5 Weird Books You’ve Gotta Read Before Your Brain Eats Itself

By Bob Freville

If you’re new to the Motorist then that title might well bug you the fuck out, but fear not! We can still save your brain before it melts into a gnarly flan and you begin speaking in tongues. That’s right, you don’t need to be some boring troglodyte with an empty head and hair on your palms anymore.

As I’ve said in the past, I am your minister, Reverend Bob, and I’ve got all the tools to open up your brain basket and air it out. So kneel before cod, open up those dick beaters of yours and prepare to receive the freakiest scriptures you’ve yet to discover.

Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere, Mykle Hansen (Eraserhead Press)

If I have one complaint about this marvelous tome it’s that the title could have been longer. But perhaps it is Hansen’s economy with words that makes this collection of novellas so rich and rewarding…or maybe it’s all the penis.

That’s right, ‘Rampaging Fuckers’ is filled to the brim with cock. And not just any cock but the “Monster Cocks” of its first novella, a story of penis enlargement gone awry that had me glued to the page like bukkake to a BBW’s eyelashes.

“Monster Cocks” is a stellar achievement in work place comedy that’s equal parts Cronenbergian body horror and Seth Rogen-style dick jokes. One could easily imagine this one being adapted for the screen by Brian Yuzna (Society) or Braindead-era Peter Jackson.

But before you write this one off as some sort of Sausage Party for sophomoric bibliophiles, beware that its denouement is anything but silly. In just 62 short pages, Hansen segues from phallic shenanigans into a dark realm of seminal transmogrification that you won’t be able to shake.

The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-geist, Michael O’Donoghue (Grove Press)

Michael O’Donoghue is my dad. Technically, we are not biologically related, for I did not germinate from his sperm…but if there is one man whose sense of humor and style I feel especially connected to it is Saturday Night Live’s own Mr. Mike.

His Least-Loved Bedtime Stories, which boasted aphorisms like “Love is a death camp in a costume,” captured my imagination as a child and stifled my ability to become a well-adjusted member of society. For this, I cannot praise him enough.

Before O’Donoghue smashed open the doors of the humor magazine National Lampoon and forced it to mainline heroin in its eyeball, O’Donoghue was honing his skills at Nazi jokes and filthy poetry in the pages of the prestigious Evergreen Review.

It was from a brief series of comic strips commissioned by Evergreen that Phoebe Zeit-geist was born. The decidedly un-P.C. world of the book explores the terrible fate that befalls a perpetually nude woman named Phoebe.

In each panel, Phoebe is subject to the perverted whims and vicious agendas of a wide cross-section of sadistic ex-S.S. officers, sex-crazed bull-dykes and foreboding Gypsies, all of whom wish to degrade and destroy her.

The central joke of the book is that Phoebe is always left in mortal danger at the end of each strip, only to skirt disaster so that she can survive long enough to withstand yet another onslaught of torture and turmoil. I won’t give away the book’s cruelly funny climax, but suffice it to say that Phoebe isn’t even safe in the arms of death.

“The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist” has long been out of print with new and/or collectible copies selling for as much as $400 on Amazon. However, if you shop around you should be able to find a hardcover for around $45. Time to sell that kidney you haven’t been using.

Rat Catching, Crispin Glover (Volcanic Eruptions)

We all knew that McFly was a weird cat; anyone who has seen David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is unlikely to forget the sequence in which he shovels cockroaches into his underwear and scampers around making sandwiches all night. And that’s to say nothing of his iconic turn as Rubin, the platform boot-wearing, cat worshiping king of the Echo People in Trent Harris’s cult classic Rubin & Ed.

Well, one year after he tried to hurl a projectile boot at David Letterman’s grill, Glover showed no signs of mellowing. In fact, he doubled down on that manic energy and self-produced this magnificent literary collage, a surrealist masterpiece of objet d’art created from the re-purposed pages of an 1896 textbook entitled Studies in the Art of Rat Catching.

A perennial collector’s item from the first day it was released by Glover’s own Volcanic Eruptions studio, “Rat Catching” goes for approximately $100 in mint condition. Luckily this one is still available at a somewhat reasonable price, lest it end up in the mulch pile. As Glover warns in his book, “The worms will get in.”

The Drive-In, Joe R. Lansdale (Crossroad Press)

Lansdale occupies a very odd place in the annals of speculative fiction. Unlike the Stephen Kings of genre fiction, whose works are largely of a piece with one another, Lansdale’s tales run the gamut from horror, satire, cartoon and fantasy to splatterpunk, memoir, western and essay.

“The Drive-In” is no exception, it is a singular work that is only identifiable as one of Lansdale’s works because of his inimitable voice. Like “Bubba Ho-Tep” and “The Night They Missed the Horror Show,” this fantastic novel smacks of Lansdale’s trademark worldview and dark wit.

The story of a group of teenagers who attend a late-night screening of Night of the Living Dead at the landmark Orbit, “The Drive-In” revolves around what happens when the audience is immersed in a magical movie experience that no one would wish on their worst enemy.

As the blackness claims them and the dangers ramp up, the reader watches in abject horror and morbid curiosity as the occupants of the drive-in submit to their primal instincts. As time goes on and the world on the screen crosses over into our own, a bizarre and awe-inspiring fate befalls our young pals. Anarchy, blood lust and concession stand madness are but three things they will have to contend with.

The book’s depiction of popcorn as both a reward and a punishment is just one of “The Drive-In”’s many sublime allegories for the tenuous fabric of civilized society in a consumerist age. This alone isn’t particularly weird, but when Lansdale’s proclivity for social commentary morphs together with his penchant for the outright deranged, it’s safe to say that the barf bags are free to come out.

A chunk-blowing good time, “The Drive-In” will whet your appetite for the splatterific fun ahead in the rest of Lansdale’s Drive-In Trilogy. Buy it as a stand-alone paperback or snatch up a copy of The Complete Drive-In today.

Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk (Anchor)

I’ve seen a lot of my fellow writers take a steaming dump on Palahniuk of late, but I’ve gotta say that for my money there are few other contemporary authors I can think of who do such a fine job of marrying a journalistic eye with a conversational ear.

As anyone who has seen him in interview can agree, Palahniuk listens. Possibly his most refined tool as a novelist is that he pays attention to the stories people have to tell him and promptly cannibalizes those experiences for the sake of crafting entertaining reads.

His talent for collecting bizarre real-life stories is rivaled only by his keen ability to thoroughly research even the most obscure of subjects. This disciplined process pays off in “Snuff” in much the same way it paid off in Fight Club and Rant before it.

On the surface, Snuff would seem like an excuse for the author to indulge his own perverse curiosity about Gonzo porn. After all, the book kicks off with a tour of the waiting area where a motley crew of men off the street are standing in line for their turn in a gangbang video to end all gangbang videos. One could easily picture Palahniuk getting his jollies just by hanging out in such a place and relishing in the stomach-churning details.

To be sure, the first few chapters are the most cringe-worthy and, yet, also the most gut-bustingly funny (you’ll never look at barbecue-flavored potato chips the same after this one). But what sets “Snuff” apart from other books about the adult entertainment industry is the lack of cynicism.

Palahniuk is never judgmental of his many narrators, nor does he paint them as particularly amoral people. On the contrary, there is a warm heart beating beneath the surface of this otherwise ribald story of revenge and rebirth.

If you dug the endlessly quotable dialogue from Fight Club, you’re gonna treasure this one for sure. With lines like, “It can only take a moment to waste the rest of your life” and “What do you do when your entire identity is destroyed in an instant? How do you cope when your whole life story turns out to be wrong?” this one aches to be added to the pop culture lexicon.

For those who have stayed away from Palahniuk because they feel his voice overwhelms each of his narratives, give Snuff a try as it just might shock the butt plug outta you. The multiple perspectives presented in each section make for a dizzying read that builds to a crescendo of tension as we near its warped conclusion.

When I say “warped,” take my word for it, Ace. This one’s the stickiest, ickiest and most unforgettable ending anyone could expect of a mass market literary paperback. Palahniuk cranks the weird up to 11 and then shovels on the goo like a make-up artist in a K hole.

If you want more weird and atrocious wonders, check out Ben Arzate’s The Unreprinted where he explores out-of-print oddities that beg for a resurrection. And remember to always drink your Kool-Aid because in cod we trust. Peace be with you.

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Heroic Misfits & Taxidermied Cats: An Interview with Trent Harris

To look at a photo of Trent Harris, you might mistake him for an upper-middle class father of three with a yen for Solitaire and the odd nip of cognac by an open fireplace. To take in his warm demeanor and non descript mode of dress, you might imagine him as an archetype of the Baby Boomer dad on some 80’s sitcom…until you see the taxidermied cat that he’s holding.

“Me and my cat Thistle!” Harris exclaims, sharing with me a picture of him and his petrified pussy.

It’s then that you realize you aren’t dealing with Mr. Rogers. Trent Harris is an archetype all right, but it’s the archetype of the American iconoclast. Whether he’s taking on the Mormon faith with the beatifically bonkers Plan 10 from Outer Space or saying, “Andy Warhol sucks a big one” in the dead-cat-on-ice buddy comedy Rubin & Ed, Harris knows how to have some fun while blowing viewers’ minds.

While some know him for his obscure Beaver Trilogy, it was his first—and last—studio film, Rubin & Ed (1991), that is most remembered and most beloved by cult film fans today. The story of a down-on-his-luck real estate salesman with a cheap “rug” (Edward Hesseman) and his chance encounter with a hermetic oddball (Crispin Glover)  in search of a burial plot for his frozen pet, Rubin & Ed remains a timeless entry into weird cinema.

27 years later, Harris is back…except he never really went anywhere. The Utah-based auteur has been quietly churning out microbudget oddities that rival anything the so-called indie scene could even imagine, let alone execute. All of them are now available at his online store along with books, artwork and other strange ephemera.

Now, Trent Harris is ready to unleash a spiritual follow-up to Rubin & Ed whose title is a direct reference to the flick’s mysterious lost tribe. Crowdfunding is currently underway for Echo People, a rapturous romp that sounds very familiar for those who know and love Trent Harris films.

I asked the man if he’d be willing to do a short Q & A about his work and he was happy to participate. I trust you’ll find that his answers are every bit as enigmatic as his movies.

When I inquire about crowdfunding and whether he is working with a production partner or financier, Harris says, “I like making movies so I just do it!  If I keep things simple I don’t need a lot of money. All I need is an idea and people to help me out. That is the brilliance of digital technology. My motto is CRASH FORWARD!”

I ask him about the creative impetus behind Echo People and how it relates to Rubin & Ed. Harris responds with “ECHO PEOPLE is not about gender issues or race issues or police brutality.  It is not about the destruction of the environment, or politics or the Me-Too Movement.

“My film is about a blabbermouth with a speech impediment who loves frogs and meets a timid brain surgeon with a broken-down car.  It is about two totally lost strangers wandering through the desert looking at ants and telling secrets. So, in some ways it is a lot like Rubin and Ed.  Plus, I will shoot it in many of the same locations and there are other things Rubin and Ed fans will recognize.”

Interviewing Harris is a lot like decoding one of his pictures, particularly ones like Plan 10 from Outer Space which isn’t a sequel to the classic Ed Wood B-movie Plan 9 from Outer Space so much as it is a surreal mystery about theology. He doesn’t provide answers under questions, rather he sends responses under separate cover so that you’re not at all sure which question he is responding to.


The result is as mind-bogglingly fun and wacky as one of his films. For instance, I mention that many of his more recent cinematic works are available exclusively on his website and gave him the opportunity to tell people a bit about them.

Presumably, his reply was this: “I have made a number of other films that I really like.  It is frustrating that they get so little exposure. But I am thankful that people keep coming back to Rubin and Ed and Beaver Trilogy.”

It’s almost like he’s maintaining an air of mystery so that audiences will go in with zero expectations and subsequently have the rug ripped out from under them.  

When I ask him about the Beaver Kid trilogy and whether he would ever revisit it, I get his first straight answer, but even this one leaves one scratching their head. “I won’t revisit Beaver T,” he says. “I have done enough on that.  But it is interesting that other people have picked up the ball and carried on. I will be in Berlin September 26 where a gallery will be showing Beaver Trilogy along with two other spin-offs created by European artists. There is also a documentary called Beaver Trilogy Part 4, made by Brad Besser.”

Perhaps most telling is the through line that Harris sees running throughout his canon, a through line that seems to sum up the moviemaker as much as it does his movies.

“You asked me about a common thread running through my films.  Perhaps it is my respect for heroic misfits. Many of my characters certainly fit into that category.  Some people claim I am a misfit. I consider that a compliment.”

The funniest thing about our brief exchange is the utter absence of information about Harris’s crowdfunding efforts. No link to a crowdfunding page is provided nor does Harris himself bring up a crowdsourcing campaign. It can be found here for those who are interested (and you should be, Buster!).

Trent closes his email by saying, “I hope this answers your questions.  If you need more I am happy to help. Thanks so much, Trent.”

While my questions weren’t answered in the conventional way, Harris’s responses did what they needed to do. They planted a seed of mystery and raised more questions, questions that hopefully will be answered when we get to see Echo People down the road.

Thank you, Trent. And be sure to send my regards to Thistle.