Review: The Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger | Books | The Guardian
All about The Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger. Clevenger seems to spend more time with his relationship with his father and the women in his life I guess with the ending being some anti-climatic, it may create some problems . 3 discussion posts. Sam said: Did you like the ending, did you feel it was abrupt or lacking, or how did you interpret the ending? I kind of felt as. Irvine Welsh on Craig Clevenger's The Contortionist's Handbook, a novel for independent journalism with a year-end gift to The Guardian.
The novel has a great deal going for it. Craig Clevenger comes up with an interesting and perfectly realised concept, featuring an engaging anti-hero whose story is told with the gutsy sass of an Elmore Leonard thriller, shot through with an elegant literary sensibility.
The contortionists handbook -clevenger?
While this constitutes a potent enough blend, The Contortionist's Handbook also has in play that wondrous alchemy that is the real beauty of the winning novel. What this generally comes down to is the writer's ability to order their material and tell the story effectively.
Craig Clevenger reigns supreme here: The novel has substance too; its biting critique of American psychiatric and criminal justice systems often evokes a modern One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
The hero of this seldom less than gripping tale is John Dolan Vincent, a highly gifted forger who suffers from life-threatening migraines and black-outs.
Craig Clevenger : Dermaphoria : The Contortionist's Handbook : Book Review
In order to escape from the terrible skull-crushing pains he experiences, Vincent self-medicates. Following such episodes he invariably wakes up in a county hospital compelled to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
At this point, things get interesting. Taking his forging skills to their apogee, Vincent emerges into a new identity he's previously faked for himself, to avoid detection for crimes committed in his previous lives.
If you have an extra finger on one hand, and ginger hair to boot, this requires great vigilance as well as skill.
The main problem for Vincent, though, is that he needs to outwit the psychiatric evaluators and convince them that he is neither a suicide risk nor insane and thus worthy of release from hospital. Ashworth is "irreplaceable" to those who hired him. He had possessed brilliance - the ability, perhaps, to cure diseases like cancer.
Instead he chose to design and produce recreational drugs. Discovered and backed by big bucks from an underworld honcho, Eric and his multitude of skills went to work, producing and distributing drugs. He received, and still does, dire threats from a toady thug and the thug's retarded, violent son as to what they will do to him if he blows the job - literally and figuratively. There is an image that occasionally flashes across his mind. Between the flash and the roar, there wasn't any space at all.
I gather from the psychedelic narrative that the bugs are both the creepy crawly kind that bite, occasionally painted in day-glo colors - or viewed through day-glo colored retinasand also the kind people wear taped to their bodies - "tapeworms.
Due to Skin, or the slow, inevitable return of his memory, or both, he begins to recall his life as a clandestine criminal chemist and his relationship with Desiree, his fortune telling lover.
Perhaps he would have been better-off to have remained an amnesiac. Craig Clevenger can sure write!
The Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger
I have highlighted and book-marked phrases and paragraphs throughout the novel to go back and reread. I may not have understood as much about our protagonist as I would have liked, or empathized with him a whole lot at times, but the author's heavily stylized, wired prose is exceptional - no doubt about it!
I will say that the parts of the narrative dealing with Ashworth's childhood, his parents and his fear of violent storms is brilliant and very sensitively handled. Other characters are introduced here: