There is a moment in Thor Garcia’s News Clown where the Kurt Cobain-like figure Christ Sunbeam (no, really) makes this statement: “A showdown has fallen across our land. Satire has become the reality. The hate cycle continues to mutate.’ This quote, which reads as if Lord of the Rings had been written by Michael Moore, can work to sum up the entire book. Here, every assumed angle of American society is subject to the author’s satirical barb.
News Clown follows the exploits of the journalist Thor, a self-confessed harlequin of journalism, who works and drinks, and drinks, and drinks his way through the murderous, dayglo landscape of Bay City. The novel is relentless in its depictions of urban violence and it is the protagonist’s task to recount each one in tidy, easily skippable articles. Over and over again.
This novel was written thirty years too late, and I’m pretty sure that it would have felt dated back then too. The setting seems to be modern America (it has references to the internet and everything) but the tone is a mix of Bush-era politics and a drug, alcohol and sex culture not seen, or indeed tolerated in literature, since the 1980s. If you took Hunter S. Thompson and then sanded down the jagged edges, you might have something resembling News Clown.
Satire is the novel’s stated genre, and this ensures its complete lack of empathy. Instead the pages are littered with ‘junkies’ ‘prosties’ and ‘freaks’, and there seems to be no limit for the disgust aimed at these nameless, faceless multitudes. Pretty much all of the women are equally insignificant, existing only to either be fucked or become girlfriends. There are moments where News Clown goes beyond its chic of cynicism, such as the chapter describing the news office on 9/11. Here, Mr. Garcia does write with some form of human understanding, effectively depicting the state of sheer confusion and horror at the images from New York. It isn’t enough though, and frankly it’s a little disappointing that 911 wasn’t satirised, as a golden opportunity to do something a bit daring has been missed. Instead the book sticks to acceptable targets: right wing politics, new age beliefs, modern warfare and rock stardom.
Overall, the world of News Clown isn’t so much one gone mad; instead it’s just gone a little bit silly. Eventually, the volume of murder, sex and alcohol goes from sickening, to wearisome, before just becoming boring. If the novel is supposed to be some document of a deranged and decayed America, then News Clown is itself already a long-forgotten relic.
The News Clown by Thor Garcia, Equus Press,
ISBN-13 978-0-9571213-2-4. Paperback. 477pp £10.00