Review: "The Adventures of the Pisco Kid" by Michael Standaert
Monday, June 18, 2007
Arriviste Press, Inc.
Paperback, 200 pages
The thing about Pisco is, he can't catch a break. The kid is winless. But he keeps moving, keeps reaching despite the waves of destruction that follow him. Surfing his wake is worth the risk, though. Michael Standaert takes the reader on one hell of a trip in The Adventures of the Pisco Kid.
Set in the current day and age, the book opens with a quote from Robinson Jeffers: "When you go down, make a good sunset." Standaert gives us the sunset of a lifetime, building up to it with a series of fantastical events and coincidences that befall Pisco. When we meet him, he's about to lose his job (as a rodent exterminator, which this reader finds delightfully ironic, considering the end of this ride). There's been a death in the neighborhood, and everyone's abuzz with the news and funeral preparations. By walking us through the community, Standaert introduces many of the characters who will have their chance at rolling the dice with Pisco, for to be in proximity to Pisco is to make a crapshoot out of one's life.
It doesn't take long for Standaert to set things in motion. Fascinated by the postcards addressed to the nearly departed that somehow wend their way through his mail slot, Pisco starts answering them and is delighted and surprised when he receives a response. Thus begins his quest: to find the mysterious Sarah Ellen Roberts, postcard authoress. It takes him out of The City on the crest of a murderous flood. He is borne aloft by Nellie the clown—a neighbor—who capitalizes on her seemingly limitless expansion and makes a raft of herself to bear Pisco down the Atlantic coast. On their way they find the leader of a gang of wastrels (who entertained Pisco when he was left for dead at the dump) and take him along. Destination: Daisy World, the famous entertainment complex in Florida where Sarah Ellen Roberts has said Pisco can find her.
Standaert notes that "urban legends of monster catfish turned to reality are hard to swallow." And so are the multitude of scenarios in which our hero Pisco is embroiled. Standaert bombards the reader with a sex-crazed widow, a former Father who expires on Pisco and traps him for days in his own apartment, a confrontation with his mother, and a curiously synchronistic vampire story Pisco catches on cable…all thrown at the reader back to back to back.
In addition, the book is peppered with cutting observations. "He and Keith exchange pleasantries, but other than that there is an odd hostility between them, like they are in love or something." It's also relentlessly descriptive. Witness: "An elephant-bass rap, a treble fuzz like a truckload of falling baby-pins, the twang of steel guitars slices the air like strychnine laced razors." In fact, the first hundred or so pages of this 200-page book are really a barrage on the senses. If you want to find out what happens to Pisco—and really, you do—you read through it and find yourself somewhere in the middle of things, where the book picks up its pace and pulls you along nicely.
I might have flown through the pages if the book had a more reader-friendly design. The type is fairly small for a one-column book, and the lines are set close. I found myself constantly wishing for a little more white space to rest my eyes.
But what it all boils down to is this: Does he get the girl? See, I can't really tell you. You'll just have to read it for yourself. And that magnificent sunset? I wasn't kidding you. Pisco's floored by it. But in the end, nothing is what he promised himself it would be. That's the cold reality of it, Pisco.
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