Book Review: Cucumber Punk by P.A. Douglas

Cucumber PunkCucumber Punk by P.A. Douglas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a year since I first became aware of the Bizarro literary scene. At first glance, it seemed like an impenetrable world of twisted, gleeful horror, often sex-charged and certainly offbeat. As I explored the genre, the definition of “bizarro” seemed somewhat slippery. Bizarro-focused websites seem to avoid concrete parameters for the writing. My modern brain wants to categorize and label everything it sees. Time to give it a break and just read it, man.

Scanning the titles, seemingly impossible protagonists come to mind: Anthropomorphic sloths, washing machines, pigs, and what all. The titles are often iconoclastic, pornographic, and punk rock/gothic/geek. There’s certainly a shock value that comes with the first glance, but does it continue to challenge your personal paradigms upon reading? I’m not completely convinced that it does.

Admittedly, I’m still a newbie when it comes to Bizarro lit, but I am certainly familiar with the term “Mondo-Bizarro,” which informed many of my film viewing choices back in the day. So being a man approaching middle-age, I cannot help but keep Mondo in the back of my mind as I continue to explore this transgressive literary scene.

Cucumber Punk is a rocking read concerning a cucumber-headed gutterpunk. Prior to picking up the book, and as a writer myself, I was mostly curious about how P.A. Douglas would pull off the concept. How does one get into the mind of a cucumber, as such? A punk rock cucumber at that?

I am interested to see how other bizarre writers handle these wriggly concepts, but Douglas carried it through in a very direct and accessible manner. The Cucumber Punk simply has a cucumber head and is reluctantly in love with fellow, tomato-headed gutterpunk. Aside from these physical curiosities, they are essentially human characters playing out their roles in a breezy book that features a fair bit of social commentary.

The book is as punk rock as its hero. There are no highborn literary aspirations in this writing. It’s fun and furious, with three chords and an anthem. Surreal and satirical, a tight read that perhaps lacks a bit of depth, but this isn’t that kind of book. Sometimes it gets a little sloppy, but that’s a part of the fun. There are many fun characters that populate its landscape and if you have spent any time in a punk rock/hardcore/goth scene, you are sure to see someone you recognize.

For years you heard that it’s important to eat your vegetables. Turns out that was the worst advice anyone could have given you.

4/5 Middle Fingers.

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