The short stories composing Lonely Christopher’s collection “The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse” are rife with devastating angst. While varying in their cohesiveness and complexity, all retain a core fascination with the violence and eroticism of human nature.
A boy broods over his boyfriend’s suicide until he comes back from the dead to talk. Head trauma and brutal familial dysfunction. A warped reinterpretation of the PokÃ©mon Movie. A seven-foot-tall woman wanders through a grocery store in a daze. Stockholm Syndrome overtakes a boy who returns to his parents after living with a Humbert Humbert-esque abductor for four years. Volatile and barbarous teenagers are ineptly analyzed by disconnected adults. The evil underbelly of suburbia writhes and pulsates.
Christopher’s prose ranges from gorgeous to grotesque, from the beauty of everyday melancholies to the horrific corners of the imagination. He writes unapologetically absurdist scenarios. His characters are largely dubbed with bizarre names like Dumb, Right, Monday, Hamlet, and Gerund. The images and events described are more reminiscent of dreams and nightmares, landscapes of the mind, than reality: distorted magical realism as perceived by some moody guitarist like Nick Drake or Elliott Smith and colored with the madness of a Samuel Beckett play or William S. Burroughs’ novel.
Some stories followed an at least semi-linear plotline. My favorites were the title story “The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse” and “Nobody Understands Thorny When.” In these Christopher creates his most wholesomely disturbed and bittersweet worlds. They explore love and death and family relations with laudable depth and maturity. His writing here is at its most impactful as well. For example:
“[He] thought he might be telling a story through the mechanics of intercourse, the knowledge of which had always belonged to him and every other boy he had done this with. He couldn’t imagine what kind of story it was, but he didn’t care. He thought it was boring but necessary and since it was necessary it had to be fascinating. So it kept happening, the motions kept becoming actions.”
I found the more abstract pieces (“Game Belly,” “Milk,” “The Relationship,” and “The PokÃ©mon Movie”) too frustratingly incomprehensible. They read too loosely and come off as haphazard experimentations. Good ideas are presented but not appreciably utilized. Plots are spliced and splattered together in a jumble. They remind me of David Lynch movies. Creative, yes, but perhaps too esoteric even by absurdist standards.
Somewhere between these two poles are three more stories: “That Which”, “Burning Church”, and “White Dog.” “That Which” was, while very well done, an off-putting choice for the first story in the book, as it is written from the perspective of a brain-damaged boy and thus contains complex syntax and no paragraph breaks. “Burning Church” failed to be satisfyingly structured but manages to communicate its themes well. I’m fond of “White Dog” for its success with a quasi-stream-of-conscious style.
This short story collection reveals to me a talented author who has perhaps been indulged in his craft for too long. He knows how to write and practices it well but often these rampant manic word experiments distract themselves from the points he expresses and the themes he explores.
I still sincerely recommend it to those who share Christopher’s fascinations, but I would be hard-pressed to not criticize his excessive convolutions.