The Contortionist’s Handbook review

Clevenger almost wound up as one of those guys I’d wish people would stop prattling on and on about.

“So brilliant.”
“Such a genius.”

And I was so incredibly sick of hearing it.

Dermaphoria was what I ended up cutting me teeth on regarding his work, and I must admit, I found myself struggling through it and wondering what all the fuss was about.

That didn’t stop me from picking up TCH when I finally found a copy for under $40, or more specifically, when MacAdam/Cage finally pulled their heads out of their asses and decided to give the book another print run. A movie deal and high demand can do that.

Nonetheless, my expectations were considerably low, and so the following read pertaining to an identity-shifting expert with an extra finger was that much more of a pleasant surprise. Palahniuk said, “…the best book I’ve read in five years. Easily. Maybe even ten years,” and I’m inclined to agree.

Clevenger spins a web of lies and identity crisis so complex, it’s a wonder that the reader doesn’t get lost in the details of how to fake a birth certificate or SR-22, but the author never shakes you…not unless he wants to. In TCH, we see John Dolan Vincent pitted up against “The Evaluator” for his freedom after an overdose, the story alternating between this battle of wits, tells, and intellect, and the seedy past of this protagonist of how he came use a deformity to his advantage. It reads similar to Palahniuk: minimalist with loads of factual information regarding the trade of forgery (we’ve seen this before with Jack and explosives in Fight Club), but unlike the one and two-star reviews on Amazon where Clevenger is ostracized for being a rip-off, it’s obvious to me that the author has made this style his own within the neo-noir genre.

Simply put, I see the influence, but nothing that would make me believe Craig wrote this thinking, “What would Chuck do?” And perhaps this is why his second novel turned out so different from his first…to distance himself from the name, the legacy, the style.

I wish he would return to it.

TCH is one of those books that when I put it down, I knew I’d read it again at least eight more times. I can’t recommend it enough.

To buy The Contortionist’s Handbook on Amazon, click here


About brandontietz

Brandon Tietz is the author of the novel, "Out of Touch," a transgressive take on nightlife, socialites, and sensory deficiency. He enjoys a well-poured vodka tonic, good conversation, and the musical stylings of Röyksopp. In April of 2010, Tietz signed with Otherworld Publications and is slated kick off their 2011 line-up. Currently, Tietz serves as one of the moderators of the Chuck Palahniuk Writers' Workshop and is working on his second book, a themed collection, entitled, "Vanity." His work can be seen on Lobster Cult Magazine and Outsider Writers Collective. He's also a three-time Chuck Palahniuk anthology finalist and a good kisser.
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