doorstep of literature and then vanished to Mount Shasta–a place not entirely without its own sense of mystery, being the last known residence of the mythological Lemurian race (referenced in the book).
His vocabulary is off the charts. I study word use in the books I read, and this man’s work stands alongside heavyweights like David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo. Published in 1995, Mangels has long been struggling to find a publisher for the follow-up, which he tells me is called Franksegesis, in an apparent nod to Philip K. Dick. I hope he finds a publisher. I’d love to see what the last seventeen years have done to this man’s mind.
“no, one cannot return CHILDREN–God does not give receipts”
The book’s also incredibly funny and smart. It’s seemingly out-of-print now, but you can find it in used bookstores, or on Amazon via some resellers. I bought a first edition online and sent it to Mr. Mangels, who was gracious enough to sign my copy.
“DOES A COW KNOW THAT IT BIRTHS BUTTER AND THAT ITS SACRED JUICES WILL BE SPREAD UPON SLICES OF SCORCHED, COMPRESSED GRAIN?”
Yes, to passages like the above. Yes, to this whole book, which attacks the brain with great wit and literary accomplishment.
“… amber waves of situation comedy rippling outward in every direction … “
Sure, it can be a lot to take–the book is not an “easy” read–but savoring it can be a real joy.
Frank is a force in the world, and he traumatizes people, but the trauma he inflicts is often quite psychological. So much so that the true effect spills out for years, and Mangels has a real gift for writing about what happens to his characters after they run into Frank. At times, these passages can be quite beautiful and heartbreaking.
You should read this book for the description of Mister Ed alone:
“…Mister Ed, the vehicle that transcends three dimensions and sails beyond space, existing and living forever, teaching through millions of box-lips at once, transcending time, living the hipster sunglasses-at-night horse good life throughout time, throughout space, roaming the eternity that is syndication, a transdimensional consciousness wedging its way outwards through the spaces between worlds and into eternity … hell, Mister Ed is ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE…”
The trouble with reading passages like these is that they made my own writing feel dreadfully boring.
Seek this book out. It’s a treasure: earnest and energetic, fully committed to getting into your head and trying to say something worth hearing in some of the best passages I’ve read.
Finding and reading this book was one of the highlights of the year.
I’ve been holding off on this review, because I feel like I should say more, but I have nothing more to say:
I loved this book.
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