Published on October 13th, 2012 | by Brian Folan0
The Orange Eats Creeps – A Vampire Novel That Doesn’t Suck
You gimmick-hungry snob, how dare you use that word in my literature. Vampires? Are you kidding me?
No. There is no kidding around in Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps. Matter of fact, I don’t think there is a joke in this whole damned book. And as far as stories go, this one is certainly damned. So if you have that attitude when you read the word “vampire,” you better learn to shut up.
That being said, this book is about vampires. Teenage vampires. Our seventeen year old female protagonist, unnamed, is in the midst of a shrill drug-induced ESP fit while drifting down “The Highway That Eats People” in search of her missing (probably dead) foster sister. Coincidentally, a serial killer, Dactyl, is looming just round every corner of her trip – which includes a lot of booze, meth, heavy metal, and public restroom sex. These two subplots hardly hit the foreground, but fester in our hallucinating narrative. Our narrator is a nomad and deeply alone, but never alone. She is always with a revolving group of misfit teenage vampires. All male. Hoping trains, shoplifting convenient stores, and sucking both dick and blood, she goes from punk show to punk show desperately looking to sustain herself, no matter how bad the effects are. She is a cynic but she loves it and the company she keeps: Hobos. Junkies. Rapists. Sluts. Vampires. This sure as hell isn’t Bella Swan.
Already I feel totally fucked up talking about it. The book isn’t so much about the story. Like I said, the story is way damned to hell. So let’s talk about the writing, and then you can read the story.
It is completely visceral and utterly unsettling. Over and over the reader’s orientation is subverted by the affected use of metaphor, the prime example being vampires. Krilanovich hones in our young generations obsession with the undead – the juggernaut motif that has allowed Stephanie Meyer and Seth Jared Greenberg to retire early (and please, feel free to guys, please). Everything is a stand-in for a more real and sincere youthful experience. The result of this is a very mature abstraction of the classic bildungsroman. It is a remarkable mix of the familiar and alien, very much like the pubescent descent into adolescence. Her prose cries to be held and analyzed while bleakly falling into our cultural fascination with paranormal romance:
“I had walked for days to this spot. Pressing my hands against the sidewalk – your sidewalk -brought back all the soot and sticks scratching along the surface. My gaze fastened on a leaf rising on the wind and it brought me up to you, seeing you through your window but you can’t see me…I found an open window and crawled inside – ” (141)
She shows that this cultural trend has its validity. Or she exploits it for her own use. Either way. everything sentence ignites sensation. The characters feel whispers in the rain, scorch their skin in the blackness of night, and speak in puzzling phonetic prophecies: “The illuminated net of gangrenous moss inching along the forest floor always knows exactly where I’m standing.” It is the kind of book that doesn’t stop at describing how the light in the basement makes you feel. It wants to be the light, both distant and present – cold and warm.
To say it is unlike anything else I have ever read would be false. There are traces of William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, and even Walt Whitman. Although it can be figured as a young-adult book, it is dangerous enough to be held by any age. It reminds us how violent a word can be. If you’ve ever been called alt, hipster, anarchist, punk, or any other sub-culture this book is for you. There are mixtapes online made for this book. There is a trailer that gives its moody landscape visualization. But don’t think this book will welcome you with open arms.
Many will not be able to complete this 172 page postmodern nightmare, but those who stick around long enough to catch its rhythm will be hypnotized. You will robotrip on this book. Its is exactly like the punk shows our protagonist lurks in the corner of; graphic, relentless, and sexy as fuck.