The Cannibal's Guide to Ethical Living

The Cannibal's Guide to Ethical Living

author: Mykle Hansen

name: Steev

average rating: 4.50

book published: 2010

rating: 5

read at: 2010/12/31

date added: 2010/12/31

shelves: fun, novels

Hey man, how's it going? Happy New Year! Thanks, yeah pretty good. Well I've been reading this book, it's by this friend of mine in Portland, Mykle Hansen, his 3rd book, wait no, 4th book. It was published recently and I just finished reading it. It's a good book, but, y'know, i might be biased cuz he's a friend.

What? Oh, well, it's a novel, but like a short novel, it's a real fast read, although, y'know, with holidays and stuff it took me a while longer than normal. Oh, yeah, from the title it might seem like some sort of political polemic - actually, it kind of is, I guess, disguised as fiction. It's kind of written in an odd format too. Experimental? well, not really. I mean, it's an easy read, it's not one of those post-modern novels or whatever. But it's kinda odd, cuz it's written as if the narrator is talking the whole time to his friend. So it's like 1st person but it feels sometimes like it's 2nd person. That took me a bit to get used to, especially cuz I normally hate stuff written in 2nd person, cuz it's usually kinda cheesy and reminds me of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Like, "you walk down a corridor and open the door at the end. you see..." But Mykle manages to do it in an admirable way.

Yeah, he's a chef, but he's like a sort of crazy chef that eats people, and cooks people. And he's talking the whole time to this food critic, Louis, who has been following the chef's work for years and has snuck into his super-secret floating restaurant and been captured. So Louis is literally a captive audience while the narrator tells him the history of this restaurant and the island it's docked at and his career, and he reveals the secrets of how they capture and kill and cook millionaires, and rants about his personal moral calculus that allows him to feel okay about this.

What? Oh, no, it's not just that. I mean, it's mostly that, but - hmm? Does anything happen? Oh, well, yeah. Stuff does happen. It's not like most novels, where there's like, clear straightforward description of action and events. Not a LOT happens, everything that does could be compressed easily into a few pages, but everything is described in a sort of stretched-out way by the narrator-chef telling it to the critic between his rants and his attempts to get the critic to eat something or drink some fine wine. Oh just a second, I have to go look at a certain passage, I'll be right back.

Ok, I'm back. There are some great quotable bits in this book. like for instance, "The more we aspire to goodness, the more we find evil all around us, and inside us too." No, not Rousseau. Nope, not even Salinger. No, that's from this book, that's Mykle Hansen! Yeah but anyway, so there's these breaks in between philosophizing like that where the chef is like, oh, I better see what's going on and get the next course, and then he comes back and tells Louis, the critic, what's happening in another part of the ship, or outside in the lagoon, and feeds him the next dish of gourmet food.

So that's the basic structure of the book. Yeah, it's different. I know, right? But somehow it works, and I actually like it. But again, I may be biased. But yeah, just about all of Mykle's books are a little weird like that. They have a sort of structural device that saves him from writing a normal sort of story. Like his first novel is narrated by this guy pinned under a car while a bear eats his foot. For hours. Yeah the whole book. I know, right? But dude, yeah, another story of his is like in the form of interviews, like a congressional investigation or something, studying what happened when these scientists used a new device that shrinks people down and puts them inside an old lady's digestive tract. Yeah, it sounds weird. Yeah.

Yeah. I don't know why he does that. well, I mean, I kinda know. Mykle and I have had discussions, even arguments, about story and narrative. We made some sloppy little films together years ago, just for fun, and I remember one of them contains footage of us arguing about what the film is about and even if the film needs to be about anything. Mykle thought no, I guess, and I thought, yes, it did. I think humans are wired to want to be told stories. To enjoy plots conveyed to them, by whatever means. Oral, written, video, whatever. Well, no, I think Mykle knows that too, but I think he kind of resists it, or wants to play with the boundaries of what a story can be. Yeah, no, I respect that too, of course. It's an admirable goal for an artist of the written word. But personally, sometimes I wonder if he strays over the line.

Or maybe I'm just, in the end, after all my pretensions of experimentalism and modern artistry, maybe in the end I just crave a good old regular story, a he-said, she-said, he-did-that-then-this-happened story. I mean, the problem is, it's kinda like hypertext.

What do I mean? well, just that, when you read something on a web page and it's full of links, even if you don't click any of those links your brain is still distracted and slowed down and made to unfocus from the text itself whenever your eyes see one of those clickable spots. I guess I'm positing that perhaps fiction that bends conventional storytelling form too far might similarly put speedbumps in the path of full story-enjoyment, sometimes. Although I guess enjoyment isn't everything, right?

Dude, what? Oh! You're even more old-fashioned, you say? You hate that experimental artsy-fartsy shit? Well, like i said, this isn't really experimental per se. I mean, It's easy to read. It's not like Finnegan's Wake or something. It's regular sentences and stuff. In fact, it's kinda just like this conversation we're having here. Just a guy talking to another guy. So don't get the wrong idea. It's fun to read and it makes immediate sense. In fact one of the best things about the book is that the narrator's personal morality is, though twisted, full of really excellent points about society and class and poverty and the injustices of the world.

What do I mean? Oh well he basically is like throughout the whole book justifying his killing and eating rich people because rich people are taking so much more than their share and causing so much misery and suffering to others. It's really great. And the chef wants to start a whole new social order where people finally rise up and force the rich people to sacrifice some of their own in a sort of periodic ritual slaughter.

Obviously the solution is flawed, but the description of the problem, the way Mykle puts it, is perfect. Yeah, it's great, dude. You should read it, just for the enjoyment of reading such an entertaining description of the situation humankind is in. Totally. Yeah it's a real book, you can buy it on Amazon, etc. Yeah sure, any time. Yeah so what have you been up to? Same old same old, eh? Pretty busy? Yeah, me too, but I always somehow make time to read. Yeah. Well, good to see ya, take it easy. Bye.