I am one of those readers who will latch on to an author and start to wildly binge on everything I can get my hands on as quickly as possible.
Not every author, I’m not that easily persuaded. But there have been a few men who have touched my life in ways they will never know. When I first got a taste of Crime and Punishment in the 8th grade, Dostoyevsky became my first true love.
Slaughterhouse-Five spawned the next wave. I was a freshman in college and I blew all my beer money on everything Kurt Vonnegut I could get my hands on.
In 2008, Chuck Palahniuk came into my world as a throwaway. My sister had a copy of Rant, and she couldn’t get through the first 20 pages before casting it aside to her weird sibling. I spent that whole summer living in a trailer in Amish country, drinking Bud pounders, and pummeling through every page of twisted, satirical, eloquent gore and filth.
These authors all opened up my eyes to writing with courage. Writing whatever your mind can dredge up without fear of judgment, no matter what dark recesses those ideas drag you through.
These authors always inspire me to write. And although that fire had burned out for a little while as I was getting my life in order, my health in check, and my business up and running… I have found myself wanting to be back in that place again. I want to be a writer. A fearless one.
In my quest for inspiration, I have started reading heavily again. I have been on a mission to find another Kurt or Chuck to get me back on that path. I don’t know what brought me to Anderson Prunty’s The Driver’s Guide to Hitting Pedestrians, but this collection of short stories scratched an internal itch for me.
Overall, I felt like this book would be what it feels like to be inside a teenage boy’s dreams. There are human piñatas, a man who turned himself into a building and launched his head into the sky, a girl who stands on a roof and generates electricity for her town…
The stories were crammed with thoughts of a hyperbolic nature meant to be taken literally. A man has a chainsaw installed in his mouth. There is a balloon man who possesses the powers of a balloon.
It’s all so very fake and preposterous and unbelievable that it feels real.
I don’t think I’ve ever grown more attached to characters that only warranted two or three pages of writing.
I was blown away with just how good these tiny tales were, even if they were about ugly, horrifying things. I couldn’t stop reading, I couldn’t wait to find out what the next short story could be.
Reading this book was refreshing. It slapped me in the face and made me immediately start carving out the rough outline of my first novel, which has been on the back burner for 15 years. It helped me come to terms with the fact that one should write whatever they want, and even if it is dark, surreal, or unpalatable – as long as the author is passionate about their characters, it can come out beautiful and inspiring. And although I will have to let you know at a later date if Prunty makes my short list of binge-worthy brethren, I do know The Driver’s Guide to Hitting Pedestrians was a good way to get my feet wet with his work.
If you’re looking to step out of your comfort zone, if you like books that are simply bizarre, and you’re not scared of being subjected to literary violence, sex, and gore… definitely add this one to your TBR pile.