May 18, 2006

Mop Men

mop men

This book rules. A disclaimer: we met on Myspace and traded books so it could look like I’m kissing up to him because he’s got my book in hand. But no, I really enjoyed this book.

A brief summary: the book follows around the owner and underlings of the Crime Scene Cleaners, guys who go around cleaning up the aftermath of suicides, strangely messy deaths, or murder scenes after the detectives have done their work. If someone takes a shotgun to his head, someone else has to clean it up so there’s no trace it ever happened. The stuff gets everywhere. Some very vivid and revolting imagery in this book, with pictures. It was profound to read about death talked about in this way: the physicality, the practicality. People don’t generally think about death in practical terms. It’s a tough and sometimes terrifying book, but necessary. The Hollywoodization of death has made death unreal.

There’s a thread in the book about the California gubernatorial election that elected Schwarzenegger, a man who has made a living out of making death meaningless onscreen. There are Dos Passos’ U.S.A.-like pieces of articles about the insane circus surrounding our ridiculous governor, mixed in with another jaunt to a horrific death scene. There are also courtroom transcripts which are in direct contrast to the glamorization on shows like Law and Order.

The book’s funny, if you’re wondering. Not non-stop grim. Though it did at times give me an uneasy feeling that there’s violence everywhere that I used to feel when I read true crime books about serial killers. I stopped reading those books a while ago. What’s best is watching the Crime Scene Cleaners from Emmins' point-of-view. He gets down and dirty and cleans up scenes himself and reacts like most human people would react: by throwing up and freaking out. So much non-fiction is overly objective and sterile. He’s unafraid to interject himself into the book, to have opinions. It's daring and alive. This is closer to Hunter Thompson, with more death than drugs.

It makes perfect sense that we should trade books. In some sense I could think that my novel trivializes death in the same way he’s pointing out. But in another way I think we’re writing about the same thing: it’s the unreality and desensitization that cause the movie star in my novel to lose it completely and start offing people. So I’m very damn glad to be in touch with this writer.

I’ve been reading a lot of books that have floored me recently, that I felt I needed to read. Great when that happens. Buy this book. He’s also in charge of the Spoiled Ink writing community. Check that out too.

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