Tattoo Michael A. Arnzen

ISBN: 9783404137343

Published: 1995


Tattoo  by  Michael A. Arnzen

Tattoo by Michael A. Arnzen
1995 | | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, AUDIO, mp3, RTF | | ISBN: 9783404137343 | 6.15 Mb

Perhaps the best way to explain what an audacious and original novel Grave Markings is might be to explain how horror often fails and why. Fans of the genre are too familiar with the usual suspects- abused character/monster tropes, cheap revulsion tactics, utter lack of characterization, fixed gender stereotypes that reduce characters to plot devices, and so on. Most of these elements aren’t horror specific, but I would venture to say that oftentimes horror is most guilty of the all too familiar straw man/woman tactics of introducing flimsy characters only to see them eviscerated in (what the author hopes) is a creative and original way.Now, let’s examine Arznen’s Grave Markings.From the outset, we are wrested from a safe space and taken through the degeneration of Mark Michael Kilpatrick, the book’s antagonist/monster.

Without wasting a single word, the reader unequivocally understands the motivation: abused and marginalized artist has psychotic break and feels the need to “go public.” The how of going public is where the horror and originality begin.Not all horror involves maiming limbs, arterial blood spray, or unidentified viscous fluids leaking from some monster’s orifices. Arzen’s Kilpatrick seeks to mark his victims—permanently—and defacto make them eternal billboards of his art, his pain, his vision.

Worse than a creative decapitation (which seems the benchmark of amateur horror-ists), the reader idles helplessly while the victim is claimed and metamorphosed. A prostitute’s skin is overtaken with an army of phallic demons. A mechanic’s torso becomes a cybernetic vision of a living machine. Each breath drawn invests motions to its function. Gruesome stuff.Arnzen’s prose has a startling clarity to it that I am reticent to attempt making a comparison. Verbs wring out every syllable for maximum effect. When Kilpatrick is fading to darkness, he doesn’t “surrender,” or “get sucked” into it- it sphincters him.

The mental masturbation of a character isn’t a stream of graphic images- instead, it’s compared to “a furious fuck on speed, a vacuous rampage of the flesh that led to blinding orgasmic joy.” Time after time, careful descriptions, similes, and metaphors provoke the imagination in new ways, even with the simplest of touches (“set fire to the end of a cigarette,” “a cheap block of pine in a clogged urinal,” and “like trying to speed read War and Peace in a moving car” are favorites).Colorado Springs, chosen as the backdrop for this story, is rendered with crisp detail.

Having lived and served my military term here, I saw my long lost mountains again and remembered the eccentricities of the neighborhoods and their demographics (the book was published in 1994, eight years before my arrival).

The world of tattooing—arguably the most important element or theme—is also told in a convincing manner. As someone with less than 50% of his skin remaining for ink, I thoroughly enjoyed playing voyeur as Roberts, an ink virgin, develops his nagging desire for a tattoo into to a full-fledged obsession.

Surrendering to whim and growing in the process, the vulnerability of a grown man and the companionship found in unlikely places is one of the book’s many great feats.If more horror writers were provided important novels like Grave Markings, I imagine we would soon see the gore-spattered maws of oversexed vampires, sensual werewolves, and completely psychotic everyday normal guys retreat back to the 80’s and cheap horror flicks. Arnzen raises the bar by creating a believable tale of mental illness, selective subculture, and the lasting consequences of trauma.

Like any good story, horror or otherwise, an important question is provoked: can a victim of violence ever learn to trust again? Live without fear, or suspicion of treachery in the hearts of their fellow man? Echoes of Paul Tillich’s work regarding what words and symbols actually mean are most definitely at play, and even as the protagonists feverishly labor to understand the killer, the reader is also tasked with deciding exactly what the power and significance of images are, without words.Grave Markings deserves every award and all of the praise it has garnered.

As a writer of horror fiction, as well as a devout consumer, I already feel indebted for the wise and entertaining lessons it has imparted. A rock solid 5 stars.

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