Thursday, January 5, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [adult]


Sad Monsters by Frank Lesser


Quick count: Who's had it to here with sappy, happy Christmas tunes and maintaining family values in front of the neighbours? Yeah? That's what I thought. Me too. What better antidote than curling up someplace very quiet with your shiny new eReader to read all about zombies, gorgons and vampires with Seinfeld-sized neuroses?

Frank Lesser is a writer with the Colbert Report; his book, Sad Monsters, carries the same tone of parody taken to such extremes that it becomes a satire drenched in verisimilitude. Lesser explains the book's premise in its introduction: “Many monsters suffer from psychological problems, although the warning signs can be easy to miss. Does that vampire stay in his crypt all day because sunlight will burn him to ashes, or because he has social anxiety disorder?... In this book you will find monsters who are sad, misunderstood, discouraged, lonely, and in many cases demonized, particularly the demons.” Arranged into short stories, each highlighting a different neurotic monster, Sad Monsters examines the inner lives of Godzilla during an existential crisis (“Had plans to destroy Kyoto with Mothra, but ended up staying in and watching M*A*S*H reruns. Tried to selfmedicate by eating a pharmaceutical factory.”), Dorian Gray's roommate, zombies trying to survive a human invasion, and many other monsters facing crippling anxieties.

If you so desire, you can read the book as though it has something to say about the state of contemporary mental health services and the society that engenders the need for them. It does say some pretty clever things in those regards, but you can also just read a funny book about sad monsters, too, if you'd prefer. Lesser's prose doesn't beat you over the head with any morals. As Lesser's first full length book of stories, I wouldn't say that the entire work is yet of uniform strength. This isn't a huge issue, however, as its short story format allows readers to skip any stories that don't appeal. Fans of David Sedaris' sarcastic edge will likely enjoy this book, although I wouldn't say it's quite as dark as some of his work. Fans of Douglas Adams may also enjoy the self-conscious, satirical absurdism of Sad Monsters. Even fans of vampire or zombie lit looking to have a bit of a laugh at their favourite genres are bound to find Sad Monsters a pleasantly demented post-holiday-season palate cleanser.

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on January 5, 2012. Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian.


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