Elaine by Ben Arzate- Book Review

Ben Arzate
ATLATL Press (Feb 28, 2020)
eBook/ Trade Paperback/ 100 pp


This reminds me a lot of my grandma’s house, he thought. It’s like every old person in the Midwest has the same interior designer.”

Omg, you guys! What a neat, creative, pervy, creepy, terrifying, little novella we have here from ATLATL Press, which, if you didn’t already know always manages to deliver the eclectic goods, chock full of black comedy/ dark humor to feed even the most eccentric of readers out there amongst this sick and decrepit and demented world. Reader beware: this is a purposely uncomfortable and unexpectedly pervasive read; but, it’s definitely not written out of bad taste and there’s a point to it and it fits rather well into the storyline and overall composition here beautifully, whilst managing to add to the madness lingering about every turn of the page. This is a first for me written by the author and I can safely say that it won’t be the last.

When Chris hops on a train to meet up with his girlfriend Agnes and her recently widowed father for her mother’s upcoming funeral in the small and peculiur town of Elaine located somewhere in Upper Michigan, things begin to get fuzzy for our main character. Why are all the female’s including the woman on the train named after the town they live in? What does it all mean? What is it with all these perverted dreams and vivid hallucinations he keeps having about all the females in his life? His sister. His girlfriend. Elaine. Elaine. Elaine. The preacher? Perverted commercials on the television? What is happening in this godforsaken town? Why can’t he leave?

“The funeral’s going to be really dreary, Chris thought.”

The true magic of this book is in the slow-burn way in which the story unfolds before our very eyes. That slow, creeping dread that looms from within the words on the page that keeps us as the reader wanting to keep reading quickly to find out what’s going to happen next. There are some really heavy undertones and characteristics of folk horror going on here in abundance, specifically in the way in which all the strange characters from Elaine, MI seem to act and respond to everything, in that, as-if-there’s-nothing-strange-going-on-here type of way, when, in fact, there oh so very much is. I also really liked the author’s clever use of music in this book, adding to the main character’s entire gimmick of being the owner of a record store, listing out specific bands and song titles throughout the majority of the book, which I’ve taken the time to ever-so-conveniently compile below in the order in which they appear like one of those old-school Midwestern emo compilation mix-tapes from yesteryear, which nobody has probably done with a book since reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower back in the day.

The Elaine Mixtape

Johnny Cash- Folsom Prison Blues
Iron and Wine- Walking Far From Home
This Mortal Coil- A Single Wish
Creedence Clearwater- Someday Never Comes
Captain Beefheart- Electricity
Magnetic Fields- With Whom to Dance
Animal Collective- Sun Tongs Album
Clinic- Goodnight Georgie
The Butthole Surfers- American Woman
Outkast- Roses
The Dresden Dolls- The Jeep Song
Yes- Into the Lens
Tracy Lawrence- Can’t Break It To My Heart
Iron Maiden- The Evil That Men Do
Reba McEntire- The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
Tim Mcgraw- Indian Outlaw
Creedence Clearwater- Proud Mary
Bruce Springsteen– Born in the USA
Hank Williams Jr.- All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down
The Highway Men- The Road Goes On Forever
Garth Brooks- Friends in Low Places
Asia- Heat of the Moment

Do yourself a favor and check this one out for yourself to see what it’s all about!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s